I met Kingdom Of Giants while I was on The Final Chapter Tour with Dayseeker. Right off the bat we hit it off. I knew very early on that these dudes would be close friends for a long time. After a few nights of getting to know each other they asked me what I was doing on tour with Dayseeker. I told them I was just helping out with my van, running merch if I was needed, and taking some photos here and there. I showed them some of my work and they asked me to film a live video over the course of the next few shows. So I did. Free of charge of course, because these dudes rule. They were stoked when they saw the result. So very little gear and even worse filming environments, and they still got a halfway decent live video out of it. When we parted ways at the end of the tour they asked what it would take to get me up to their home town of Sutter Creek, CA. to film a music video. I halfway jokingly replied with "gas money and Redbull" which is usually my answer for questions like that from dear friends. Little did I know that they would take me up on my offer. At first I was hesitant. Like most musicians and artists, money is scarce for me, and taking time off work is never a good idea. But they happened to catch me at a time in my life when money was not as much of a priority to me as my emotional stability. Coming off of a month long tour and being out of work, I was not in a very good financial state, but sometimes you have to suffer in order to reap reward. And I desperately needed something to help me clear my head.
Red (lead guitar) and I Facetimed back and forth for a few weeks, going over some ideas for the video but were not very happy with what we were coming up with. That, and some of the ideas were just plain impossible to pull off with no budget. So, in classic artist fashion, I scooped up my dear friend Paul Rhoda, packed my gear with no money and no plan, and headed for the creek. A seven hour journey from Orange County.
We arrived in Sacramento just in time to watch the boys play at Ace Of Spades with For Today, Like Moths To Flames and a few others, and then head back to their house (where most of the members live) in Sutter Creek. I didn't know what to expect of this town. But upon arrival, I was pleasantly surprised. For those of you who have never been there... I think it's safe to assume none of you have ever been there... Sutter Creek is a beautiful little town. Secluded from any significant civilization. Quiet and calm. Surrounded by gorgeous wineries and vineyards. It kind of reminded me of something out of a cheesy small town based romantic comedy. However, they have quite possibly the best pizza joint I have ever been to in my life... bold statement, I know.
The next morning we gathered everyone in the backyard and starting drawing up some ideas for a story line. We quickly settled on a direction and begun preparing the sets and props. Being so unprepared for this production, Paul and I sat in the backyard while the guys cleared out their rehearsal space/Red's bedroom/garage and figured out a production plan. I was overwhelmed and a bit uncomfortable with the idea of going into this video so blind and unprepared, and even after a little bit of planning I was still a bit flustered. But at that time, I was in kind of a "I don't give a fuck let's just make this happen" mode because I didn't feel like I really had anything to lose. And Paul has always been great at keeping me grounded in times like this. Helping me guide my chaotic thought process and keeping me organized.
We covered the back wall of the garage/rehearsal space/Red's room with black fabric and pinned up a couple scrims that the guys had made for a tour, but were unnoticeably defective. After the set was set up I started lighting it. I didn't bring much lighting, two soft boxes with some underpowered white lights. But after we had settled on the type of look we wanted, I realized I had too much lighting. the room was small, and the shot was even smaller. I needed a tight directional light to achieve the side lighting we were looking for. I didn't bring any barn doors so Paul and I started looking for a make shift hood for the light. One of the guys, I believe it was Levi (bass) handed me an empty Bud Light 12 pack box. Genius. We taped it around the light and wa-la. Perfect. This proved to be a very useful light rig throughout the shoot. We appropriately dubbed this probably very dangerous light rig "The Bud Light Light."
After the first set of performance shots were finished, we brought in an old desk from Dana's (vocals) room and made it up to look like a fancy office. If you look closely on the desk in a few of the shots of Dana, you can see my Baldwin Media business cards in the holder. The desk sequence is supposed to be Dana reading the lyrics of the song to himself. Kind of like an internal conflict between the desire for fortune and fame and the desire to stay true to the integrity of his music. (In most cases these days, it is a near impossible feat to accomplish both). But unfortunately we only had one Dana. Se we dressed up Levi to be his double while we filmed Dana in a suit in tie as the 'fortune and fame' side.
