The Simpsons is an undeniable fixture of modern pop culture. Already the longest-running scripted primetime series in American television history, the animated sitcom is set to start its 31st season this fall. And of the hundreds and hundreds of characters that have appeared on the show, there is none more straight-laced and God-fearing than Ned Flanders.
So it was a bit of a shock when a Phoenix-based quintet started the metalcore band Okilly Dokilly in his honor three years ago.
Perhaps even more surprising is the worldwide attention and praise that the tongue-in-cheek outfit has garnered since.
Major media outlets like Billboard, Time, USA Today and NME have all covered them, and the band’s video for 2016 single White Wine Spritzer is rapidly approaching 5 million views.
What began as nothing more than a joke between musician friends has steadily grown into something far more formidable.
“We didn’t have any delusions of grandeur,” said the band’s founder and front man known only as Head Ned from his Arizona home. “We never thought this would go any further than a couple of local bar shows. ‘Totally crazy’ describes it pretty well. This whole thing has been a really wild ride.”
With all five members donning the garb and facial hair configuration of the Harry Shearer-voiced character, Okilly Dokilly fully embraces their shtick. Most live performances include doughnuts (inflatable or otherwise) thrown into the crowd, as well as a section where the band stops and converts the crowd to left-handedness.
But don’t mistake the theatricality for lack of skill. Despite the predominantly Flanders-inspired lyrics, when it’s time to play music, Okilly Dokilly is as loud, menacing and aggressive as any of their metal peers – even if it hasn’t always been that way for someone like Head Ned.
“I played banjo in a folk band,” he said. “I played in alterative, indie-rock bands. And I also played drums in one project. But this was a chance to use my newest instrument, the death growl. The question was, ‘What can we do with this?’ So now we go from chatting with the crowd in character to going as hard as we can for three minutes at a time.”
When Okilly Dokilly kicks off their latest headlining tour at the Soda Bar on Friday, they’ll also be releasing a new single, ReNEDucation, and will follow that with their sophomore full-length studio album, Howdilly Twodilly, on March 29.
Aside from expanding upon their already unique style, the new record forced Head Ned to do something that probably doesn’t fall under the category of work research for many other bands.
“When we started this,” he said, “it was just a fun, goofy thing. And one of our very first band equipment purchases was all of the existing DVD copies of the show. And for Howdilly Twodilly, over the course of a month, I sat down and watched every episode of the first 10 seasons. I just sat there with a notebook and wrote stuff down.”
If the first record was mostly filled with Ned-isms, the new one looks to completely close the gap. And as Head Ned and the rest of the band (Shred Ned, Zed Ned, Dread Ned and Bed Ned) continue their unlikely journey, they’ll be looking for even more ways to capitalize on the juicy juxtaposition that got them this far.
“This was our first foray into metal,” said the bandleader. “But instead of taking a serious step, we thought that doing it this way might be fun. Metal is always associated with aggression and aggressive lyrics. And then there’s always that satanic association as well. So, to pair that with a character like Ned Flanders, it just seemed like the right way to go.”
When: 9:30 p.m., Feb. 1
Where: Soda Bar, 3615 El Cajon Blvd., Normal Heights