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Music videos and beyond.

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Sara –

We’ve made forty-three official music videos.  Did you know that?  I had no idea until I went and counted them on YouTube.  That number includes our official lyric videos but doesn’t include the videos we’ve done with other bands (The Reason, Against Me! Night Terrors of 1927, Tiesto, Margaret Cho, Morgan Page, etc.).  At this point, we’ve done pretty much every kind of video: homage, performance, narrative, puppets, animation, dancing, working out, etc.  This makes coming up with new ideas for music videos challenging.  Many of the video concepts directors send us we’ve already made some version of. This vast experience of music video making inspired our How-To Make a Music Video video for our latest song, Fucking Up What Matters. We loved the concept director Tony Wolski pitched to us, and if anyone knows how to make a video, it’s us. 

You and I made our first music video in 2000, for The First, off of our album This Business of Art.  In the video, we have 90s spikey hair cuts, yours is bleached blonde, and I’m wearing a puffy vest.  You can tell the 90s just ended because we’re barefoot on set. I hadn’t watched the video in years and I was struck by how young we look.  Considering it was our first music video, it’s also astonishing how self-assured and charismatic we come across.  How confident. (I was almost aggressively confident at that age.  Maybe still am?)

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The other thing that struck me while watching The First was that it’s a video about making a music video.  I laughed out loud.  Now it turns out we’ve made more than one video about making a music video.  To be clear, the videos couldn’t be more different.  But still.  I had a genuine laugh. 

It delighted me to watch the music video for The First after so many years.

As I had that realization, I had another.  We have a third video about making a music video.  Boyfriend from Love You to Death.  All three are unique, and all three are sweet and funny and capture the essence of us and our band in different eras.   They also capture the process of making three very different kinds of videos.  I was thinking it would be funny to have a mini viewing party of all three with commentary.  Maybe we could do that online soon.  I can’t believe that it only occurred to me right now, months after making Fucking Up What Matters, that we technically have already made videos about making videos.  All those hours spent talking about how we’ve done every kind of video, and we forgot we’d done this one multiple times.  How funny is that?

Making the music video for Boyfriend was a lot of fun. So many friends chipped in to help us, and director/friend Clea Duval is always a joy to work with.

Another thing that struck me watching The First and Boyfriend is that we look like we’re having fun.  We often complain about making music videos; the long days, the early mornings, the way we’re ordered around like props.  Plus, every year budgets for music videos go down but the cost of making them goes up.  Did you know our music video budget for Back in Your Head in 2007 was five times what we got to make Fucking Up What Matters in 2022?  It’s fine with me, things have changed, and I don’t know that we need to spend like we used to.  The economics of it all doesn’t make sense now that people don’t really buy music. 

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Still, with fewer funds, we’ve sometimes had less fun too.  And it’s hard to feel good about paying the people who make music videos less than they deserve, or have come to expect.  The stress of trying to figure out how to make things on a shoestring budget, how to ensure we make something we’ll be proud of, that will stand up against our previous work, is real.  And I know it’s made it hard to even want to make videos.  We’re going to have to do a lot with a lot less, now that we’re back on an indie label.  But I think that could be fun.  DIY is in our DNA.  And DIY can be fun! Remember?

DIY means no one to hold an umbrella over me in 100-degree heat when I’m wearing a pleather outfit.
DIY means having Sara design your next tattoo.

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Looking at the list of our official music videos, the ones I remember being fun to make are the ones where everyone involved had to stretch to make something special, not unlike what we did with Fucking Up What Matters.  You flew to LA to make the video and stayed with me at my Airbnb (the infamous rental where I ordered the three coffees and stored them in the fridge) to save money on hotels (and delivery charges).  We ran around the city for two days, with a skeleton crew of six people, as opposed to the dozens that are usually hired. We enlisted the help of friends to drive and host (and provide dogs), to save on sets, location, and background fees.

Railey, Seazynn, Sara, Tegan. Free labor!

It felt like something we would have done in the So Jealous or The Con era.  It felt familiar, it felt friendly, and it felt fun.  If we keep things simple, we don’t necessarily have to make things small.  What’s most important to me these days is how it feels.  Watching back some of my favorite videos we’ve made, I wasn’t obsessing over the details, what we spent, how we looked, or how many views the video got.  To be honest, I was mostly leaning in to see if we looked happy. And most often, we did.  

Tegan