My latest video project, which I’m extremely proud and excited about, is my band’s music video! Making this video feels long overdue, as I had wanted to direct a music video for my band (The Family of Man) for a while but never had a song and concept come together. After creating our third album “The Way” it finally happened. The video is for our single “Bittersweet Relief” which is a song that Wilfred wrote for the especially collaborative album.
We always create our albums deep in the woods on week long retreats from the city life (you can read more about that HERE), so it only felt appropriate for it to be the setting of a music video. As far as the concept, I wanted it to really reflect the spirit of the band. There’s a certain magical element to the process of us getting together and making these albums. It often feels like an alternate reality. getting away from the constant buzz of the city and leaving electronics by the wayside ends up having a regressive effect on the mind to where we are able to act instinctually, freely, and childlike. It only felt natural for us to play the song on instruments that could perhaps grow from a tree trunk, or are a little larger than life.
Shortly after proposing the idea to the band, the logistics began to fall in place. With the help of two extremely talented Fellow Filmmaker Friends (FFF’s for short) Jaena Sta. Ana and Alexander Collins we were able to realize the project seamlessly…and have a great time while doing it.
Wilfred Galila (Co-Director / Bandmate / Creative Partner for Life), Jaena Sta. Ana (Producer / The Eye in the Sky / Skywalker Gangsta) and I went out to location scout near Muir Woods about a week before shooting and found some excellent locales rich with forest greens and large behemoth rocks. A week later, with Aliyah Cline (Third Bandmember / Life Long Friend / Insane Other Half) and Alexander Collins (Director of Photography / Visual Extraordinaire / Fellow Videogame Nerd) we set forth to shoot. Through tons of laughing, mediocre burgers, and an occasional rap came the music video. The entire day felt like an extension of the trip to Humboldt which made the album – and the result was a video that captured the same spontaneous energy found in the music. I couldn’t be more happy with the result. I hope you enjoy it as well. If you like it, you can download the entire album for FREE right here.
Thanks for watching! Stream the full album below.
Spontaneity is what my acoustic-folk band “The Family of Man” has always been based on, but one thing that has so far remained a constant is: we record an album every July. However, circumstances for this latest batch of songs which will make up our third album (hopefully completed in a couple months or so) were still informed by one rather spontaneous change: where we record. It was only days before we were planning to make our annual trip to Mendocino to record in that same storage container that produced the previous two albums (Inside The Box and Heads in the Sky) that we found out that circumstances at the property would not allow us to be there for the amount of time we would need. As fate would have it, however, we were able to contact another wonderful couple who lives in the Humboldt forest and has hosted us for several visits during New Years. Without a second thought we adjusted our trip to the north to go…further north.
This new space is a small plot of land down a long windy road which then becomes a windy dirt road, which then becomes a small house hidden within the forest. A small river flows right behind the main house, and much like our previous recording space, there is a smaller hut outside of the main house across the garden and past the beehives. we call it “The Honey Hut”.
This is the space the vast majority of things were recorded during our 6 day stay. using a portable recording device we would one by one spend some time in the Honey Hut adding our individual parts to a growing puzzle of songs. Getting the process started is always one of those things where you just have to throw yourself to the wind and hope it’s all going to piece together in the way we collectively heard it in our heads. After some rough first takes, and a little quality control with the recording process, things started to flow.
In a very similar way to how “Heads in the Sky” was conceived, these songs were all formed over the previous year and played for each other either in rough GarageBand demos passed digitally, or in band practices. One notable difference is that, for the first time, I wrote several songs for the record. Where both our previous albums were formed from song ideas originally from Wilfred and Aliyah , this album will be the first where all three of us contribute songs.
When I initially was writing the songs that have now been recorded for this album, I was simply writing them out of necessity and personal release. Formed out of some rather rough emotional times that went down over this previous year, I found myself needing to just have a creative release that was a bit of a faster turnaround then my other creative outlet: filmmaking. conceptualizing, writing, casting, directing, and editing a short film is often a process that takes me over a year to complete. Writing a song is something that can be completed in a matter of days, and it was what I needed. These songs were really just a form of medication for me, never really intended to be something more than a way to work out whatever it was that was driving me crazy in my own head. Through sharing them with Wilfred and Aliyah it started to become clear to myself that Family of Man songs aren’t really defined in any other way than songs that the three of us hear in our heads and actualized through the recording process. The songs I wrote became redefined as Family of Man songs.
