Features

Parasocial Butterfly

✨, and 😢, and 🤖, and 💖🧚‍♂️👸, and 🥵

We tend to look at the digital as something that we’ve still managed to keep separate from us — like there’s a distinct line between the digital and the physical, between flesh and silicon. What would happen if we brought these worlds together? Šari Dale’s Para-Social Butterfly lets that happen, and after a rush of lasers, shattered bones, micro-projectors, and twisted meat we get to the post-digital, post-physical world of our dreams.

It’s sexy, lonely, aesthetic, self-obsessed, ageless, horny, over-stimulating, satin, vegan, chrome, MySpace, Hyperpop, Ellen DeGeneres, purple neon, pixelated, ✨, and 😢, and 🤖, and 💖🧚‍♂️👸, and 🥵

It’s Ultra-Glam.

Para-Social Butterfly is autobiographical, and tells the story of how a disillusioned former waitress, Šari Dale, surgically implanted a projector in her brain and entered the .*´-`*☆ULTRA-GLAM☆*´-`*. She became a pop-star, fell in love with a 3D model of Timothee Chalamet crossed with Charlize Theron, went on the Ellen show, and still ended up feeling as empty inside as before. It’s a collection of poetry where emojis, ascii art, Ke$ha lyrics, and Paris Hilton’s Instagram comments make up poems that explore the nature of digital reality, the endless re-reproduction of art, and how difficult it is to connect with other people and ourselves.

Dale’s “Ultra-Glam” serves as the backdrop for the whole collection, and is one of the coolest representations of the internet age I’ve read in a while — it’s the digital landscape taken to its shiny, corporate, inevitable extreme. A world where God is the Instagram influencer that went on a trip to somewhere tropical once, stayed in a resort the whole time, and posts on their story about how deeply spiritual the experience was. A world where “Vibe isn’t antithetical / to virtue,” where “My life is pixels / and latent potential.”

Dale’s poetry explores who we become in the digital, in the Ultra-Glam. The poem “Cribs” describes what would probably be the best-ever episode of the MTV show, with the reader getting an insider’s look into Dale’s in-universe home. Where her “living room is a swamp of red satin,” and “The bedroom is a flowery little clusterfuck— / so many knicknacks,” where despite everything she accomplishes, no matter how many knicknacks or luxuries she collects, “all rubies still look like wounds.” In the Ultra-Glam, nothing will ever feel real enough, no matter how much you put on display — your viewers will always leave, and you could always end up alone; all this leading Dale to beg “Don’t leave just because the show is over… / You can always call me. Call me — promise you’ll call!”

The desperate melancholy of “Cribs” is present all throughout Para-Social Butterfly; the sense that, as the title implies, our relationships with other people will always be one-sided, and from that, that we will never have enough. In the Ultra-Glam, the people we interact with are never flesh-and-blood, there will always be a thick slab of glass and wire separating our flawed meat world from the ideal digital world we try to create And that’s scary, and sad, and lonely. But somehow, Para-Social Butterfly isn’t really any of those things.

The world that Dale creates, while bleak, still evokes everything that makes the digital world so enticing — why we’d want to enter the Ultra-Glam in the first place. It feels like the warm, comforting nostalgia of MySpace, Vaporwave, Flash games, Pictochat, and Tumblr. It feels like pop music from the early 2010s. It feels like the best of hyperpop, like art truly feeling new, exciting, and yours. Dale uses the language of the internet in a way that feels completely natural and not cringe. With writing punctuated by hashtags, skull emojis, bestie, haters, and, in one of my favourite poems of the collection (“The Ellen Degeneres Show”), Ellen Degeneres calling you a nasty little skrimlet. The whole collection is crushingly funny and feels amazing to read, never getting too bogged down in theory, critique, or reflection, while still benefiting from the depth of meaning they bring. For every poem like “Superstar” where Dale reflects on the self-loathing and insecurity inherent in creating art (“Call my art vapid, baby / Do it with conviction,” “Are you bored / at least I have a show. / I’m not some little loser. / […] I’m not some fucking loser!”), there is a “Trending,” a poem completely made up of hashtags that only the most insufferable person on Earth would use — “#paradisefound / #tropiclikeitshot / #restingbrunchface.”