We finished the desk sequence and filmed a few other things that didn't make the cut. We tied up each member and filmed them struggling to get free, being pulled from either side. Apparently this was very painful for them. And unfortunately their pain would be in vein. Only one of these shots would make the cut, and only for a couple frames. I won't tell you were it is, we'll see if you can find it. ;) I really liked how these shots looked cosmetically, so I was kinda bummed that we didn't end up using more of them.
The next day, we made arrangements to film a second sequence of performance shots on an Indian reservation near by. I wanted to do this at night and take advantage of the open space and lack of noise laws. So we borrowed a few generators and headed down to the reservation when the sun went down. I set up my lights after the guys finished setting up their gear. At first I wasn't too stoked on how the shot looked, so I moved some of my lights around to hopefully get some lens flairs going or something to spice up the shot a bit. We decided to place a few work lights on top of the guitar amps just to see how it would look, which I would normally never use because they are usually hideous looking on film. But, to my surprise, it was exactly what I needed to spice my shots up the way I wanted. It's amazing what you can do with absolutely no money and an open mind. It was blistering cold that night, so we left the cars running with the heaters on full blast so that we could warm up in between takes. Nothing worse that trying to play guitar with frozen fingers. Miserable.
We wrapped that night relatively quickly I think and headed back to the house. We were all exhausted, but still found a way to crank up some Architects and enjoy ourselves for a few hours before hitting the hey. We had one day of filming left, and we were pretty close to be done. So we had cause to celebrate. Or are least it seemed like it at the time.
The only shots left to film were the shots of Dana at the desk and the desk being lit on fire. Which I wanted to film at night on the reservation. So we spent the next day exploring their town and hanging out. It was a relaxing day. I finally found some time to settle my mind and reflect on the things that were troubling me in my life. It is quite humbling to spend quality time in a place you have never been, hundreds of miles from home, with people that you love.
That night we made arrangements to have the reservation's fire department stand by while we lit the desk on fire. So when we arrived there were 2 fire trucks and an ambulance waiting for us. We thought it was a bit excessive, but we weren't complaining. We set up the desk like it was the in previous shots inside the garage. This sequence was supposed to be Dana waking up from this internal conflict and making the choice to stay true to the integrity of his music. You can't read it in these shots, but his hat that he picks up and puts on says 'LIVE FREE'. It was supposed to be symbolic and kind of tie the whole scene together. But I didn't quite light the shot right and it didn't come out the way I wanted it to. Can't win em' all I suppose. We expected the desk light and the picture frame (which was just a picture of one of their t-shirts) to break on the first take of Dana throwing everything off the desk. But to our pleasant surprise, nothing broke. So, after a lot of joking about how much of a vagina Dana was, we reset the desk and I filmed the same shot again from a little bit closer of an angle.
After Dana spray painted their symbol on the desk, we told the firemen that we were ready to light the desk on fire. Apparently they were expecting us to blow it up, which explained the excessiveness. One of them walked over with a fire extinguisher and stood next to me while Red and Dana pored lighter fluid all over the desk and dropped a match on it. Nothing happened. After a bit of laughing, we heard a voice from one of the fire trucks yell "why the hell aren't you using gasoline?!?" We all kind of looked at each other, almost to confirm that we actually just heard that coming from a fireman, and then Dana grabbed the extra gas we had brought for the generators and pored in on the desk. Dropped the match and up it went. It was beautiful. Unfortunately I had never filmed a fire before, so the shot didn't quite do the fire justice. But it got the point across.
The next day Paul and I said our goodbyes and began our long journey home. I will never forget that weekend in Sutter Creek. And I don't know that I will ever have as much fun making a music video as I did that weekend. The boys in Kingdom Of Giants reminded me what its like to let go. Helped me remember that good people do exist. And I came home refreshed and driven to push myself to be the best that I can be. I didn't make a single dollar on this video. In fact, I'm pretty sure I lost money. But I would do it all again with these dudes in a heartbeat.