As a continuation of last month’s edition, the fine folks at Orange County Speaker have repaired our Urei 809 studio monitors, they are now back in our possession. What seemed like a mundane task, shipping speakers, turned into any but, and yielded a funny story. As is the case of most musicians, few are getting wealthy monetarily, but oh what rich tales they can tell about the journey.
The story goes like this: Having looked over Orange County Speaker’s recommendations for shipping, I decided to use the UPS shipping center at the Staples at Panorama Plaza in Penfield. While at Staples, I ended up having a conversation with the attendant who helped me send the boxes to California; she was naturally curious about the contents — Orange County recommended shipping each speaker separately. I explained the situation and told her that the speakers had worn down after 26 years of use, and that it was inevitable that the foam portion of the speaker would eventually disintegrate. The woman, who was both helpful and gregarious, immediately perked up and said something the effect that she was surprised that anyone would repair old speakers. I told her that these were very fine speakers and therefore there were companies that deemed them worthy of the repair.
I went on to totally set myself up by saying, “And after this repair, these speakers will be good for another 25 years!”
Her quick retort, “No offense, but you had better put those speakers in your will, because I don’t think you’re going to be around then.”
Be that as it may, for the here and now, we are ready to continue our recording project, which we should complete by January. The next song we will record is the original “I Almost Forgive Him,” and then a few surprises. We will keep you updated in our next edition of the Confetti Clatter.
Every so often we release a concept, or promotional video for a specific recording. Rather than a live performance, the audio portion of the thematic video is a studio recording of a publicly released song. In this article, I will chronicle our three promotional videos, concluding with an explanation of our most recent release, which we are sharing with you first, our newsletter subscribers.
Having completed the full-length CD Can I Get To Know You Better in 2001, we decided to promote it with a performance in Los Angeles as part of the annual International Pop Overthrow Festival. It was our second return and we had made great impressions with audiences in Los Angeles at the previous two festivals.
The entire stay in LA was magical, to begin with, we were scheduled to perform at the famous Troubadour on Santa Monica Boulevard. We were psyched to take the stage at this legendary venue, where so many noteworthy artists made history, including the live debut of Buffalo Springfield, the USA debut of Elton John and the LA debut of Billy Joel.
Besides performing at the Troubadour, we had a goal of shooting video footage for the song “On the Beach tonight,” written by Paul Kanack, then our de facto manager, and now our bass player. Our thinking was, hey we’re in LA, what better setting for a beach song could we find?
Besides filming at a public beach, another thought for shooting the video was to replicate the same scene as the Turtles video for their song “You Baby.” That video was filmed in 1965 on the sidewalk in front of the Water and Power Building in downtown Los Angeles. Perhaps some of the magic from that stellar group would rub off on us. We did feel a bit of a connection with the Turtles as we too covered “Can I Get To Know You Better,” and picked that song as the title track for our album. As an aside, how many of you know the original artist of “Can I Get to Know You Better?” Feel free to add a comment, if you would like to venture a guess.
We picked Zuma Beach for one possible location, we even scoped out the downtown site, which looked strikingly similar to the Turtles video, over 35 years later. About to make the decision for the location, we casually mentioned our intentions to members of the Teen Machine, one of the local LA bands, also performing at the International Pop Overthrow. Our idea was quickly dashed. You see, the guys in the Teen Machine know a little about the landscape of their hometown, they explained to us how strictly regulated the film industry is in Los Angeles. They went on to warn us that would-be directors have to acquire a permit from the organization Film L.A. Inc., before they can do any filming in the County of Los Angeles. At what borders on being a racket, the cost of the permit, mandatory fire hazard expert, and required insurance is staggering to the independent or amateur filmmaker. Our spirits noticeably dashed, the guys from Teen Machine suggested that if we knew exactly what we wanted to do, headed out to the location, rushed out of the car, set up quickly, and finished before we drew a lot of attention, we may be able to pull it off. Not liking our chances, we formulated Plan-B.
We were staying at the Orchid Suites Hotel in Hollywood. David Bash, organizer of IPO, suggested the hotel, and the place was pretty nice, it included a pool, as well as a roof-top deck. We used the deck more than the pool, and in fact, we seemed like the only guests using that amenity: Plan-B!
With the help of the Teen Machine we hired dancers for the shoot, including some of the Teen Machine band members. The day of the shoot was particularly hot and, for LA standards, humid. We did make-up, hair and costumes in our hotel rooms, and then sneaked up to the patio deck. As had been the case the whole stay, no one was up on the rooftop that afternoon. We moved some of the deck furniture around, and created a space for the performance. Using a portable CD player, we played our recorded version as the girls sang over the track and the dancers created a Shindig feel. For this video, we used three different cameras, one far-field, one near-field, and the third camera trained on Cara, the lead vocalist. Cara and Rhian’s dad, Jerry, was one of the camera men, along with Jim Sawicki, the keyboard player, and I. The whole shoot went off seamlessly, I was pleased with the dancing, it really added that feel we were after. Three tapes in hand, we returned to Rochester and passed along the footage to the Reverend Sam Lovetro, who wove his magic and produced the final video. We have embedded the clip from our YouTube channel for your convenience.
