NEWS : THU, MAR 7, 2024 at 6:00 AM

Amen Dunes Unveils New Single/Video “Boys”

Last month, Amen Dunes – the project of New York City-based Damon McMahon – announced his long-awaited new album, Death Jokes, will be released May 10th via Sub Pop. Today, McMahon unveils a new single, “Boys,” accompanied by a video directed by Steven Brahms and single art by the late photographer Ross McDonnell, which also appears on the album’s back cover. “Boys” follows the “delicately lilting stunner” (PAPER) “Purple Land,” which, as Stereogum praised, “feels like alternate-dimension folk-rock…as if built from extraterrestrial material.”

Death Jokes marks Amen Dunes’ first record since 2018’s Freedom, named a “best album of the decade” by Pitchfork. Instead of embarking on the eerie, modern blend of folk and blues for which he’s known, McMahon decided to become a beginner again, immersing himself in the fundamentals of both piano and the electronic music he’d grown up with at raves and clubs but never imagined himself able to make. For the first time since the project’s incarnation in 2006, the spiritual reflections and meditations of Amen Dunes are turned away from himself and out sharply towards the world. Through samples and lyrics, the album plays like a scathing electronic essay on America’s culture of violence, dominance, and destructive individualism. 

“Boys” was first written by McMahon in 2015 while on tour in Sicily, originally beginning as a pop-punk song before morphing into improvised electronic music: frenetic drum machines and samples of sirens, field recordings, and raves layered on top of McMahon’s double-tracked voice and guitar. McMahon explains: “‘Boys’ is another interstitial character portrait, this time about outcasts, ‘bad kids,’ and seeing things from their side: ‘Everything you’ve done, it’s been done to you too.’”

The “Boys” video, directed by Steven Brahms, focuses on innate destructive tendencies that McMahon explores throughout Death Jokes. “We only had one shot to destroy the room,” says Brahms. “The guys in the video gave us such an authentic look and flow. Everyone on the crew was buzzing after the shoot and we knew we had something special. Destruction can be very cathartic.”

Of the song’s single art by Ross McDonnell, McMahon elaborates: “I fell in love with Ross’ photos of boys in Ireland while making Death Jokes and he was generous enough to let me use this picture. The image felt tragic and humorous at the same time, much like these songs. Ross was a bold, adventurous, and wild artist: the kind I aspire to be. Just as this album was close to being finished, Ross tragically passed away swimming in the Atlantic. He was 43. Rest in Peace.”

Watch the Video for Amen Dunes’ “Boys”

While creating Death Jokes, McMahon struggled to find others who understood his unorthodox methods, this “loose, wild, self-propelled approach” that signaled a new direction for Amen Dunes. After two years and twenty-one failed collaborations, he made meaningful connections with a handful of talented artists and was able to create the profound collaborations he had been searching for. The jazz bassist Sam Wilkes appears on a trio of songs, producers Christoffer Berg (Fever Ray) and Kwake Bass (Tirzah, Dean Blunt) provided tracks on several others; sessions with Panoram and Money Mark also ended up in the final version of Death Jokes. 

On most songs, McMahon incorporated sounds, talking, and music pilfered from YouTube. The vast collage of samples include an interview with J Dilla, recordings from Type O Negative and Coil, a lyre performance of the oldest written song in human history, protest chants, a grunting powerlifter, and bits of stand-up from Lenny Bruce, Richard Pryor, and others, as “thought provocation and irritant.”

The songs on Death Jokes almost seem to foresee the pandemic, but they’re more about the lingering effects those years have had on all of us, spiritually and emotionally. Their meaning transformed as the pandemic went on: at first they were reflections on our attachment to form, and to ourselves, and then they shifted into solemn indictments of our culture’s blind spots as we misjudge and attack, our veiled self-centeredness and self-importance masquerading as morality. 

Amen Dunes will be playing concerts and festivals in select cities throughout the US, UK and Europe. A full list of dates is below and tickets are on sale now.

Pre-order Death Jokes

Listen to “Purple Land”

Amen Dunes Tour Dates

Wed. May 8 - San Francisco, CA @ The Fillmore

Fri. May 10 - Los Angeles, CA @ The Bellwether

Wed. May 15 - Brooklyn, NY @ Brooklyn Steel

Mon. Jul. 1 - Paris, FR @ Trabendo

Wed. Jul. 3 - Berlin, DE @ Gretchen

Fri. Jul. 5 - Roskilde, DK @ Roskilde Festival

Sun. Jul. 7 - Amsterdam, NL @ Paradiso

Tue. Jul. 9 - London, UK @ KOKO

Posted by Abbie Gobeli