Los Angeles’ Arden and the Wolves are no strangers to the occult. Band leader Arden Leigh is taking the recent release of their EP, Who Can You Trust, as an opportunity for both artful expression and the purpose of magicking. Though, more-so than anything else, Leigh bears raw, personal truths on the album in order to unravel fears instilled in her through betrayal, abandonment, and assault. This is perhaps most wholly felt in Arden and the Wolves’ cover of the Ramones’ “Poison Heart”, which is meant to set a spotlight on instances of systemic abuse and institutional discrimination through a firsthand lens.
The band incorporates some unsettling imagery in the song’s accompanying music video to ferry this point forward. Although, it’s also a point of owning one’s own identity that is settled in Leigh’s powerful rendition of the song. Musically, the song is carried by the weight of Leigh’s emotional performance and resonant vocals, showcasing herself as a veritable purveyor of no-frills rock ‘n’ roll.
“Though my history with ‘Poison Heart’ goes back to all-girl Ramones cover shows years ago in the basement of the Delancey in NYC, and though we recorded it for the album months before the #MeToo hashtag appeared, it seems to have captured the zeitgeist of despair and exhaustion that preceded the mass changes that are currently sweeping our culture,” Leigh tells PopMatters. “‘Poison Heart’, to me, is about a society shaped by trauma, where hurt people hurt people and everyone is stuck re-enacting their patterns — kind of like the one we’re living in now.”
“As I mention in the album’s booklet, at the start of its creation I had also decided to embark on a journey of healing a lifetime’s worth of unaddressed trauma programming. I was especially struck by my research into trauma reactions, the way that trauma unconsciously imprints itself in our beliefs and can affect us long after the traumatic events are over. Sadly, the researcher whose work I learned from was just fired last month from his therapy center and his $5 million grant for bullying his staff — so believe the Ramones when they say everybody has a poison heart!”
Leigh continues, detailing the music video’s development process:
“What I didn’t mention in the booklet was that, in part because of my other work as a coach, I made my process transparent by sharing everything I was learning on my blog and social media. So, by the time I was ready to make a video, I had a lot of friends and followers who were on similar journeys. I put out a call online for people to submit footage of an artistic depiction of what living with their trauma responses felt like, and they knocked it out of the park.”
“Mine involved the bugs on my face because I wanted to show how trauma can desensitize your body and allow you to dissociate from literally anything. People were like, “Omg how did you stand that?” And I’m like, ‘Psh, what’s a few bugs to my body after everything else it’s been through!’ I hope the video widens the conversation about healing and the ongoing abuses of power in our systemic institutions such as Hollywood.”
Leigh is also starting an online group course called The Re-Patterning Project wherein she will teach her healing process to prospective students. The course is still in its development phase but should be announced soon via social media.