Video Premiere: Spoonboy, ‘Free Yer Mind, Square’

By Tori Kerr

David Combs, D.C.’s longest-serving pop-punk bandleader, found the idea for one of his new songs in Redwood National Park.

It was on on a camping trip, says Combs, and a member of the Brit band Onsind seemed a little squeamish about jumping into the river. Naked on a boulder, Combs’ friend Dru Edmondson wasn’t having it. He bellowed, “Free your mind, square!” and leapt into the water.

For Combs, who performs under the name Spoonboy, the moment became a song title and the idea for a new music video, premiered here on Bandwidth today. The track is a declaration of independence fueled by an enlightened approach to gender identity; the music video is a sun-drenched celebration of that.

“I’m diving in and coming up for air, and I’m not scared or unaware,” Spoonboy sings on the cut. It’s just one pop-punk blast from a fast-paced series of three split records he recently released with poppy acts The Goodbye Party, Martha and Colour Me Wednesday. (“Free Yer Mind, Square” appears on the Martha split.)

Combs is already a fixture on the D.C. punk scene from his years of output with The Max Levine Ensemble. But Spoonboy on his own is just as hooky and politically charged.

When he wrote the song, Combs was thinking a lot about queer identities, a subject he’s explored in previous songs and public forums. “I think a lot about how much we’re prescribed particular narratives about what gender and sexuality are supposed to look like,” Combs says. He says even progressive-minded people can fall into traps around what gender conformity—or nonconformity—should look like.

On “Free Yer Mind, Square,” powerful guitars charge in as Spoonboy announces with a slight sneer, “You wanna know what I want / You wanna know who I love / Well, I don’t care.”

The loud-quiet-loud structure of “Free Yer Mind, Square” was exactly what video director Ben Epstein had been looking for. Epstein had been sitting on an idea for a music video that would be half forwards and half backwards. He merged the idea with Spoonboy’s song—reversing the video’s action around the track’s halfway point—and the giddy, gleeful and puzzling music video was born.

When Combs and his pals dive into the swimming pool in the video, the image bears a particular significance. “What I wanted to get across is, ‘Look. I’m not going to worry about it. I’m just going to be who I am and not look over my shoulder all the time.'”

Both of the Spoonboy tracks on the Martha split are what Combs calls “pep songs.” That good-natured self-assuredness seems to be paying off; a new Max Levine Ensemble album, which Combs says is his best work yet, will arrive sometime this year.

Spoonboy plays Friday, June 6 at DC9.