One of the most unlikely success stories of recent years in heavy metal is that of ‘heavy nedal’ band Okilly Dokilly. The band who dress and sing about The Simpsons’ loveable Christian Ned Flanders (voiced by Harry Shearer), spent the majority of 2017 touring the States supporting their music and performing dressed as the iconic character. In August, I chatted with Head Ned from the band to talk about their origins, The Simpsons, their latest album Howdilly Doodilly and touring the US.
Jack: Hey Head Ned, how are you doing?
Head Ned (Vocals): Good. We just got back from about 3 months of touring, somewhat consistently, so I’m getting some rest and overdue church time in.
Jack: How did the members of Okilly Dokilly meet?
Head Ned: We were just friends who held a similar affinity for music and a well-known and beloved yellow family.
Jack: When you formed the band, what came first? The Simpsons theme or just the idea of jamming together?
Head Ned: The band name actually came first. Our drummer and I were imagining the most brutal band you can think of with the most unfitting, goofiest name. Okilly Dokilly came up, and from there, we just continued to build on the idea.
Jack: Out of all the Simpsons characters, why loveable Christian Ned Flanders?
Head Ned: Ned Flanders is the guy you’d least expect to front a metal band, and we enjoy breaking expectations.
Jack: What makes Ned Flanders a fan favourite character?
Head Ned: I’m partial to the idea that his relentless politeness and unyielding patience with a neighbour like Homer makes him both annoying and relatable. I’m also partial to the idea that all his fan-drawing power is due to the moustache.
Jack: Why has the Simpsons endured for so many years?
Head Ned: I think the originality of the show is what gave it such a good start. It builds so much humour from everyday society and the writers and producers of the show are professionals when it comes to that. As long as there is society, there will, hopefully, be shows like the Simpsons to shine a satirical light on it.
Jack: When the band was first announced the news of your existence spread across the world, even appearing in The Independent and Time magazine’s website. Were you surprised as to how big it took off?
Head Ned: Absolutely. Our ambitions were to play a few shows at some local bars. We had no idea Okilly Dokilly would spread as far as it did.
Jack: Have you heard anything back from the creators of The Simpsons or any of the voice actors?
Head Ned: Nothing yet, except for a tweet of approval from Al Jean a while back.
Jack: Your album Howdilly Doodilly came out last year, were you surprised by the reactions?
Head Ned: Yeah, we’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback from the album. It’s definitely been honouring and humbling.
Jack: With so many memorable Ned quotes, was it hard picking which ones to convert into songs?
Head Ned: Sometimes it is. I try to pick quotes at opposite ends of the spectrum, using either quotes that sound like they belong in a metal song, when taken out of context, or songs that absolutely don’t.
Jack: How did your tour with Mac Sabbath go?
Head Ned: It was great, and they’re definitely some of our favorite McNeighborinos. It was our first tour, so we definitely learned a lot from them. Metalachi toured with us too and we had a blast with those guys.
Jack: On one of your later tours you played Springfield, how did that go?
Head Ned: It was great. That was actually the last show of a 7 week tour, so it capped off the tour perfectly. The crowd was great and it was an awesome show. A couple members from Beatallica, the band we were touring with, shaved their beards down to mustaches and borrowed green sweaters from our stuff. They came out all dressed as Ned and crashed our set for a song.
Jack: Does playing in the jumpers get hot at all?
Head Ned: It’s a little toasty, but we’re from Phoenix, so we’re accustomed to being warm and uncomfortable a lot.
Jack: Okilly Dokilly have been touring a lot lately, is it hard balancing day jobs like The Leftorium and the band?
Head Ned: It can be a challenge, but we’ve been able to make it work. The side income from Flancrest Enterprises helps.
Jack: A lot of people see Okilly Dokilly as a novelty band, do you see yourselves as a novelty band?
Head Ned: Yes and no. A novelty band is a band that’s not really serious and is just there to make people laugh. We’re making people laugh, but we’re serious about it.
Jack: Will we see another album? If so, do you plan on branching out into other Simpsons characters or even non-Simpsons topics?
Head Ned: We do have a second album in the works. It’ll be more Ned Flanders-focused than the first one.
Jack: What else is coming up for the band? Do you plan on hitting the UK and Europe at some point?
Head Ned: We’d love to bring Okilly Dokilly overseas. Hopefully will get across the pond next year.
Jack: Finally, what is your favourite Simpsons episode?
Head Ned: I’m partial to Hurricane Neddy. It seems like half our songs are quotes from that episodes, and it really has a great look into some deep Ned storylines.
Jack: Thank you for your time and I hope to see you in London soon!
Head Ned: Thanks so much for reaching out!