To say I’m nervous about them being heard is an understatement. However nerves and excitement can often be close relatives.
The recording process felt far more exhausting than previous years. 2 major things had changed which influenced this: we decided to record every single instrument / vocal separately as to have the most control in the mixing process (and ultimately have the highest quality sounding album yet) AND…we had about 4 days less than we normally do to record the album. Needless to say, this is not the greatest combo. The challenge was taken on with full force however, and we would spend literally every waking hour doing something that was contributing to the album. if someone was cooking dinner, another one of us was recording a part. If one person needed to take a nap, the others recorded. In fact, on one of the rare moments all three of us decided to take a break and go to the river to relax for a bit, we still brought the recorder to document the journey…and some sound clips from that made it onto a couple moments on the album. Towards the end of the process, I was beginning to feel a deeper connection to the insanity of Jack in The Shining.
One thing we discussed as far as how we wanted this album to sound compared to the others was scope of instrumentation. We wanted to include a broader range of instruments throughout the songs and experiment more with things that we had previously only briefly tapped into. The album contains the instruments we’ve used before (guitar, percussion, flute, ukulele, piano flute, bongos, etc.) but also includes some new ones (saxophone, banjo, piano, a wider range of percussive…objects, and a moment with a choir of friends belting along with us).
The songs all occupy their own land in many ways. “Hero’s Journey” has a psychedelic western feel, “Twin Sized Bed” alternates between backcountry twang and a foot stomping folk-march, and “The Way” is an expansive gospel-infused sing-a-long.
I’m incredibly excited to release this album so you can hear what we’ve heard for the previous months. I’m currently mixing the album (which is becoming a much longer process then our previous albums due to how this was recorded) and hope to get things to a point where we can announce a release date as soon as possible. We will be releasing a bunch of behind the scenes videos from the trip through our Facebook leading up to the release, as well as all the announcements concerning the album like track list, album art, release date, and more. “Like” us on Facebook for all the updates.
UPDATE: The album is now out! you can download / stream the entire thing all for FREE below:
It’s entirely likely that you have never heard of the audio/visual artist ‘iamamiwhoami’. Like many new artists in the 21st century, using a unique viral-like unraveling internet mystery is one of the few ways to get recognized from the endless ocean of candidates all clawing for a spot in the much sought after headlines of major internet publications (because lets face it, how many of us still read the newspaper?) That’s why, at least initially, publications turned their heads when a mysterious YouTube channel with zero information other than its username ‘iamamiwhoami’ began uploading 1-minute clips of extremely well produced visuals tied together with strange, ambient / electro beats with distant, heavily distorted vocals, and a female singer consistently visually distorted as to not reveal her identity – all back in December 2009. They even caught the attention of MTV when ‘iamamiwhoami’ sent a package directly to one of their writers containing a lock of human hair, and mysterious drawings of various animals that had appeared in the videos. As far as mysterious viral artists go, this was cream of the crop, and various publications were foaming at the mouth to be the one to say ‘I totally reported on them before they revealed everything about the project’.
Well the thing is…months went by. More short clips were uploaded, and soon full songs with complete music videos followed. Each one with only a single letter as their title (B O U1 U2 N T Y). Everyone was inching forward on their seats…waiting for the big reveal…the big ‘man behind the curtain’ moment. But, it soon became clear that there would be no big reveal. These mysterious videos WERE the project. Soon the powers of the internet uncovered that Swedish folk/pop singer Jonna Lee was the woman distorted in the videos and the front-woman of the project. With that, music publications shrugged off the project, and went back to updating us on what Best Coast said on Twitter about the Lou Reed / Metallica collaboration (I’m looking at YOU Pitchfork).
The reveal of who was behind this all actually proved to really not be the driving force of the all the mystery, because the videos kept on coming with no explanation behind them. If you watch the videos in chronological order, Jonna becomes more and more easily identifiable, so I’m sure she realized it was only a matter of time before people figured this out. The true shock is that still to this day Jonna Lee has never officially stated she’s involved with the project, or who else is.
