Video Chats: Daniel Epand on 'Beast' by Nico Vega
Posted by Doug Klinger on February 22, 2013 in Interviews
If you are the drummer in a band and you are directing your band's music videos, it's a pretty ballsy move to center the concept around 50 drummers. But, in "Beast" by Nico Vega, directed by drummer Daniel Epand, the concept not only works, but makes for a great video. We talked to Daniel about the video, about directing his band mates, and how his role as drummer influenced the idea of the video. (Photos by Cameron Jordan)
Doug: As a member of the band and the director of the video, do you still have to submit a treatment in to get it approved by the rest of the band members and the label?
Daniel: I try to treat the band with a lot of respect in that I do write out a treatment. But also, its a big part of how I develop my ideas. I tend to write really detailed treatments so that by the time I submit the concept to the band, I have a really comprehensive vision for what I want to do. At this point I have such a good understanding of the band members artistic slant that Im not going to give them something that I don't think they are going to be into. Ill push myself to keep writing until I have something that I feel really strongly about and that I know the band and label will be excited about.
Doug: Its not like you're bidding against other directors though, right? Its more of you working on an idea until you get to a point where its something that everyone agrees on?
Daniel: Yeah, exactly. I dont have to bid against other directors - thats the benefit of it being my band. At the same time, I dont have the obstacle of working with a specific budget. They dont come to me with a number. Theyre not like, "all right we have $5,000 for this video." I develop an idea, my producer writes up a budget that is realistic and we work from there. Then Ill do my best to push the envelope a little bit.
Doug: Im assuming its not unlimited budget, but you basically get to say, Heres an idea and I think it will cost this. Can we make it happen? and thats directly with the label that youre dealing with?
Daniel: Were not working with a lot. Originally, I did the We Are The Art video for next to nothing, $1,500 or something. They got all excited and they were like, Were going to do four videos for $10,000. That of course didnt work. At the end of the day, I work really closely with my management and label. I have a pretty good sense of what their expectations are. At the same time, with each video I think weve developed more and more trust. They know that Im completely committed to making something great. Im certainly not paying myself in the process. Everything goes into the project. And its fun. Everyone on our team has been really, really excited with everything that weve done so far. And we keep exceeding our own expectations.
Doug: So youre not taking a directors fee or anything like that? Basically all of the money that comes from the label for it is being spent on the video?
Daniel: Yeah, every penny - and I edit as well. For me, its a gift. I started my involvement in Nico Vegas videos because we found it hard to find treatments that were unique, original, and represented the band the way we wanted to be represented. And this way I dont have to listen to anyone tell me what is and isnt possible. If you have enough passion for what you are doing, I think there is a solution to every single obstacle in the creative process. Ive learned at this point, that if you want something done a certain way, you really just have to do it yourself.
Doug: It is something that youre looking to explore beyond your own band, directing for other artists?
Daniel: Thats the next step, for sure. I write a lot. I am definitely looking into doing some kind of narrative project soon. But this is such a crucial year for Nico Vega that I feel my energy is best spent funneled into the band for right now. However, I do envision both careers feeding off each other in a way. I like the idea of not being reliant on any one thing. We are on tour for the next six weeks , but I am getting ready to do the next video as soon as we get home. Ive also had somebody - a producer - who has been following what Ive been doing, talking to me about a feature that he had in mind. Im definitely really excited about expanding this part of my professional life.
Doug: As far as the concept of this particular video, where did it originate? What is the process for coming up with the idea for the video?
Daniel: Every video I have done has been different. Its interesting because by the time I get around to writing a treatment, Ive sat with these songs for a long time, through every step of the process from the writing, producing, recording, and then live performance. You might think Id be burned out by the time I get to conceive the video, but I always try to approach this process as if Im hearing the song for the first time. I think I instinctively have a pretty good idea of what kind of atmosphere I want to convey. The first thing I always do is write out the lyrics. It helps me to dig a little deeper into the song and to hone in on my singer - Ajas - lyrical message. It is important to me that the ideas feel fresh. There are certain music video conventions I hate, such as performance videos. Yet for Nico Vega, our live performance is one of our strengths. So for Beast I wanted to create an alternate reality in which we could articulate the message of the song, the struggles against conformity and social repression, while highlighting Ajas strength as a performer. My mantra was that we were making a performance video with 50 drummers culminating in a giant paint explosion. For some reason repeating that out loud made me slightly less overwhelmed by the scope of what I was trying to do.