Para-Social Butterfly explores what happens when the line between the digital and the physical begins to fade, and what makes it really special as a collection of poetry is that it really, and I mean really has something to say about that line. “Numbskull,” my favourite of the collection, is the moment when Dale enters the Ultra-Glam for the first time, when the line disappears — that moment is one of extreme violence. Dale describes herself in a public operating room, “Think Rembrandt’s Anatomy Lesson on a budget,” undergoing a bone-breaking, meat-twisting operation, and ends up begging, “Ultra-Glam, radiant simulation / let me in —.” The brutality required to enter the Ultra-Glam is a pop-soaked digitized banshee scream warning us what happens to our bodies when they’re torn apart into bits and ones and zeros — loneliness, amputation, and hyperreality. A world where real and unreal have blended into one.

Gadfly

Definitely not a Christian band

Gadfly has three members, Nigel who is the drummer, Peter who plays bass, and Homa, the lead singer,guitarist and songwriter. Gadfly has an extremely unique and authentic sound that shape shifts from project to project. During this interview, Homa describes their sound as “[Using] Persian melodies, combined with the intense intensity of hardcore punk and heavy stoner metal hypnotic riffs.” I could not have said it better myself. If you have an opportunity to watch them live, they truly put you in a trance with their mix of sounds, creating that ‘Face-Melting’ music. 

 

Kiana: How did this all start? How did Gadfly begin as a band?

Homa: Well, I was playing in another band, and after one of our shows I was really drunk and I told my friends I was tired of being a rhythm guitar player, and I really needed a bass player so I could start my own band — and Peter was just standing there.

Peter: I just ended up talking to that whole circle of  friends, and when she said she needed a bass player, I asked her to jam.

H: Peter gave me his number and I completely forgot his name, and when he messages me I ignored it because I was like, it’s just a random person. I don’t know, maybe he’s a creep or whatever. Peter and Nigel were already friends, and when I ran into them again, Peter was like, “You’re the girl from the bus stop.” It was really hard to find drummers at the time. It was just me and Peter with different drummers. And finally, Nigel. 

 

K: So how did the name Gadfly come about? 

H: Gadfly is a book, it’s in Farsi

Homa holds up a book with the title in white bold letters in Farsi with a black and white cover photo.

P: I didn’t even know you had this.

H: It was my grandfather’s book. He gave it to me before he died. It’s my favourite book. It’s about a group of socialists in Ireland. A character uses the name ‘Gadfly’ to write really harshly about the government so they never get caught. That’s what I thought I would name the band after. Also, my grandpa was one of my family members who was like ‘yeah, you have to make music.’ 

K: What other themes does your music convey? 

H: Peter says it’s sex and war […] 

 

K: Yeah, it’s apparent in the songGadfly’ it could be about sex or violence.

H: In ‘Gadfly’ it says, “Fly in the sky / Blow the smoke so it can’t hide,” which is about molotovs, but it sounds like I’m talking about sex because in that song we also say “wet the tip I put it in.” Which means like, wet the cotton, put it in the bottle. Also, when I was doing my court — like meeting for my refugee status — they asked me about the album, and they put us down as a Christian band. 

 

K: Also, in the first Shindig performance, you brought up the revolution going on in Iran.

H: Yeah, I’d like to address that when we play live. I feel like recently, a lot of [press and media]  tries to sell the fact that I’m Persian. Especially with everything that is going on — I feel like they’re using it as a gimmick, to advertise their own stuff. It’s kind of bothering us because it’s like, oh, so it’s not about our music, it’s because the lead guitar player is Persian with boobs.

 N: It’s not my place to say necessarily, but like having known you only a year after you moved here, your lyrical content is reflective of how angry living there made you. Now everything that you were frustrated about, it’s coming to a very violent head. But it feels like that rage and anger was there years before.