Maybe to some, that could seem like a disappointment. That these veils of mystery distract from the art. But I would have to argue that something as carefully constructed, heavily layered, and well-planned is innovation on a level unseen before. Ironically, something this mysterious can ONLY have legs to stand on with the help of the Internet, despite the Internet seemingly representing the over-indulgence in information that the project rebels from.
It’s simple to call something like this ‘gimmicky’ but there is no denying its bravery. In an age built on instant gratification, and almost COMPLETE lack of mystery (go ahead and google the answer to anything you’ve ever wanted to know), the ‘iamamiwhoami’ project is choosing to provide that mystery. ZERO interviews, ZERO promotion, and ZERO explanation of all the many layers of symbolism that fans have discovered trace back to outlandish source material like mandragora folklore. Its worth noting this choice goes against just about every typical ‘rise to fame’ move you could pull. If you think we’re ever gonna see an ‘iamamiwhoami’ song in a Coke commercial, I would suggest not holding your breath.
This project has brilliantly accomplished the unthinkable in The Age of Information: gain a rabid loyal fan base by doing absolutely nothing beyond putting their art on a tray for the taking. If you are a fan of ‘iamamiwhoami’ its because you are a fan of the art itself, simply because there is NO other aspect to the project.
I would be lying if I said this project has gotten no recognition, but it is the way that the artists behind this have handled the recognition and praise that is truly worth noting. At the 2011 Swedish Grammis Awards, ‘iamamiwhoami’ won for “Innovator of the Year”. How did they accept this award? An anonymous woman approached the stage with an envelope that she was told to open in the event they won. Inside the envelope: a blank piece of paper. Before leaving the stage the woman said ‘Thank you. That’s all I am allowed to say.” This unrelenting commitment to not break character is something to respect, especially considering the projects marriage to mystery.
There is a reason the project has such a dedicated fan-base. The rewards of the unknown, and the sense of surprise the project offers is something that many from my generation lack. The convenience of having everything at your fingertips comes at the price of losing the wonder of discovery. It’s no surprise that people have such a strong reaction to the project. ‘iamamiwhoami’ is providing what for many has been lost. In this Digital Age, that’s a little bit of magic.
Watch the latest video from ‘iamamiwhoami’ titled ‘sever’ below, which is the first video in the next chapter for the project: a full-length audio-visual album titled ‘kin’ which is to be released on June 11th 2012.
It’s certainly a tradition to watch Fireworks on 4th of July, but for my acoustic freak folk band “The Family of Man” it seems to be a growing tradition to record an album in the Mendocino forest. The organic nature of how the band formed has become something that has paved the way for how we deal with writing and recording music – and has informed me personally of the importance of spontaneity in art.
It was last year that the band formed simply by deciding to bring some musical instruments up to my close family friend Chris Campbell’s property where he lives with his longtime girlfriend / partner in all things weird – Blake More. The property is just an acre, but loaded with inspiration and history (Check out tons of pictures HERE). They’ve converted what used to be a tool shed into a small home painted from floor to ceiling in loud colors complete with a cozy deck, a rustic feel, and complete with 2 flush toilets and plenty of hot water for their outdoor shower (for those skeptical of the sophistication of these lovable hippies). Among the property you’re sure to spot a retro full-size school bus which has been gutted of its seats and converted into a living space complete with a couch, fridge, stove, fireplace, cabinets, and a full size bed. Another testament to creative use of space the entire property evokes. Parked next to it is Blake More’s biodiesel art car, and near that is a small trailer painted a loud pink with a painted on black picket fence which is Blake’s walk-in closet. Further down the road is what can only really be described as a “Space Pod” – which you can sleep in, and at night will glow with its glow in the dark stars stuck to the inside. Finally, there is a giant shipping container parked at the top of their short road. Inside hold Chris’ drum kit (he’s in a couple local bands) and is nicely sound-proofed with carpet on the walls. Needless to say, the property is unlike anything you’ve seen before.
