A tale of two videos made on iPhones: Adam Goldberg and Lindi Ortega
In the last five years, musicians have gotten increasingly inventive in their attempts to wrest their careers from the full nelson of the record industry. In fact, it might be in the music video sector that the most spirited coups d’état (or industry-funded look-alikes) have occurred, as the lavish budgets of the '90s have mostly vanished, and the prominent directors like Hype Williams and Spike Jonze have moved on to feature films. (Although, for the record, Jonze and his kindred spirit Michel Gondry still dip into the game for projects they love.)
As digital video cameras have become cheaper, music videos have become a more accessible art form. It only makes sense then, with the proliferation of smart phones, that the iPhone now counts as a digital video camera. It might be a strange world when an Apple Empire product counts as a tool of the DIY video movement, but hey, if it’s going to rot our brains, the least it can do is give us a creative outlet or two on the way to mental mush.
In '50s-style red lips and vintage bird earrings, Toronto’s Lindi Ortega is attracted to all things classic. For most of the last year, the singer has been providing backup vocals for Brandon Flowers, who’s taken a glam-sabbatical from the Killers to indulge his softer songwriter side. Come this June, she’ll get her own chance to shine with her country-dusted “Little Red Boots,” a tonic of sass and sugar with foot-stomping rhythms. Recorded with Juno Award-winning producer Ron Lopata, “Little Red Boots” was made with little fuss. “I didn’t want too much crazy, hyper-produced stuff,” Ortega said last month, in town for a Hotel Café show. “It’s live off the floor… you can hear the creaking of chairs in the background.”
The video she made for “Angels” is a similar affair. Made on her iPhone 4, Ortega found an app from Nexvio that looks like 8 mm footage.
On a weekend off from touring with Flowers, Ortega got the idea to wander to her favorite Toronto graveyard at twilight, and to pick up a pair of angel wings at the local beatnik market, handy props for any country siren wailing a sad song. She interspersed images of elaborate gravestones with shots of herself in her twinkling bedroom late at night. As she sings smeary-eyed into the camera, you can tell she’s holding up the phone. It’s like the ultimate Facebook profile shot come to life.
In one day of editing, she had her video. “I put it online and it got good response right away,” Ortega said. She also has another video for her song, “Little Lie,” but that was made the regular way with professionals. In the first three days after she posted “Angels” in January, Ortega’s homemade creation got more views than “Little Lie” still has now, a month or so after its release. “I’m using the modern technology but it’s an old-school effect,” Ortega said, a statement that could carry over to all of her work.
ADAM GOLDBERG / THE GOLDBERG SISTERS
Ortega’s adventure with her iPhone was a pretty cut-and-dried affair, but Adam Goldberg’s was not. Lesson learned: One should have a reliable car when it will serve as the most vital prop in one’s homemade video -- but more on that in a moment.
Goldberg, the actor perhaps best known for dying an excruciating death in “Saving Private Ryan,” as well as his own wry take on the art world, “(Untitled),” decided to make a video for “Shush,” one of the tracks from his debut, released in April, as the Goldberg Sisters, which could easily be confused with Goldberg’s former musical guise, LANDy. For those keeping score, both projects are basically him with a revolving cast of players who set his gently psychedelic creations to life.
The other major force in these projects, besides Goldberg himself, is producer Aaron Espinoza, who’s been sheltering his own hushed beauties into being with Earlimart. For this latest record, Espinoza took his payment in a ProTools setup that he’d borrowed from Goldberg and never returned. With only two leftover songs from LANDy time, Goldberg started furiously writing, recording and mixing the materials in a six-week jam at The Ship in Eagle Rock.
With the label demanding a single, Goldberg knew he needed to come up with a video for “Shush” but he wasn’t sure what. He only knew that on occasion he wishes that life could be more like “The Umbrellas of Cherbourg.” “Sometimes,” Goldberg said in an interview at his Los Angeles home, “I’m spontaneous, or at least I’m possessed by someone else’s spontaneity. I was with a friend, lamenting how life isn’t a musical. Why don’t people get up and just dance in the street?”
So at an unceremonious Silver Lake intersection a few years ago, Goldberg jumped out of his friend’s car and started singing and dancing. Sadly, no one joined him. O Silver Lakers, where's your joy in life?
The video for “Shush” gave him one more chance to tap into everyone’s love for on-the-spot harmonizing with strangers. It might not have turned out the way he wanted, but he did get to capture a phenomenon that has special resonance in Los Angeles: the driving song.
"From growing up here," Goldberg said, "I think music and driving are inextricably tied together. I think about how music will work in a car."
But the driving that’s so integral to the video and the song almost didn’t happen. Goldberg borrowed an old beater that he used to own but had sold to his friend John Tottenham, the scowling poet who works at Stories Bookstore but who once toiled side by side with Goldberg at Book Soup, many moons ago. But the '89 Caprice, aye, her better days are behind her. It stalled mid-shoot and had to be resuscitated with jumper cables.
Other things went wrong, too, some of which Goldberg captured in this reel of outtakes (warning: contains profanity) that Goldberg put together just for Pop & Hiss. "It wasn't OK Go," Goldberg said, referring to the band's infamously complicated choreography, "but there were enough little things that could go wrong," like band mate Roxanne Daner jumping in and out of the car. But after four or five takes, they nailed it. And if they hadn't? If that '89 Caprice had given up for good? Oh well, that's life, tra-la-la!
-- Margaret Wappler
Photo credit: Adam Goldberg