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Benjamin Marshall Jones has the gift of the scream. Whether bellowing baritone or heart-stopping screech, the scream factors heavily into his approach as a singer and songwriter. The scream is, in fact, the meat of his band. And Jones, with this eerie, deep vibrato and slasher-film-meets-psychological-thriller narrative, pushes listeners into dark corners of humanity with overloads of such emotion that the only reaction, the human reaction, is to scream with him.
The Funeral and the Twilight pull the skin away from our over-sanitized world. The trio walks among the facades we've grown used to, the rows of glossy magazines, the smiling congregants in their Sunday best neatly perched in church pews, the complacent streams of steel and plastic on the morning commute. They rip it to tatters so nothing is left but that which we wish not to see: the unadulterated violence, the hate, the darkness. The scream.
"He's seen some really gruesome things," drummer Brandon Keegan says about Jones. "And that's just what happens. People, they get stabbed to death."
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Jones worked as an embalmer in Southern California, specializing in post-death surgery and facial reconstruction.
"The deceased I worked with was anyone from an old lady who passed away to someone who was brutally murdered," he says. "I would complete that person. This was like my art form at the time. I put them back together and made them look how they used to look when they were alive."
And this is how Jones works in the Funeral and the Twilight. He, Keegan, and bassist Dave Bloxsom take the waking nightmares of unfiltered reality and dress them in beautiful and macabre tones, suiting them in finely tuned melodic embellishments, wrapping them as a gift. And while their decadence draws listeners in, Jones lifts the curtains to reveal the story he's really trying to tell.
"There are songs we have played that, yes, it's from the viewpoint of someone being raped or tortured and being murdered," he says. "I am writing songs about this stuff because, especially in American culture, they don't want to know about the bad things that are happening."
It's because of their fixation on the underside that the Funeral and the Twilight don't expect popularity. As Jones says, a lot of their songs couldn't be played on the radio. They don't expect to make it into name-dropping conversations that list the catchy, happy-go-lucky bands splashed across the Cities' music sections—precisely because of who they are and what they say. But they shouldn't be misunderstood. The band notes that if people only allow a quick look at the surface, they might get the wrong idea about what they represent.
"I hope people don't think we're giving an okay on violence," Keegan says.
Even if they are content to lurk in the shadows, Jones, Keegan, and Bloxsom have a fierce dedication that keeps them on the move, playing in basements and clubs across the country's midsection and clocking more than a month on the road this year alone. They also recently unleashed their second full album, The Cross of St. Peter. Though Jones insists the record is a compilation of songs left over from last year's To Kill You, every track feels matched to the level of showmanship and skill on the band's debut.
The Cross of St. Peter, packaged inside a black cover with a blood-red upside-down cross, continues to hearken to Joy Division and the Smiths. Take the album's opener and closer, "Witches Part II" and "Witches Part I," respectively; Keegan's dynamic, then pulsating drums tangle with Bloxsom's angular bass lines and snarl in and out of Jones's velvety guitar work, poking holes in the fabric of the songs. "The moon is screaming/The birds are crying/The moon is screaming," Jones howls in a frantic rasp. And when the music thrums him to the edge where no other sound can express his emotion, he screams.
THE FUNERAL AND THE TWILIGHT play with CLAPS, the Fire at Endsville, and Kitty Rhombus on FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 5, at CAUSE SPIRITS & SOUNDBAR; 612.822.6000