 

K: Yeah. I also think the concept of being ‘punk’ is supposed to be a big deal because it’s meant to be revolutionary. I always try to explain this to the older people in my family. Which to me, is why Gadfly is so important to the music scene. It’s really special to see people incorporating things that they’re familiar with. It’s authentic and people can slowly learn to admire this without it being from a tokenizing viewpoint. I think people understand for example, women in Iran, successfully participating or practicing any form of singing or music in itself is revolutionary because they are not allowed to do so there.

H: Yeah. It’s really crazy. I feel like I see a lot of people who share problems in the world turn a blind eye as soon as it gets to the Middle East. They’re like, “Nope, never mind.”

N: There was this King Raam show, which may have been considered ‘punk’ in a way, but the crowd was free to attend or perform — it’s like nothing I ever would have [typically] labeled as punk. And again, it’s like that anger’s always been there and it just manifests, you know? In different ways depending on how people want to express it. 

H: While I grew up I went to a lot of underground shows there and it literally had to be hidden, or underground. It took us so long to find a space that would let us play because we had 2 leads in the band who were women. Everything was seated and they had to put extra mic-stands up just in case the police came,so they could say we were backup singers — and we had to wear hijabs and everything. So when I got here and I started going to shows, I was so shocked, I was like, Oh my God, I’m living my movie fantasy or whatever. 

 

K: What was it like navigating the music scene here? 

H: Yeah, my friends are actually my family because a lot of them are helping with the album. These two guys and Mike Foster are the main reason we can record a professional album. Also, the Red Gate helps a lot with playing shows and gear. Alex Molten, a rhythm guitar player from Alien Boys Rhythm was one of the first people I ever hung out with from the music scene. I showed her my demos and she was like, “Yeah, dude, like, you need to start a band and you’re doing great.”

 

We discussed the difficulty of new bands finding mentors in Vancouver because people can be disconnected or closed off. This is especially true with young kids wanting to attend shows in Vancouer, but  not having many options due to a lot of shows being 19+. Homa said Gadfly’s first fan that went to every show was under 19 at the time and their name is Jade. Homa made sure that I give Jade a shout out. Shout out Jade!

  

K: How did your sound come to be, how did the Iranian influence come about?  

H: So I remember when I was 15, I was really into 90’s music like Alice in Chains, which uses phrygian scales, which is the scale used in a lot of Persian songs. 

P: I have not been very good at music theory, at all. There was a long time where I thought I couldn’t play with musicians like Homa who knew that stuff. But even though we aren’t interpreting things the same way, it’s fun to see how that works. 

H: Yeah. Then Nigel brings more of the psych rock drumming into it as well. 

 

K: Do you think the music you all heard growing up impacted on Gadfly’s music? 

P: I was more of an AC DC and Led Zeppelin guy. 

N: IIt’s kind of everything my dad was into. It’s like the ‘60s and ‘70s, just smashed with the ‘90’s. Not a lot of ‘80s music I found from my dad’s vinyl collection. 

H: For me, I started with Pink Floyd, Scorpions and then slowly moved my way to the ‘90s and I was like, Oh my God, this is so much more fun. And like from the ‘80s and the Germs and Melvins — like all those guys that did the whole ‘angry music’ thing.. I found metal when I was like, eight.

 

K: How did you come across that? 

H: You can’t really buy CDs in Iran so we had to burn them.

  

K:. So you have an album coming out soon! Is there anything you can share about it?

H: Yes! The album is coming out December 30th, and we have a couple cassettes and hopefully shirts if we can afford it. We’ve been playing most of the songs live, but there’s a couple in there that no one has heard yet. We’re having an album release with Roach Mcguirk, Charles Mansion and Brass Punk on December 30th at Redgate.

H: And — a lot of people are asking about the name of the album, ‘Apranik’. It’s a woman’s warrior queen, there were many stories of her leading a whole army by herself. 

P: Essentially like the Persian goddess of war. 

 

I got to learn so much about the band Gadfly and their enthusiasm made this interview a breeze. I really appreciated the stories that were shared and the brief conversations about Iran and relevance within music creation and shows. Gadfly also wants you to know they know it’s rough right now so if anyone wants to go see them live but cannot pay the ticket price to send them a DM. Go scream to some Gadfly music and keep your ears open for their new album Apranik!