The gig at the Troubadour went very well, although bands in the festival were only allotted a 20-minute set, there were plenty of folks who came out specifically to see us. My cousin, Matt, made the trip from San Diego and my good friend Mike Brooks, whom I knew when I lived in LA back in the early ’80s, also made the trip from the San Fernando Valley. Also in the crowd that night was Darian Sahanaja, from the group The Wondermints, Andy Paley, who had worked with Madonna, Kim Fowley, formerly of the Hollywood Argyles, and Brian Wilson. Everyone wanted to get some face-time with Brian Wilson, and we were lucky enough to get a photo with him with the three IT’S MY PARTY! girls. I had a very interesting conversation with Kim Fowley. All decked out in his red leather suit, Fowley pulled me aside and asked what it would take for him to start working with the girls. Our conversation was periodically interrupted by members of the crowd shouting “Alley Oop” toward Fowley, who seemed to take it all in stride. Another memorable moment from that night was Cara and Rhian being chastised by management for walking around the club barefoot. Clearly, the amount of broken glass on the floor warranted the scolding.
The second concept video was for “Wanna Make Him Mine,” the title track from our three-song release in 2011. We had a relatively new group of girls and wanted them to create an identity. The idea was to show the popularity of IT’S MY PARTY! in the media, the video implies that the group was taking the nation by storm.
The video begins in someone’s living room, where we see a hand turning on the television set, and it’s tuned to IT’S MY PARTY! as they perform “Wanna Make Him Mine,” perhaps on Shindig. As the picture fades to static, there is an outdoor scene. Keenan Bartlett, our then keyboard player, is at the wheel of Paul Kanack’s vintage car. Keenan turns on the car radio and is content when he hears IT’S MY PARTY! performing “Wanna Make Him Mine.”
The most difficult part of this video was trying to move the footage inside the still shot of the old television set to create the appearance that the girls were on-the-air. The old set has rounded edges, which made it a challenge to line up the video inside the TV.
We shot the video in May of 2011, around, and on, Memorial Day. In fact, we headed off to B. Forman Park in Pultneyville for our annual band spring picnic after filming the sequence with Keenan. We used a single camera for the girls singing the song outside on the driveway of our recording studio with a bed sheet behind them as a backdrop. Later we replaced the “green screen” with the brick background. The end result was very convincing, although, if you look carefully, you can see a crease in the virtual brickwork where the actual sheet backdrop had a wrinkle or two.
Our most recent addition to the concept video promotes the song “In Your Letter,” one of the three tunes from our 2015 release He Wasn’t Like That (When He Used to Be Mine). As this is the most recognizable song, it felt like the right choice. The girls worked on the storyboard for the film, and they came up with this idea; we would have a scene where the girls are singing the three-part harmony hook, and then a look into a romance-gone-bad, through the eyes of Michelle, the lead singer of the song. Dylon, our keyboardist, played the part of Michelle’s boyfriend.
For the chorus scene, we used one of the bedrooms at our home studio. For the happy and break-up scenes, we used to locations. One was the Highland Bowl in Rochester, which happened to be setup for the currently-running play, Henry IV, providing an interesting backdrop. The second location was at the Highland Park Diner, a Rochester landmark.
I would like to thank the management at the Highland Park Diner for allowing us to use the restaurant during regular business hours, if you are ever in Rochester, please pay them a visit, the ambiance is as good as the food.
Also, thank goodness Rochester is not as strict when it comes to filming in a public place as Los Angeles, we had no problems at all shooting footage at the Highland Bowl; granted there was no one there at the time, and the production was more homespun than professional.
I’d like to also thank Billy Eberts, a prominent musician in our area, and his happy-go-lucky assistant, Chris Esfandiari, for taking time out of their valuable schedules to do all of the filming and post-production work on this video. Their willingness to accommodate our requests and lighthearted nature kept things fun.
Billy Eberts has the unique ability of gathering musicians from different backgrounds and having them come together with a unified sound. His newest project is the ’80s retro band, The Breakfast Club. To find out more about Billy Eberts and his various musical projects, click here.
I wanted the last scene to show two story lines, the angry diner clip, along with the chorus of girls singing, to heighten the emotion at the end of the video. The challenge for Billy and Chris was getting these two scenes to work well together, without one distracting the other. They tried a few different versions of the end scene, with mixed results. In the first version, they placed the girls singing the three part harmony in an oval on top of the blinds in the diner. It worked well, until any object moved into that area and ended up passing behind the singers. Try as they may, they could not move the scene of the girls in an area where it did not interfere with the action in the diner scene. Next they tried making the girls semi-transparent, but that fell flat. Finally, we decided on a kind of Brady Bunch split screen, and it seemed to create the desired effect. You can watch the final version here first, before we release it publicly on YouTube, by clicking on the link provided.
That’s all for this month’s issue, don’t forget to like us on our Facebook page, or share this post on your social media pages by using the icons below. If inclined, please leave a comment, we’d love to start a dialogue. And don’t forget to weigh on our poll to vote for your favorite of the three concept videos.