Abbot Kinney (photo: Estefany Gonzalez)
It’s no secret we love sharing the latest news about Abbot Kinney at The Bay Bridged. Over the past few months, the indie rockers have made it on to our site a number of times. We caught up with the band before they played their first show at The Great American Music Hall, they participated in our election photo essay and snapped photos of them playing at The New Parish. So, when Abbot Kinney singer Jared Swanson invited us to get a behind the scenes look at the band’s upcoming music video for the song “Can We Become” off The Night EP, we decided to get the scoop on the video before the premiere at The Rickshaw Stop on March 1 — What I didn’t expect was to end up as an extra in the video.
I caught up with the band, which also consists of keyboardist Carmen Caruso, drummer Tony Bednar and guitarist Dakota Salazar, during the filming of a party scene in Berkeley. The most notable aspect of the project was the community environment it boasted. Joe Markert and Cure For Gravity donated the studio space for the shoot. A quick look around the room showed other musicians and artists on set. I could spot Andrew Gibson of The Post Maker and Paul Conroy of Reisender among the extras.
Cinematographer Cedric Letsch buzzed around the room setting up lights as Swanson perfected props and gave the extras the run down on the shoot. It was impressive to see Swanson bounce between being in the video and reviewing footage with Letsch between takes. The two showed a great deal of workflow chemistry. Later on when I caught up with Swanson via phone, he said the process required him to split his mind in two, but allowed him to see “where his fingerprints were in the process at the end of the day.”
He also said he was grateful to have Letsch on set. “I’ve been working with Cedric for a while now. We’ve worked on four or five projects together. He’s so talented,” he said. “He’s visually so on top of it. In his mind, he has mapped out the way the camera is supposed to move to this sequence here and this sequence there.”
The storyline followed a pair of volunteer actors Eric Taylor and Heather Black, through a complex love story. While this particular scene focused on an argument between the two, the video tells a story of a San Franciso Lyft driver (Black) and her boyfriend (Taylor) who struggles to fix things after the mentioned argument. The story bounces back and forth between past moments in the relationship, the party scene (which my friend and I ended up joining as extras to help fill the dancefloor) and the present time, where Black ends up in a sticky situation while picking up some questionable lyft riders.
Swanson wrote the song while courting a girl who just gotten out of a bad relationship. It was before he moved to San Fransico, back when he lived in Los Angeles, an area which inspired the band’s name. (After a street in Venice, California.)
He wrote the lyrics from her ex-boyfriend’s perspective. He liked the idea of writing a tune where two people were on different wavelengths. Where one person was present in the moment while the other was out of touch with reality. “I took it a step further. I felt like I could never get to where I needed to get in a philosophical way,” he said. “The idea of being stuck in traffic trying to get to someone to tell them how you actually feel was where I went with it.”
Swanson’s wanted to shoot a video for two years but couldn’t think of a concept until he took a Lyft one day and his driver told him a story about how two men requested a ride with a stolen phone and made him drive around the city on a drug drop. “Later I thought, ‘Oh my god, I have to create a story around that, change it around if I have to but I’m going to expand on this idea, ” he said.
The storyline also has various other twist and turns later on. Each character in the video also has a backstory, and a purpose. “Sometimes it feels like I’m editing a dream,” he said. “Like I had this dream and I know how it’s supposed to fit together but it’s falling into place and it’s not something I’m actively in control of.”
Without giving too much away, some of the themes include the discrepancy between poor and wealthy members of society, corruption, and self-realization. It took Swanson six months to create the concept, which he planned on being a three part series.
“I’m not sure we’ll be able to do all of it, but I really hope we can,” he said. “Part of my hope is that we’ll get more support. All of the actors and people involved have pretty much gone pro bono to do this because they just believe in the project, which is completely unheard of and I’m so grateful.”
You can catch the premiere of the video along with performances by Abbot Kinney, Reisender and KLEZ at Rickshaw Stop this Wednesday.
Abbot Kinney, Reisender, KLEZ
The Rickshaw Stop
March 1, 2017