Two weeks ago, the Baker’s Dozen house transformed into a studio. Great Caesar and the Go Getters, a band of seven that includes two Yalies (songwriter John-Michael Parker ’10 on vocals, piano and guitar, and Stephen Chen ’09 on alto saxophone), began collaborating with Bulldog Productions this past month to put together their first professional-quality music video, for the song “Everyone’s a VIP to Someone.” The video premiered Monday on YouTube, Vimeo and the band’s Myspace page.
“Music videos … are a great way to hone technical skills and develop an eye for composition and visual flair,” said Matt Bakal ’10, the co-president of Bulldog Productions and the director of the video. Bakal’s team included director of photography Max Barbakow ’11, producer Jesse Maiman ’10, art director Jeanne Snow ’11 and editor Adam Payne ’11. Since sound was incorporated during editing, the director could yell with abandon, and there was no need to avoid a boom microphone that would otherwise be resting right outside the frame. In a music video, Bakal said, there is also less pressure to conform to a narrative structure, affording the director and crew even more opportunity for experimentation. “VIP” was Bakal’s directorial debut.
Bakal and Parker worked together to create a video that is visually complex yet foregrounds the song.
“I knew off the bat that I needed to present the music of Great Caesar as accurately as possible without letting the style of the video overwhelm the music itself,” Bakal said. “Luckily, the song is a vigorous display of the band’s varied styles and sounds, which made my job a whole lot easier.”
Focusing on the disintegration of a relationship, the song is a raw testament to the use of sex and sensuality in the struggles between two lovers. Bakal said the emotional style of the song inspired his layered video, with different segments of the film “compartmentalized according to psychology.” Confessional scenes, in which Parker confronts the camera alone in the rain, are tinted blue. Relationship scenes are slightly desaturated, lessening the prominence of light and color and highlighting the small movements that define the interactions between the enigmatic lovers. The scenes with the full band are tinted red, reflecting the energy of the band’s performance. Even the mise-en-scene includes red: band members are shown wearing red shirts, a blood red wall serves as the band’s backdrop, and bright red props fill the frame.
The final cut of the video, made public this past Monday, pulses with energy and is full of brilliant little details, such as a subtle cut from a red teddy bear on a nightstand to its subsequent hanging from the ceiling. Moving with the up-tempo pace of the song, the video switches frequently among the segments of the band performing, Parker with his muse and Parker walking in the rain. Despite their potential for whininess, the rain scenes never get old. The relationship scenes come across as genuine; the fact that the actors are not professional actually helps. Parker and his music video girlfriend have sexual tension; their moves seem meaningful. There is a bit of awkwardness, a bit of hesitation, and its intentionality is questionable. But in any case, it makes the relationship seem real.
Catchy and up-tempo, the song has radio potential and doesn’t tire easily. A trumpet, trombone and two saxophones heighten the energy level. The band’s not quite ska, as might be expected. It’s pop-punk infused with big band horns. While the sound is unique, it recalls mid-’90s era No Doubt — think “Spiderwebs” with a nerdy Yale boy singing.
Bakal knows that “Everyone’s a VIP to Someone” is a project that has “the potential to change the direction of Great Caesar and [his] own role as a filmmaker on campus.” The video walks a fine line between cliché and clever, but with the crew’s attention to detail and the dominating energy of the music itself, the video for “VIP” succeeds.
Great Caesar and the Go Getters are playing in Yale’s Battle of the Bands on Monday.