Nikki & The Phantom Caller's namesake Nikki Speake wrote future album cut "They've Never Walked Through Shadows" about cryptozoological creatures and battlefield legends from her hometown of Dadeville, Ala., providing her band with an excuse to release a spooky music video just in time for Halloween.
Speake's family fables come from an area known as Booger Hollow (Booger as in ghost, Hollow pronounced "holler," like Loretta Lynn says it).
"We were told that the Pig Man haunted the woods, and my older cousins used to scare me to death by saying they could hear his high-pitched squeals at night!," Speake says. "It's also only a few miles from the Horseshoe Bend National Park, where Andrew Jackson killed the last of the Red Stick Creeks; ending the Creek War, which resulted in Alabama becoming a state in 1819. So, it has a bit of a sad and supernatural history, and in many ways is a place that time has forgotten."
To visually do justice to a song premiered last week by Immersive Atlanta, Speake took bandmates Anna Kramer (Shantih Shantih, Rock*A*Teens, The Lost Cause), Aaron Mason and Russell Owens home to Alabama and shot footage at an old schoolhouse and abandoned graveyard.
"As for the concept, we knew the video was going to come out around Halloween, so we wanted a Southern Gothic feel to serve the song and the backdrop of the Alabama pines," Speake adds. "In most ghost stories, someone has died of tragic circumstances, causing them to roam the earth until they find peace. I wanted to create an afterlife where these souls could meet, still sing and dance, and have each other to work through their confusion and sadness. I watched a few videos of dances from the 1800s and picked the simplest one for us to attempt. I'm so happy Aaron and Russell were up for it! It was very much a collective DIY effort. Everyone had great ideas, and we somehow managed to pull it off - 300 chigger bites and one long rattlesnake later."
The band's visual creativity suits a song with a serendipitous backstory that's slightly more intriguing than whether the Pig Man still haunts a town northwest of Auburn University.
"This song wasn't originally meant to be on the album," Speake explains. "After we recorded in September of 2018, Anna and I were playing around in the studio and started singing this song. It's an old one of mine, that I never really thought anyone would care about, but is special to me. Ben Etter, our sound engineer at Maze Studios in Reynoldstown, got so excited about it, that he cued everything back up and started recording. It has usually been an a cappella song, but we experimented with a few things and Russell added an eerie Civil War-style drum beat that we all loved."