Published by Fire Songs and released on Mexican Summer, ‘End of Everything’ is the intrepid seventh album from Mega Bog, a nightmarish experimental pop ensemble led by Erin Elizabeth Birgy. In 2020, Birgy was surrounded by seemingly endless turmoil: mass death, a burning planet, and a personal reckoning when past traumas met fresh ones. Living in Los Angeles, against the backdrop of brilliantly horrifying forest fires, she questioned what perspective to use moving forward in such dumbfounded awe. Deciding to seize something tangible, she produced a record that spoke of surrender, of mourning, and support in the face of tumultuous self-reflection.
Writing on piano and synthesizer, instead of the familiar guitar, Birgy explored a spectrum of new sounds to illuminate a state of volatility and flux that was both universal and personal. Speaking of this transition, she describes the need “to feel… instantly. I didn’t want to dig into secret codes. I no longer wanted to hide behind difficult music. I was curious to give others the same with the music I create; to make music someone could use to explore drama, playfulness, and dancing, to shake the trauma loose.” Heavy grooves, metal guitar squeals, Italo disco bass lines, rhapsodic synth layers, and huge choruses stomp around the delightfully sanguine pop drama. Where previous records stretched out into the abstract and ethereal, ‘End of Everything’ delivers a hit straight to collective awareness and healing.
A seemingly disparate jukebox of sounds – ranging from Thin Lizzy, Bronski Beat, Franco Battiato and Ozzy Osbourne to 90’s house classics like Haddaway’s ‘What is Love’ and Corona’s ‘Rhythm of the Night’ – foregrounded a new punchy theatricality in Birgy’s music. The songs she was creating at home followed suit with bolder hooks and more dancefloor energy than she’d ever dared before.
While an ecological narrative is clear with songs like “Anthropocene” lamenting a blazing atmosphere—“City skies turn black in the daytime / I see a burnt up alligator / What the fuck?”—‘End of Everything’ is an incredibly personal record, charting a journey through Birgy’s own psyche. Midway through producing the record, Birgy made the personally necessary choice to get sober and work through stored debilitating experiences that had begun affecting her ability to communicate creatively.
‘End of Everything’ is a treacherous expression. On the record’s second track, “The Clown,” Birgy sings, “psychic waste I’ve absorbed / is collapsing, again.” At once an apocalyptic end, but also making space for new possibilities. This practice of hopeful speculation, of world-building, is paired with an inner darkness. How to encompass “all and everything,” Birgy questions on the record’s fifth track – how to dance in this burning world, how to wail and grind and surrender, how to share energy as well as learned tools. On the album opener “Cactus People,” our narrator digs her claws into the mud as she is torn from her beloved; “the grass and all its snaky tongues try to pull you in / I say let them win,” Birgy intones while surrendering to torturous abandonment. What might feel like an elegy to Planet Earth suddenly speeds up into a frenetic chorus. Not a call to party among society’s ashes, but acknowledging that we can exist in the face of catastrophe.
Amid some of the album’s dark depths, there are profound moments of celebration. “Love Is” was written by songwriter Austin Jackson of the Flagstaff jazz-punk band, Dragons. The song’s call connects Birgy to her time living in Flagstaff, where she recommitted to a matrilineal magical practice with a community of musical witches. An untamed occult practice is important to Birgy and her co-conspirators, and the powers cultivated and explored surge through ‘End of Everything’.
For the past ten years, Birgy and her evolving community of collaborators have been crafting poetic, musical odes to the pain and glory of human existence. Born and raised in various small, haunted rodeo towns out West, Birgy eventually ran away to Olympia, Washington, where she forged the first iteration of Mega Bog. The band wandered the country performing and recording, fusing together twisted genres.
‘End of Everything’ was executed at Tropico Beauty in Glendale, California. The album was recorded with James Krivchenia (Big Thief) who co-produced the record with Birgy and played drums, bringing his rhythmic mastery and wild percussive spirit. Krivchenia also mixed the record and co-engineered with Tropico’s steward, Phil Hartunian. The album’s fantastical textures and heavy polyphony owe a great deal to synthesizer maestro and pianist Aaron Otheim (Heatwarmer) who helped actualize the imaginings Birgy could only physically sing. His classical twists, avant-harmony, leads and glissandos hold a huge presence throughout. Zach Burba (Zacy’s, iji, Dear Nora), one of the founding members of Mega Bog, plays bass guitar, bringing intuitive counter melodies to the new Bog-scape. Will Segerstrom, Meg Duffy (Hand Habits), and Jackson Macintosh (Sheer Agony, Drugdealer, TOPS) bleed electric guitar well-founded in nervy, post-punk slices and timeless gothic shimmerings. Will Westerman lent a thick yearning spirit and voice to “Love Is,” helping seal the fated dancefloor transcendence Birgy had long been dreaming of. Together this group of friends made a Mega Bog record in a way they never have before, with “confidence to try completely new production styles, patience with each other to observe learning new tools, security and faith to encourage the ambitions while creating music with those we trust on infinite levels” recounts Birgy.
The importance of artistic collaboration is exemplified by the album’s cover art – a painting by Birgy’s oldest friend Joel Gregory. Painted after a nude photograph of Birgy, her naked body simultaneously embodies hopelessness and power. She is flanked on one side by water, painted as a reflected calla lily, representing hope, sexuality, death, and the purification of the departed soul; on the other, by a strip of seemingly geological rock formations, which are in fact studies of melted wax used in one of Birgy’s meditation practice. Neon red courses through the artwork, connecting with the passion and anger represented by the hell myth, and demon figures representing much of the creative meat which was cracked open, psychically, while making this collection of songs.
Much more than an album, ‘End of Everything’ is a multifaceted body of work. It is accompanied by ‘The Practice of Hell Ending’, Birgy’s first published collection of poetry. Written alongside the album, ‘The Practice of Hell Ending’ beckons the reader to travel further into the landscapes of Birgy’s inner worlds. These terrains are brought to life in a series of music videos accompanying the album tracks. They were directed, produced, and shot by Birgy in Greece and Los Angeles. The films explore ancient ruins, dances, mythologies, and escapism, all caught on film to provide opportunity to further excavate the stories and meanings contained within the record.
Thrilling melodies grow to ascend throughout the length of a song, clutching your hand and whispering in your ear one minute before screaming off a cliff edge the next. The soft and the guttural nuzzle and crash of heads, where every moment holds the multitudes of all possible dimensions stirring each other through the veil.
Out May 19, 2023 on Mexican Summer.