Throughout our 10 day stay last year – we constantly found musical inspiration and would quickly meet in the shipping container with a small digital recorder and work out the structure of a song – only to record a live take all together huddled around a well placed mic / recorder. It was unclear at the time if these were gonna be demos, just for fun, or simply a way to remember ideas, but the process continued day after day – to the point that we often would spend nearly the entire day inside – only to step out for food breaks. The songs we’re being written quickly with a focus on capturing the original energy from which they spawned. by the end of day 5 (when Aliyah had to leave to head back to civilization) Wilfred and I continued to patch some things up, mix the album, sort through the tons and tons of takes we had made, and finish a couple overdubs for the only track that would contain any overdubs – “For You“. We came out with 31 minutes of music and decided this was indeed an album. It was Family of Man’s first album which we decided to appropriately title “Inside The Box” referring to where it was all recorded.
You can listen and download our entire first album FREE below:
The spontaneity of the recordings is of course immediately apparent. several tracks were formed just from leaving the mic on during some late night jam sessions and later creating a structure by splicing things together on the laptop. Others were one time takes of songs we had only briefly planned out. And some were hammered out by simply doing takes over and over until we got one we were satisfied with. The common thread was these songs were never to be over-analyzed or too thought out. The motto became “just record it”.
Over the course of the last year – Wilfred and Aliyah would sprinkle my email inbox with acoustic songs they had crafted. The songs were rough GarageBand recorded demos that we would all share some brief thoughts on, and hope to one day record. Flash forward to just the beginning of this month, it was again time to go to Mendocino for our now annual trip. After 5 days of relaxing, we spent 5 days non-stop recording.
This currently untitled (but don’t be surprised if it ends up being called “Heads In The Sky” *hint hint*) album was a new approach of recording for us. Perhaps much more traditionally, we recorded base tracks that consisted of one but sometimes 2 or 3 elements of the song – and worked off that with overdubs much like how a more traditional in-studio album would be. Still using the same recorder in the same shipping container box with the same mindset – but these new techniques actually provided us with a way to offer a higher quality recording and a more well-mixed album.
Currently I’m still in the process of mixing the album, but in it’s current state it undoubtedly sounds like “The Family of Man” – just an evolved form. Perhaps the best way I can describe it is to use the words Wilfred used – it sounds like a old 50′s jukebox album dipped in acid. This batch of songs sound timeless in their arrangements and melodies but with a psychedelic edge that keeps things feeling fresh. Some draw from prohibition era music of the 20′s, while others from the doo-wop sounds of the 50′s. Formed primarily in our heads and through emails beforehand provided us with the ability to have a concrete feel of where these songs could go during the recording of them. Many took off to places we had not expected, while others stuck closely with their GarageBand demo counterparts. You will still find a couple of tracks on the album that are simply one live take with little to no overdubs, but fans of the first album I think will be in for a treat with the higher fidelity recordings contained on this album.
I know I speak for Wilfred and Aliyah when I say we cannot wait to release this album. It’s an exciting thing to be able to record an album and release it a month later – so the wait will not be long. If you want to keep up with all the announcements (title, tracklist, cover art, release date, etc.) as well as a short series of behind the scenes videos we took during recording – make sure to follow us on Facebook HERE!
Nuclear Family is a film about the importance of music – so it was fittingly important what kind of music would be included in the film. When initially writing the film I envisioned music that would appropriately match the dream-like state that main character Marc Benheimer feels he is in. The problem was I simply couldn’t find an artist that fully matched up with this hope for the music.
It was only after beginning casting that I finally found that artist – or really the artist found me. At the time I was doing a weekly music blog that featured reviews of new albums – and NY minimalist / ambient / orchestral-drone composer Kyle Bobby Dunn sent me his album for review. I loaded it up in iTunes and saw this was a 2 hour double-album. Daunting. I slipped on my headphones, and about 2 hours later it became apparent this was the music for my film. I wrote the review (you can read it HERE) and later contacted him about the idea of me using his music in my upcoming film.
