Video Chats: Jay Buim on 'Harps' by The Sea and Cake

Posted by Doug Klinger on November 9, 2012 in Interviews

Staff Post

Buim

All photos by Gabe Koplowitz

Roller blading, recording the sound of mushrooms, smoking weed, and throwing ninja stars at balloons on the wall. These are just some of the activities that the two girls in the video for "Harps" by The Sea and Cake take up as they spend some time in suburban 70's New Jersey. We spoke with director Jay Buim about suburban boredom, Czech new wave film, and casting for natural chemistry.

Doug: The two female leads in this video, in addition to enjoying each others company and just kind of casually hanging out, are capturing the world around them on a found audio recorder. I wonder if you could walk us through where this idea came from.

Jay: Originally I had the idea about these two sisters, almost like the two twin girls from The Shining if they had grown up, and if they had just travelled around and spent all their time just recording. I liked that idea, but I didn't think it was enough for a music video. I had this idea for a while, and the folks over at Thrill Jockey, who I've done a bunch of videos for, sent me the song to do this video. I developed the idea a little bit more and wanted to give it some sort of anchor in the late 70's. Some people thought that it was going for a retro vibe, but the idea was just to set it in that time period. It doesn't make a difference if you get that or not, it still works. It's just about a friendship between two girls.

Jay Buim Interview

Doug: I’ve read a few places draw some comparisons to the work of Wes Anderson. How do react to something like that?

Jay: To be honest, my production designer got her phone and wallet and credit card and ID stolen like the week before the video so she backed out, and I ended up having to do everything myself. I feel like Wes Anderson's stuff was very meticulous, and this was just more "what do I have to do to get it to look like this." So, I guess that's good - I mean, I'll take it.

Doug: Was it something you were trying to emulate or a style you had in mind?

Jay: It wasn't trying to emulate or recreate at all. It was more just an idea of what I felt that time was like. It was all shot in the town that I grew up in in New Jersey, a town that was built in that time period. This was when suburbs were first becoming a phenomenom. To be honest, the two movies that I referenced in terms of trying to explain what I wanted the video to be like were Over the Edge and Daisies. Daisies is a film form the Czech new wave and Over the Edge is this great 70's movie. It's Matt Dillon's first movie, it's about the beginnings of suburbia and how all these bored kids just have nothing to do and what that leads to. Daisies is an absurdist Czech new wave film about these two girls who have a really interesting friendship and are very carefree and very non self-aware. I think everybody's too self aware these days, so I wanted to kind of do the opposite of that. A lot of times it's "cool kids vs. the nerds" or whatever, but these girls are not even in categories. They're just on their own trip and everything else is going around them, it doesn't matter at all.

Jay Buim Interview

Doug: I’ve seen this video written about in a few places, and people tend to focus a lot on the drinking and pot smoking in the video. What was behind putting those elements in?

Jay: Any teenager in the late 70's would be drinking some beers in their basement and smoking some weed. It's just a part of life I guess. You're bored in suburbia, you have nothing else to do. What else are you going to do? You're going to drink, you're going to smoke weed, you're going to waste time.

Jay Buim Interview

Doug: Often when people see a retro style video or a video that takes place in the past, they talk about how it makes them reminisce about their past. Is that what your after when doing a video like this, trying to get people to reminisce? Or is there another goal in mind?

Jay: I wanted to set it in the time period and just build everything around that. I think about when my birth mom and her friends were growing up in the late 70's - what they would be doing, or my idea of what they would be doing. How they would spend their time, just wandering around suburbia with nothing to do. Having all the time to do nothing - that strengthens the relationship between people that you lose a little bit when you grow up.

Jay Buim Interview

Doug: What are you casting for with a video like this? More of a look that goes with the period of the piece, or for chemistry between the characters?

Jay: I think its more important that characters have chemistry. One girl in the video - the one without glasses - is a girl named Ashley who I know through friends and I always thought she had a really great look that I wanted to capture in a video. In terms of casting her friend, I ended up casting my girlfriend [Lynn Guarino] who's a friend of hers. It just made sense to me, it was like why didn't I think of it sooner, because for a while I was trying to figure out who we were going to cast. Then it just came to me that I should've just cast my girlfriend. She's perfect for it. If it feels natural, it's going to come through in the video. It's already natural in the real world, in real life situations.

Doug: So as a director are you trying to place them in ideal situations and capture the natural things that are going to happen, or are you getting them to do specific things, like "shoot the basketball and miss!"

Jay: Usually, I'll take people to locations and just give them a simple task, and however they react to that is what we end up getting. A lot of stuff that I included in there is stuff where it wasn't like "oh hey, we're filming now," we just happened to get it. That's some of my favorite stuff a lot of the time, when people are being their natural selves and unaware of what's really going on. So you combine that with putting them in these natural environments, and I love the result of that.


harps, jay buim, the sea and cake, video chats

Doug Klinger is the co-founder/content director of IMVDb and watches more music videos than anyone on earth. You can find him on twitter at @doug_klinger.



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