Video Chats: Daniel Epand on 'Beast' by Nico Vega

Posted by Doug Klinger on February 22, 2013 in Interviews

Staff Post

Nico Vega

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, it’s 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 I’m not going to give them something that I don't think they are going to be into. I’ll 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.

Nico Vega

Doug: It’s not like you're bidding against other directors though, right? It’s more of you working on an idea until you get to a point where it’s something that everyone agrees on?

Daniel: Yeah, exactly. I don’t have to bid against other directors - that’s the benefit of it being my band. At the same time, I don’t have the obstacle of working with a specific budget. They don’t come to me with a number. They’re 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 I’ll do my best to push the envelope a little bit.

Doug: I’m assuming its not unlimited budget, but you basically get to say, “Here’s an idea and I think it will cost this. Can we make it happen?” and that’s directly with the label that you’re dealing with?

Daniel: We’re 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, “We’re going to do four videos for $10,000.” That of course didn’t 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 we’ve developed more and more trust. They know that I’m completely committed to making something great. I’m certainly not paying myself in the process. Everything goes into the project. And it’s fun. Everyone on our team has been really, really excited with everything that we’ve done so far. And we keep exceeding our own expectations.

Nico Vega

Doug: So you’re not taking a director’s 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, it’s a gift. I started my involvement in Nico Vega’s 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 don’t have to listen to anyone tell me what is and isn’t 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. I’ve 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 you’re looking to explore beyond your own band, directing for other artists?

Daniel: That’s 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. I’ve also had somebody - a producer - who has been following what I’ve been doing, talking to me about a feature that he had in mind. I’m definitely really excited about expanding this part of my professional life.

Nico Vega

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. It’s interesting because by the time I get around to writing a treatment, I’ve 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 I’d be burned out by the time I get to conceive the video, but I always try to approach this process as if I’m 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 - Aja’s - 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 Aja’s 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 Rich’s 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 wasn’t on me, I’d 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.

Nico Vega

Doug: For sections of the video obviously you’re 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. It’s a gift for me to have the opportunity to work with somebody like that on these projects. I really owe him. I’ve learned so much from him and it is extremely fun to watch him work. He’s like a jazz musician; he is extremely intense and spontaneous. We’ll 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 don’t 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 we’re shooting on a schedule and we don’t have that much time and it’s a low budget project. It’s 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 didn’t 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.

Nico Vega

Doug: You’re the drummer of the band, and it’s 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 that’s 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 men’s 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. We’ve been a band for five or so years, we’re a hardworking band and we’ve toured a lot. The opportunity to get our music out in such a way is really exciting for us. So far I’m 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 we’ve ever had. We’re 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. It’s 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 can’t 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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