According to its unassuming origin story, Okilly Dokilly came into being when a pair of bandmates started brainstorming innocuous names for imaginary hardcore bands. A reference to The Simpsons' friendliest neighborino—the perpetually upbeat and severely religious Ned Flanders—inspired plenty of follow-up jokes and eventually gave birth to the world's first "Nedal" outfit, which takes the character's more offbeat lines like, "The last thing I ever bought a woman was a coffin," out of context and casts them as growled refrains to punishing, brutal metalcore. The result is "not as fast as Bartcore, and a little cleaner than Krusty Punk," according to vocalist Head Ned in an August 2015 interview that made Okilly Dokilly a viral sensation.
"We never intended to turn it into an actual thing but the puns just kept flowing," admits Head Ned. (Red, Dead, Cred, and Bled round out the quintet of current Neds.) "We started looking at reasons why we shouldn't do it, but I worked for a clothing manufacturer, so I could get polos and sweaters for cheap. This was a genre that the band was interested in, so we thought we'd play a couple weird, small shows in bars, and it just grew from there," he says.
In the midst of a six-week cross-country headlining tour, Okilly Dokilly has by far surpassed the achievements of its members' previous, more serious projects. "Just the fact that we had any success anywhere with any project is a big deal to us," says Head Ned. "You could be bitter, but why would you even need to?"
INDY: What were you and the rest of the band doing musically before Okilly Dokilly?
HEAD NED: We were all doing different things in the same scene; myself and the drummer [Bled Ned] did more of an indie/alternative rock thing where we got compared to Weezer constantly. A lot of the other guys were in more of a digital, Devo-ish band and they did some dancey stuff. It was really all over the board, but this is the most metal thing that we've done—it's kind of a step into a new genre for us. When this project came up, I just wanted to reach out to anyone who was a friend of mine and wanted to be involved, which is actually how we ended up with synth in this band. It wasn't really predetermined, that's just what he played and I wanted him to be in the band.
What is it that you're looking for in the dialogue of an episode when finding inspiration for a song?
At first, I was looking for something that he'd say that was very dark and could be very metal when taken out of context. I was looking to find the humor in the fact that you might listen to the song not knowing the theme of the band and just hear how dark the lyrics are, then delve into it and go "Oh, that's something that Ned Flanders said?" That's where songs like "They Warned Me" came from.
From there, we've kind of branched out and done some different things. Some are sillier but still angry, like "More Animal Than Flan" where he says "Ann Landers is a boring old biddy"—which is a very mellow thing to say, but when you say it angrily, it works. Nowadays when I'm looking for quotes, I kind of follow one of those two patterns. We also created our own rule with "Only Ned Flanders quotes," then broke it pretty much immediately with "All That Is Left," which is an ode to the Leftorium and is mostly left-handed puns.
What have the crowds been like at your shows?
The fans are always really passionate. At each show, there are more and more of what we call "Bonus Neds"—people who come decked out in Flanders costume—and we've had Max Power, a couple Maudes, an Apu, a Sideshow Bob. People kind of use their creativity to cosplay these Simpsons characters at our shows while enjoying this obscure Simpsons tribute night.
What's been the most surreal experience you've had while this project has taken off?
I think it was really early on when we first published our photos and demos in August 2015. We went from zero to twenty thousand Facebook fans, we were on the front page of Reddit and trending on Facebook. We went from this goofy idea that we thought nobody would be into, then suddenly there was a really intense couple days of being everywhere on the internet. It's funny, because we kind of did it all backwards, where we got all this fame first, then after that we played our first show and actually recorded an album.
When you share bills with more serious bands, how have those artists responded to Okilly Dokilly?
You'd think some might get offended that we're taking this genre that they take seriously and we're doing something silly with it, but one thing that's constantly impressed me about the metal community is that everyone seems to have a really developed sense of humor despite the seriousness of the genre. We've had one band that played a lot of their straightforward songs and then they did a bunch of covers from the actual show and played a medley of like "See My Vest" and "Everyone Hates Ned Flanders," which was really cool.
If you were to pick any other genre that would fit Ned Flanders's life, what would that be?
I think it might be funny if it was a folk band that was entirely composed of banjos and "diddlys" and "doodlys"—something so incredibly innocent and over-the-top. I think it would have to be an extreme version of one genre or another.
This article appeared in print with the headline "Ding Dong Diddly Doom."