It’s with great excitement that I can tell you now that tracks from Kyle Bobby Dunn’s 2LP “A Young Persons Guide To…” and his EP “Rural Route No. 2” make up nearly the entire soundtrack of the film. Below you can listen to several tracks from his album. Almost all of these songs make an appearance in “Nuclear Family”:
While Kyle Bobby Dunn makes up almost the entire soundtrack of the film, I wanted a slightly different mood for the credits. Upon playing around with some songs I found the ideal candidate to match the mood of the ending.The film’s credits song is from one of my favorite local SF bands Honeycomb. Honeycomb is a fantastic orchestral-folk group that plays some truly incredible live shows around SF and beyond with a very distinct sound. Front-woman Emily Ritz has graciously allowed the song “Flesh and Bone Machine” to be used from their excellent self-titled debut EP. Here is a live in-studio version of the track:
I cannot be happier about this selection as both artists were my first choice. Music in film is something I focus a lot of thought into, as I am of the belief music can make or break the mood and emotion of a film. Some of my favorite cinematic moments have very much to do with the marriage of visuals and music in a unique and interesting way and I am always very cautious when approaching how music is used in my own films because of this. I am hoping the selections for “Nuclear Family” help elevate the film to a place where the audience can feel as Marc feels. Distant, Contemplative, and Layered.
Don’t forget to “like” the film on Facebook to continue to get all the updates on the film as we near the first screening on March 25th!
1. It Is Not Meant To Be
2. Desire Be Desire Go
3. Alter Ego
5. Why Won’t You Make Up Your Mind?
6. Solitude Is Bliss
7. Island Walking (iTunes bonus track)
8. Jeremy’s Storm
10. The Bold Arrow Of Time
11. Runway, Houses, City, Clouds
12. I Don’t Really Mind
Innerspeaker, the new album from new nostalgic psychedelic group Tame Impala, is one of my favorite albums of 2010 thus far. This Australian group might garner some relation to fellow Aussies – Wolfmother, but rest assured these guys are occupying a whole new breed of retro-rock. The album is trance-inducing with its grooves, while in your face and full with its all-encompassing mixing. guitars frequently pan around your head like jets overhead flying through clouds perhaps a bit smokier then your average cumulus. This album is absolutely drenched in sonic soundscapes of thick walls of crunching lo-fi guitar riffs. The bass grounds the music into its skeleton with melodic thumping trance-like lines. The drums are barreling and immediate in their execution and will plummet your body into pulsing with them. The vocals are some spaced-out otherworldly harmonies that will have you singing along. This album, while nothing groundbreaking, does quite a lot of things pitch-perfectly right.
Last night my new band The ElectroSonic Chamber finally played our first show / event.
To add a bit of history, before talking about the show, this is a project that had been slowly cooking up since December. After me and Wilfred worked together on the short made-in-an-hour stream of conscious psychedelic / musical shorts “Grandpa From Beyond” and “Incident at the Center of the Universe: The Cosmic Triathlon” we began to work on a longer film idea that would share the same spirit as these shorts with real production value and time put into it.
MGMT’s first album “Oracular Spectacular” is on a short list of amazing albums of near-perfection for me. Upon saying that, “Congratulations”, their follow-up, is an album that stands on its own in the MGMT catalogue (you can call it a catalogue after 2 albums…right?) and will disappoint some, and surprise everyone.
10. Matt & Kim – Grand
Fun, quick, awesome punk / pop songs are sometimes all you need. this album is just under 30min and there is no messing around. 11 songs that rarely go over 3min. this album is like snack food, except reeeally good snack food. i’m talking like deep-fried nachos smothered in chocolate sprinkles and whipped cream.
9. Yeah Yeah Yeah’s – It’s Blitz
YYY’s swtiched it up, and it’s awesome. this is their dance album, and dance you will. synths galore and plenty of killer vocals from frontwoman Karen O. this may not be my favorite YYY’s album, but it most certainly is one of the best albums of the year and contains a couple of their best songs.
8. Grizzly Bear – Veckatimest
I didn’t know Grizzly Bear before this album, but after hearing this album i was an instant fan. Beach Boy style vocal harmonies, and absolutely beautiful musicianship makes this album a soothing and emotionally powerful album that begs to be heard.
