A wrecked car ablaze in the desert. A murder in a late-night diner. A pair of Bonnie and Clyde lovers, kissing the scene of their crime goodbye with a Molotov cocktail.
This is where Static Dress' story begins — at least the one written by singer Olli Appleyard in their short comic book Prologue… and its accompanying 2021 EP of the same name. The new tracks expand on a series of catchy-but-anguished, throwback-but-fresh post-hardcore singles that Static Dress have dropped over the past two years, which have already earned the Leeds crew a solid reputation as one of the most exciting rising bands on the U.K. scene. But this is only one aspect of the world they're building. See, Static Dress want to be more than just a band. They craft intricate storylines through their music, videos and even their photography. They send fans on Easter egg hunts, cracking codes to find hidden links that unlock the next parts of the narrative.
"There are more ways to make people care than just being as loud as you can," says mastermind Appleyard. "I wanna be able to give someone way more than just, 'Here's your song for you to listen to on the way to work.'"
As the title of their inaugural EP and comic suggests, there's a lot more to be explored with their upcoming debut album, Rouge Carpet Disaster. The full-length is due for release in May, but Appleyard puckishly reveals that you can hear it already if you solve the clues and reach the end of their online scavenger hunt. The band's holistic, theatrical approach mirrors forebearers like Slipknot and My Chemical Romance, while their sound has earned them nostalgic nods to Myspace-era scenecore — an enticing creative package that has resulted in cosigns and tour invites from scene leaders including Counterparts and Higher Power, as well as a fast-growing grassroots fanbase.
In Appleyard's eyes, authentic heaviness is a lost art, one he hopes Static Dress (which is rounded out by the mysterious masked guitarist Contrast, bassist Connor Reilly and drummer Sam Ogden) can rediscover. "You get music these days which is so glossed over," he says. "The harsh reality that [bands like Slipknot] bring to the world is something you don't really get with artists anymore. That's all I dream to head towards, that level where it's just true and real."
Growing up in the small Yorkshire town of Bingley in the 2000s, Appleyard didn't have a computer; he scoured magazines and TV to find the music that connected with him. At school, where he struggled with dyslexia and was a social outsider, he'd spend breaks in the photography lab, a passion that now manifests in Static Dress' distinct visual identity. Soon after, he began photographing rock shows around Leeds. "I didn't want [to be paid], I just wanted to go to the show for free and shoot. I'd be doing that at my own expense. I was losing about £40 every time, but I did it because I cared about it. I feel like you see that love and passion translate into Static Dress."
That experience led him into the thriving Leeds DIY hardcore scene. Static Dress are one of a wave of recent Northern English success stories in heavy music, alongside Higher Power from Leeds and Loathe from Liverpool. "There's no big dude in a chair throwing checks at people and making it happen. It's real people, and it's that Northern spirit of get it done yourself," explains Appleyard. "Being home-rooted in a DIY culture is very much what this band's about." All of Static Dress' carefully plotted and produced music videos are filmed on sets hand-built in band members' garages; lights are held up on broom poles; materials are bought from IKEA and thumbtacked together.
Before Static Dress, Appleyard made a career taking photos and building visual campaigns for bands. He often found himself frustrated, though, when those groups rejected his ambitious promotional ideas. So in 2019 he hatched a plan to start his own project and test out that creative vision. He would have considered himself vindicated had Static Dress' debut single, "clean.," hit 300 YouTube views in the first week; as it turns out, Appleyard says, they blasted way past that and logged more than 15,000 plays. (The song has since reached over one million streams on Spotify.)
The following momentum landed them their first tours and a wave of excited whispers across the U.K. — until everything came to a screeching halt at the brick wall of the pandemic. "Honestly, I feel like I started a band at completely the wrong time in my life," Appleyard says, laughing. Still, over the ensuing year and a half the group worked even harder at creatively building a fanbase. They dropped more singles with videos that expanded their lore, and they livestreamed performances along with mysterious QR codes that led to clues. Plus, they began visualizing and writing Prologue…, Rouge Carpet Disaster and the plots to go with them.
Of the dark tale that's unfolding, Appleyard says, "I wanted to [create] something destructively romantic. It's not all fairytales, but there's light at the end of the tunnel, even if it is something which is pretty ugly once you get there. You can find the delicacies in the destruction." With Rouge Carpet Disaster he begins diving into the anti-heroes' backstories, while elsewhere exploring the bitter ramifications of their love entanglements. Meanwhile, he describes the record musically as "500 times better" than what we've heard from Static Dress already.
"I really do worry for the day that I work out how to write a Static Dress song, because then it becomes too easy, and you start making art that isn't worth suffering for," says Appleyard. "As soon as there's no pain involved, it all just becomes a bit of a charade in my mind. I wanna create this piece of art which lasts forever, [and] if you're comfortable with your art it's never gonna be something which stands the test of time." When pressed for more specifics on the forthcoming Rouge Carpet Disaster, Appleyard is tightlipped. "Just wait and see," he says, "because I'm really trying to make something that's never been done before."
Though the coronavirus still has the music industry standing on shaky ground — this interview took place the day after Appleyard and Static Dress returned home from an only half-completed U.K. tour — it's clear that instead of erasing their progress, the pandemic has turned the enthusiasm for Static Dress almost rabid. On every video they release, hundreds of comments proclaim them destined to be huge, the future of post-hardcore, or the best band in decades. "It's exciting to see, but I try not to let it get to me," says Appleyard. "There'll be 100 praises, and then there's 200 people that are completely silent who think it's terrible. I'd much rather start winning over those silent people."
Every move Appleyard makes now is deliberate, considered — not just for what it means for today but how it will look in 10, 20 years. "I'm trying to create a legacy," he says. "I'm trying to make every move correctly. I wanna make an impact on every single person who wants to start a band. I wanna inspire generations to come to make rock music cool again. My overall aim is to hopefully change the face of what rock music is. I mean, it's a pretty big goal, but I'm gonna try."