Column 324: The story of Love Drunk Studio and its quest for the perfect take; Underwater Dream Machine tonight…
Column 324: Love Drunk Measures Success One Perfect Take at a Time
by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com
It starts with a tight close-up on a perfectly lit guitar or keyboard, cropped to the strings or the hands or the ivories. The camera is steady, but moves oh so slightly, just so you know that there’s a pair of worried hands holding it. And then someone says in the background, “Whenever you’re ready,” and the song begins.
Maybe the most effective type of music video is one that simply captures a band performing. If it’s done right, you leave the experience three or four minutes later not only knowing a band or performer’s song, but what they’re feeling while they play it. And maybe — just maybe — you’ll be so taken by the music and the images that you’ll seek out more.
It’s a simple premise that drives Django Greenblatt-Seay, the mastermind behind Love Drunk Studio. Don’t call it a company. Greenblatt-Seay (or just G-S as he’s listed in production credits) prefers to call it “a project.” But what started as an experiment in sound and light and technology has become one of the hottest grassroots music “projects” to come out of Omaha in years.
The idea of creating one-take performance music videos started almost by accident. “I was experimenting with my home audio recording studio, trying to get a better understanding of how to use the equipment,” said G-S, who also plays in bands Down with the Ship and Midwest Dilemma. “I asked my good friends in the band Flashbulb Fires to record a song in one take. They had a friend filming it with a flipcam and I had a crappy point-and-shoot. Afterward, I thought maybe we could edit it all together into a one-take live music video.”
He liked the product so much, he wondered if he could “get it to look good on purpose,” so he lined up his first real video shoot with Portland singer-songwriter Nick Jaina. That was June 8, 2010. Almost a year later and G-S and his merry band of Love Drunk videographers (as many as 30 volunteers) have shot 43 sessions, 20 of which were for Nebraska artists including It’s True, The Machete Archive, Gus & Call, Sarah Benck, Conduits, Honey & Darling and Noah’s Ark Was a Spaceship. You can see and hear all of them online at lovedrunkstudio.com or the studio’s affiliate website, hearnebraska.org.
After awhile, shooting local bands became old hat. “All the gear is mobile, so we didn’t have to stay in Nebraska,” G-S said. “We decided to hit the road for the same reason that a band hits the road. If we didn’t try to make this regional or national, it would eventually devalue the videos and no one would give a shit anymore.”
So he scheduled some vacation time from his corporate communication gig at OPPD, and asked for volunteers to come along on tour. Angie and Andrew Norman (who run hearnebraska.org), photographer Daniel Muller and fellow videographer Andrew Roger (who runs Ingrained Video) all took the challenge — to shoot 15 bands in 13 cities in 15 days. The Love Drunk Tour started in Kansas City April 29 with indie band Everyday/Everynight, and concluded in Chicago May 13 with indie band Holyoke. In between the crew traveled throughout Indiana, Pennsylvania, New York, Rhode Island and Michigan.
Highlights include Arrah and the Ferns performing on a Philly rooftop, electro-dance band Quitzow playing in a New Paltz, New York Laundromat, and punk rockers The Menzingers playing at the Ava House in south Philly. The day of the Menzingers shoot, the band signed a three-record deal with Epitaph.
G-S said he choose the bands based on personal preference, geography and recommendations. None of the bands said no, and why would they? Love Drunk videos cost them nothing but time and one perfect take (and yes, they’re all really done in a single take). G-S said the videos are a way of giving back to bands who often are asked to perform for free for fund-raisers and other events. “On the other hand, no one ever does anything for free to benefit the bands,” he said.
While bands can receive copies of the video files to post on their websites and YouTube pages, G-S asks that they point users to lovedrunkstudio.com “so that people that watch the video can be a couple clicks away from finding other videos we’ve done. If they like them, maybe they’ll be enticed to buy some of their music.”
Think of it as sort of a video version of Daytrotter and its famous recording studio in Rock Island, Ill., where some of the best bands in the world drop by for a couple hours to record sessions that wind up on daytrotter.com. Since it launched, users have downloaded songs more than 21 million times from Daytrotter.
G-S said Love Drunk videos have received about a thousand views each on his site. The Menzingers’ video is the most popular, with nearly 6,200 views. “It’s very important to get music bloggers to re-post our videos,” G-S said. “We’ve had videos picked up by dozens of blogs, including punknews.org.”
While a fund raiser helped cover some of its costs, G-S personally dropped around $2,000 on the tour, mainly for hotels. Though they were offered places to stay 14 of the 15 nights, travel logistics often made those offers impossible to accept.
Regardless of the cost, G-S said he’s planning another Love Drunk tour next year, perhaps down south. Meanwhile, he continues to shoot bands right here at home, including recent shoots with members of Little Brazil and The Show Is the Rainbow. The videos have become so popular that bands are now approaching him for shoots, a situation which can be awkward.
“If your band isn’t putting out a new album, isn’t touring or is otherwise new, we’re probably not going to be able to help you,” G-S said. “We want thousands of people to watch these videos, but if you’re not working hard to create momentum on your own, then it’s tough to get that kind of mileage out of our work. If you’re writing really great music and if you have worked hard to build a buzz, then you’re probably already on our radar. Don’t call us, we’ll call you. But if we call you, fucking call back. Jesus.”
* * *
Tonight at Slowdown Jr. Underwater Dream Machine opens for Lincoln band Cool It, Action, along with The Betties. $7, 9 p.m.
* * *
Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at Lazy-i.com — an online music magazine that includes feature interviews, reviews and news. The focus is on the national indie music scene with a special emphasis on the best original bands in the Omaha area. Copyright © 2011 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.