7. White Rabbits – It’s Frightening
the single off this album “Percussion Gun” is one of the best songs of the year, and the rest don’t disappoint either. if you like Radiohead, check these guys out. like Matt & Kim these songs feel absolutely crammed with brilliant ideas. unlike Matt & Kim the songs also have emotional value. the use of piano is unique and extremely interesting. you’ll have to hear it for yourself.
6. The Mars Volta – Octahedron
The Mars Volta are still my favorite band, and as much as i feel like i need to talk about why i DIDNT give it a higher place on my top 10, i’d rather say why its on here in the first place. this is an AWESOME album. if you’ve never heard The Mars Volta this is probably the easiest place to start. they consider this their “Acoustic” album. it isn’t really acoustic, but it is definitely their most restrained album. the songs aren’t epically long, they contain very digestible song structures, and the melodies are beautiful. this album is amazing, but i do hope they return to the weird for the next album.
5. The Flaming Lips – Embryonic
SPEAKING of returning to the weird, The Flaming Lips did. in a BIG way. this double-album will seriously piss off fans who expected them to continue down the path of the pop (as they were slowly beginning to do the last couple albums) but for me….well its just about the best album they’ve ever put out. this album is weird as hell, but holy shit is it good. 60′s Psychedelia is back in style and The Flaming Lips are paving the road in new directions. it’s also hard not to mention their incredible live show when talking about them. so ill reduce it to this string-of-words sentence: space-bubble dancing-animals confetti-cannons birthed-band-members. yeeeah. well anyways this album is incredible. LONG LIVE THE WEIRD!!
4. The xx – The xx
A stunning first album from these british young-uns. their sound is made up of male and female vocals trading back and forth over restrained guitar and bass and simplistic drum machine beats and most importantly; silence. yes silence. the use of space and silence on this album is why it ranks so highly for me. they never seem to get too loud, yet somehow it feels overwhelming powerful. these songs will stay ingrained in your head, and all the while you’ll wonder “how the hell do they do it?” if these guys continue making albums this good in the future i may have to question if they are actually aliens sent to create beautifully restrained music for us humans to learn from. that or just ANOTHER brilliant british band.
3. Girls – Album
This SF band essentially made the PERFECT album to listen to in SF. the songs are a mix of surf, garage / lo-fi, shoegaze / wall of sound, and AWESOME. you know…the genre? after seeing these guys play their album release party at Ameoba Records in SF i was sold. they are INCREDIBLE. every song on the album is a deranged pop song that will somehow pull at your emotional strings AND make you wanna go lay on the beach in SF and watch the fog roll in. support these guys! come on, they named their debut album “Album”. sold?
2. Mew – No More Stories…
i put a “…” cause the albums full title is an entire poem which is the lyrics to a stunning song in the middle of this album. so yeah, these guys are conceptual prog-rockers. this album, however, shows incredible range. there’s some beautifully quiet lullabies, some full force dance-able rock songs, some twisted time-signature stuff that will have you scratching your heads to uncover what all the instruments are playing, and even a backwards / forwards song. yes a song that can be played backwards AND forwards with lyrics that are only uncovered by playing it both ways. this album is brilliantly paced and each song is seriously a masterpiece. truly a musicians album. this is difficult and remarkably beautiful music.
1. Animal Collective – Merriweather Post-Pavillion
This album changed my perception of music. truly. after hearing this album non stop when it came out back in January (it STILL is in heavy rotation on my ipod) i realized what ELSE music could be. the music is almost fully made up of electronics and samples of anything from water drips to a didgeridoo. all this is swirled together with sincere and psychedelically modified vocals from 2 singers who blend their voices in a way reminiscent of the Beach Boys. this is the psychedelic music of the future. this album is also their most “pop” album but this is far from anything you’ll be hearing on the radio. their use of extensive sampling and the amount of electronic sounds is something that can only be done now in the age of information and technology. for that this album feels like a work of art that is pushing things to the limit with what is available now. and, well, its also the most emotionally impact-ful album of the year. this is music backed by serious passion. its dynamic, engrossing, and hypnotizing. this is one of my favorite albums not ONLY for the year but of all time. check this album out. now.