Doug: Are you giving much performance direction to your fellow band members? Or do they know how to translate their regular live performance into an on-screen performance?
Daniel: Yes. I know the band better than anybody. I know Aja and Richs strengths and instincts as performers. I try and do as much work with them ahead of time. I also know that the way to get the most out of them is for them not to be thinking too much about what they are doing and to just let it rip. The way I am, I generally know exactly what I want and have a play by play mapped out before we shoot. For the Beast video, Aja and I met up the day beforehand. I had a layout of the room and walked her through the basic choreography. I know that the more we communicate ahead of time, the more I can just let her unleash and do what she is great at when we are actually shooting. Forget the fact that I am on stage drumming through almost every take. Still, its funny, but anytime I could feel the camera wasnt on me, Id be watching her, and we would make slight adjustments between takes. But for the most part we shared the vision. I feel like the more everybody shares the vision before we start filming, the better it is for everybody.
Doug: For sections of the video obviously youre performing on camera. During those portions are you having to go to playback a lot, or are you leaning on David Myrick to make sure that you guys get all the shots that you need to get?
Daniel: I lean on David immensely. Its a gift for me to have the opportunity to work with somebody like that on these projects. I really owe him. Ive learned so much from him and it is extremely fun to watch him work. Hes like a jazz musician; he is extremely intense and spontaneous. Well meet up beforehand and he just instantly gets it. Then he talks really quick about lighting and camera ideas and I just nod my head feigning like I understand every word. Really it just takes such a load off. I dont need to obsess over watching every playback because I trust him. If he tells me that we got it, I trust that we got it. Obviously were shooting on a schedule and we dont have that much time and its a low budget project. Its more important to me that we get through the day than to make sure everything is perfect. When I first started screening the footage, before I started editing, there are things I saw that I had no idea that he had done. I feel really grateful.
Doug: You saw stuff you didnt realize he had shot?
Daniel: Yeah, like certain lens flares and just a lot of really creative camera movements that just blew my mind. It made me extremely excited when I was watching the footage. He really brings a lot to the table.
Doug: Youre the drummer of the band, and its hard not to realize that the video is full of drummers. Do you think that was influenced by your position musically in the band?
Daniel: Obviously it did. At the end of the day, it was just right for the song. That song is such a kind of tribal, animalistic, visceral song and I just felt that the drumming lent itself to it. On the record I recorded a lot of metallic percussion with random pieces of scrap metal from a junk yard. I just had this epic image in my head, but multiplied by about 1,000. With a real budget thats what I would have loved to do. I liked the idea that a uniformed drum army could represent conformity, in contrast to the notion of marching to the beat of your own drum. Drumming has a foundation in almost every culture, and there is a quote the most persistent sound that reverberates through mens history is the beating of war drums. It just seemed to me like a powerful yet not so obvious way of communicating the message of the song.
Doug: The video premiered on Vevo. What does that means to you guys as a band and to you as a director?
Daniel: Amazing. Weve been a band for five or so years, were a hardworking band and weve toured a lot. The opportunity to get our music out in such a way is really exciting for us. So far Im really, really overwhelmed with the response.
Doug: Your videos have premiered on other platforms that are heavily visited, but is there something you think about Vevo specifically that sets it apart traffic wise? Have you found that it has reached new audiences?
Daniel: So far this has been the best video launch weve ever had. Were extremely grateful to the people at Vevo for wanting to premiere it. I got word from them a couple weeks ago when it was first submitted that they were really excited about the video and that they really liked it. We went into the offices last week to do an acoustic performance and we met a lot of the people in the LA office. They were really nice and excited about the band. Its been an honor to work with them and so far the response has been excellent. I am really happy. And to be honest, I still cant believe that we pulled it off!!
beast, daniel epand, nico vega, 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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