Out of the gates, Sgt. Splendor’s new pandemic-penned debut hits with a claustrophobic urgency. “We’re in the belly of the beast right now,” Kate Vargas sings on lead track “Whoopee Chateau,” her voice wafting like fumes from the barrel of a smoking gun. Expertly dodging one unsettling revelation after another, her phrasing quickly turns staccato, each word jolting like the bee sting she suggests you “put a penny on” during the chorus.
An intentionally mercurial affair, Occasions for Self-Congratulations teeters from carefully constructed escapism to head-on collisions with madness. There’s the weary, post-apocalyptic blues of “Don’t Make Me Explain,” its spring-loaded tremolo guitar exploding like a barrel of overwound watches; the sinister riff rock of “Michael Myers,” stabbing forward in a Halloween-esque hellscape that oozes menace; and dystopian Americana stomp “You’re All Dead to Me,” the serpentine, sibilant hiss of its vocals a forked tongue tickling your ear.
With the new record hitting this summer, a unique opportunity has emerged, and the band has planned an album-release tour around it. This June through October, Sgt. Splendor is joining the circus. “We’re going through California, Oregon, Colorado” Vargas says. “It’s a cool old-timey operation out of Mendocino, California, called the Flynn Creek Circus. No animals, nothing weird like that, but plenty of knife-throwing, sword-swallowing and aerial acrobatics. And they’re going to weave our songs into the show’s story!”
Today Glide is excited to premiere the video for “Whoopee Chateau,” a song that exemplifies the duo’s approach. Blending a deep funk with slinky vocals and Latin-jazz guitar breaks, the song is the is the kind of musical strut that brings you on a rollercoaster and makes for one hell of a party. There is also a 60s carnival psychedelic vibe at play, giving the song some serious Jim Morrison vibes while also bringing to mind acts like Tom Waits, Fantastic Negrito, and Jack White. Of course, we Vargas laying down her uniquely sultry vocals, the tune also has a sound that stands on its own.
The duo describes the inspiration behind the tune:
“Whoopee Château” is a fun romp for when the world is crumbling. It’s more of an observation than a suggestion. Sgt. Splendor cannot recommend nor take responsibility for your stay at the Whoopee Château. We’re just saying it looks nice there, the grease traps glow and the gold weeds grow. We’re saying there is an option of surrounding ourselves with shiny things, slapping a fancy name on the sign and ignoring the total destruction around us. Right?”