Andy D is the type of artist who provokes extreme response from an audience - you either love the idea of a raging, shirtless disco Viking, or you don't. A quick glance at this publication's cover reveals which camp we fall in, as we pay homage to the hard-partying Greenwood native by making him our honorary poster boy for this year's coverage of NYE festivities.
It's a fitting choice as Andy D (née Andrew Duncan) has established an impressive reputation around Indianapolis for his crazed, sweat-filled live shows, which often feel more like a raucous house party than your typical local club gig.
"My musical goal is definitely to start a party," Andy tells me.
He accomplishes that through an over-the-top blend of twisted humor and low-budget Casio beats.
But D insists he's not a novelty act.
"I'm a musician who uses humor. I'm not musical comedy," he says."Not necessarily all my songs are gonna be funny. I use humor in a strategic way to get people to laugh in key moments of a song because the closer someone is to laughing, the closer they are to dancing. I've never seen anyone have a bad time when they're laughing or dancing."
What exactly are Andy D's fans laughing about? Well, there's his larger-than-life stage persona for starters, featuring his trademark exposed beer gut, rattail hairdo and hodgepodge of '80s fashion staples, from fanny packs to Zubaz.
"I like anything that screams awesomeness," D says of his fashion sense. "I'll wear anything that's bright and shiny. The world is drab enough as it is; we might as well peacock it out as much as possible. Style-wise I think everyone should be what they want and I happen to like wearing glittery, shiny, bright things."
There are also his lyrics, which abound with perverse, sexually charged fantasies involving werewolves, unicorns, wizards, mutants, magic and robots: Andy D has a serious fascination with all things mythological and supernatural.
"I've always had a thing for mythology and I have a degree in religious studies from NYU," D explains, while mentioning he also received a second degree in anthropology from the same university.
"My studies have informed my lyrical content as well as my song themes and album themes," says D. "The sexual lyrical content is informed by my anthropological background. The stuff that's about mythology and folklore, that comes from my religious studies degree. So my lyrics are kind of a marriage of those two things."
It was during his time at NYU that Duncan created the Andy D character, resulting in a series of fortuitous events that would lead the artist back to his Indiana roots. At his second-ever Andy D live performance, the singer met his future wife and musical collaborator, Victoria.
"I pulled her in to my music," D says. "It took me a couple years to convince her to play shows with me live, but even on my first album she helped me write. She's been singing on my last two albums and now she performs with me regularly. She has no prior experience in music, but she's a naturally good singer."
In 2008 Victoria's academic career brought the couple to Indiana, where everything began to coalesce for Andy D, culminating with the release of his well-received second album, 2011's Songs in the Key of Magic.
The LP finds D's odd musical vision blooming to full fruition, combining DIY electro beats, crude 2 Live Crew-era hip-hop and squealing hair metal guitars into a distinctly catchy and individual sound that defies easy categorization.
"What I'm doing now kind of goes in the face of genre," D explains. "I don't even know what genre to put me in. If you were to give it a name it would be so divided as a sub-genre it wouldn't have any meaning."
D says this genre-blurring approach was influenced by the years he spent gigging the Indy all-ages scene with his high school band, Wemmick.
"We were a weird Primus-type metal band," says D. "We played all-ages venues like Smith-Valley Community Center and Smedley's Dream. There was no other band doing what we were doing, so we would play with all kinds of groups: a two-piece punk band, a hardcore band, Goth bands. It would always be a mix. There were never two bands of the same genre.
"At that time punk kids and metal kids were listening to the same loud music together. They weren't antagonistic about what type of obnoxious music they listened to. I've taken that ethos to its natural conclusion and I'm just making the music I want to and letting people make of it what they will."
I wondered if D's pubescent lyrical fantasies and obsession with late-'80s-early-'90s culture was an expression of nostalgia for these adolescent years. He insists that's not the case.
"I don't necessarily draw these things from my childhood. I don't consider my music or lyrics nostalgic. It's not that I'm yearning for the past. But the things that I liked at that point I still like and will always like."
That attitude seems to be the cornerstone of Andy D's philosophy.
"Why do we stop wanting to do the things we liked when we were young? Is it because we feel a pressure to be a certain way since we're adults? People forget that being an adult isn't just about having responsibilities. It's also about being able to do whatever the hell you want because nobody can tell you not to. You should be able to say 'To hell with what everyone else thinks; I'm going to be my own person.' "
D's dedication to that philosophy has allowed the singer to fearlessly indulge his wildest artistic whims, no matter how ridiculous they may seem. That attitude has certainly carried over onto the creation of his new LP for Rad Summer, Warcries.
"It takes place in a sci-fi, postapocalyptic future with robots and mutants fighting each other. All my albums are concept albums, but this is the first one with a strong narrative. There will be an accompanying comic book in the album that explains the story."
If that concept strikes you as absurd, that's because it is. It's a quality that Andy D embraces in his work.
"I definitely dabble in absurdity. I use it as a medium," says D. "I do absurd things because I believe life is inherently void of meaning. So I might as well have fun and play with that."
Over the course of Andy D's career there has been some debate as to whether his artistic identity is an earnest form of self expression or ironic hipster shtick. If his 130 shows per year and multiple festival invitations don't convince you, perhaps the sincerity of the singer's parting thoughts to me regarding the importance of imagination in his work will. They left me with little doubt.
"It's the greatest gift we can give ourselves when we imagine the world different than it is. I think that's the root of art, the root of science, the root of culture ... and the root of religion too."
[Music] Punk + Metal, Festivals + Parties
[A+E] Festivals + Parties, Beer + Wine, DJs + Dancing
[Music] Jazz + Blues + R&B