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Knaaves’ “January” Finds Power In Restraint


The video for Knaaves‘ “January” is notable for what it chooses not to show you. The song, featured on the Milwaukee band’s two song January EP, depicts the murder actress Elizabeth Short, otherwise known as the Black Dahlia. The song’s video, however, pointedly does not. Instead of showing us each and every gory detail, the video, directed by Brian Radmond, lets the music do most of the talking. After all, who needs to be shocked by the sight of a mutilated corpse when Knaaves can get the job done purely with menacing metallic hardcore.

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Representing Short’s murder in more abstract terms raises an interesting question: why do we want to see the details of Short’s murder? This question isn’t incidental either, its a core element of “January”‘s lyrics. By the time the song begins, Short is already dead, her corpse torn to bits and manipulated into a pose. The violence this song concerns itself with isn’t the act of murder, but the documentation that followed. Knaaves treat this as the final stage in a brutal act of objectification. The body that was once a human being is reduced to lifeless flesh, and then transformed into a consumable image, one that becomes easier to view aesthetically and without empathy. It is telling that in the video, Short’s stand-in spends more time alive than she does dead. Knaaves and Radmond force the viewer to reckon with the simple facts of the murder instead of being titillated by the shocking presentation of Short’s death; this person was alive, and now she is suddenly and tragically not.

Here’s what Knaaves singer Andy Parmann and Radmond have to say about the video:

Andy Parmann:

This song is about the sensationalized unsolved murder of Elizabeth Short, an actress who was brutally murdered in the 1940s. We knew we wanted to allude to the death but not recreate it. After brainstorming a few ideas, we brought them to our good friend and former band mate, Brian Radmond. He added some great perspective and really helped bring this to life.

[Knaaves bassist] Amanda’s sibling played the role of our victim and one of our detectives is Peter J. Woods, a predominant noise artist in Milwaukee. Having our friends and family involved provided another layer of excitement. I’m stoked with how it turned out.

Brian Radmond:

Working on the “January” video with Knaaves has been my favorite music video project to date.

We wanted to tell the story of a murder case while leaving enough to the imagination using plenty of symbolism. Accompanied by a gritty, driving and building track the tension and tone came together incredibly well.

We took special care in selection of our two locations and I’m really happy with the environments and the separate feels we achieved with the performance and story. Having been involved in every step of this process really brought this video near and dear to me. Working with Andy and Jamie on the concept, locations, music and post production was incredibly cohesive and was a truly rewarding experience.

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