The World/Inferno Friendship Society is a group of 11 (or so) people that dress like it's 1927, sing about anarchy and drugs, and, every year, praise the ancient pagan entity called “The Great Pumpkin” at their annual “Hallowmas” concert. This year is no different, as the band is preparing for a Halloween-themed blowout where they will be premiering some brand-new material.
“Hallowmas is our New Years, our Christmas, our Yom Kippur, all at once,” said Inferno vocalist Jack Terricloth. “It is the children’s holiday and has no saints or martyrs. It’s when kids go out at night and demand candy from adults and dress up and scare people. It is their first taste of freedom and the idea that anything is possible.”
World/Inferno’s music combines the style and grandeur of 1920s swing with the energy and hatred of authority of punk rock. The have an album about the life and times of Humphrey Bogart’s film nemesis, Peter Lorre (Addicted to Bad Ideas: Peter Lorre's Twentieth Century). They have several songs about fighting -- or running away from -- the police. On stage, they look more like an orchestra than a rock band, featuring violins, saxes, bassoons, keyboards and any other number of instruments that might show up before or during the show.
Usually, the Hallowmas concert finds the band debuting new theatrics and new music. Several years ago, they brought in gigantic weather balloons during the show, which were so large that during the concert they actually lifted people off the ground.
“One of the balloons did explode,” Terricloth said. “It wasn’t very high up so no one died. It was a beautiful scene, though. The next year, we wanted to blow one up on purpose, but the art space we were at said we couldn’t, so we just lit giant effigies of the Great Pumpkin on fire instead. The art space got mad at us, but we said we just lit stuff on fire -- we didn’t actually blow anything up.”
Another year, the band somehow got involved in the Greenwhich Village Halloween Parade. World/Inferno was assigned to the same float as Z100. As the radio station tried to drown out the band with RnB hits, a troop of crust punks stormed the float and began to stage-dive off of the moving platform during the parade.
“The radio station’s turntable got disconnected somehow,” Terricloth said. “I didn’t see a thing...” At another Hallowmas, they handed out dozens of larger-than-life pumpkins to children and watched as they paraded around Tompkins Square Park in a scene that looked lifted out of "The Wickerman."
The central point of the show is to praise and pay respect to the Great Pumpkin character, as well as the dead souls that, according to the band, travel with him. Some people might remember that Linus from "Peanuts" would spend his October 31 waiting in a pumpkin patch for the arrival of the Great Pumpkin. But, according to Terricloth, the character dates back to pre-Christian Europe. He said, “Charles Schultz definitely popularized the Great Pumpkin -- he was of German background. But, it goes back to the druids and celts who all worshipped the great gourd.”
“Every year, the Great Pumpkin rises from a particular pumpkin patch,” Terricloth said. “We praise him to come down and bring presents and hope to all the good little boys and girls that want to be miscreants.”
Right now, Terricloth and Co. are in the middle of rehearsals for the big show, which is a pretty big undertaking. Although the band might sing about the benefits of a vice-driven lifestyle, the traditions are surprisingly regimented and strict. Terricloth said, “The practices are very intense, but it’s always best to keep to keep things mysterious. We are working on a new album called This Packed Funeral, and Hallowmas this year will feature the first act in the play that is that album. It has songs called ‘I’ll be your alibi’ and ‘Don’t kiss me because I’m running out of lipstick.’”
But still, as the band prepares for the Great Pumpkin’s arrival, they’re mindful of the fact that he (it?) isn’t necessarily benevolent. Terricloth said, “Of course, there is the flipside. If children are not sincere, and if they do not praise the great pumpkin -- well, everyone that is dead is not your friend. If they feel that they are not praised or honored, terrible things just might happen.”
The World/Inferno Friendship Society plays The Chris Gethard show on October 23. Their annual Hallowmas show is in Brooklyn, NY on October 31.