Due to the coronavirus pandemic, Oakland-based band Thao & The Get Down Keep Down had an issue. Their plan to shoot a music video for his or her single “Phenom” was abruptly canceled as shelter-in-place orders rolled in. The band, crew, and dancers may now not meet up in individual, and so they have been confronted with a choice: put all the things on maintain or work out a solution to make the music video remotely. “At first we didn’t know if we’d even launch the tune as a result of it’s about individuals unifying,” Thao tells The Verge. “So it was by no means an choice for me to shoot the video solo.” However then her supervisor had an concept. What in the event that they shot the music video completely inside Zoom?
That’s precisely what they did, and the ensuing one-take music video was filmed with none of the collaborators ever being in the identical area collectively. Directed by Erin Murray and Jeremy Schaulin-Rioux, produced and choreographed by Victoria Fayad, and that includes Thao alongside eight dancers, the “Phenom” video went from idea to completion inside every week. There was one pre-production assembly, one five-hour rehearsal, and one shoot day, all of which happened on Zoom. “If we have been going to do such a factor and decide to it,” says Thao, “we needed to do it actually rapidly as a result of it’s so of the second.”
Thao says nobody concerned within the making of the video was a Zoom energy person previous to this, least of all her. As a musician, she says she by no means actually had a necessity for it. However as issues clamped down, she discovered that it turned part of her life in methods she hadn’t anticipated. Her associate just lately organized a celebration for Thao on Zoom, and final week, she took a yoga class. “I used to be late to the category,” she laughs. “It was bizarre.”
The screen-recorded video begins with Thao opening Zoom and becoming a member of a gathering. Because the tune begins, dancers take part and pop up on-screen one after the other, making a nine-panel grid with Thao within the middle. It feels comforting and well timed apropos of individuals’s obsession with utilizing Zoom to attach throughout social distancing. One dancer is on their cellphone, one other is in the midst of consuming a banana. Then, the temper modifications as everybody snaps into choreographed strikes, which change into extra difficult and awe-inspiring because the video progresses.
At one level, the dancers seize their screens to show them on their sides for an impact the place they “fall” in a single linked movement by means of the panes. In a while, Thao is the top for a Frankensteined physique the place every panel contributes a physique half. At one other level, Thao “passes” glasses of water to panels on both facet, that are then “poured” on dancers under. In between all of this, panels flicker, go darkish, and are moved round. There’s an unbelievable quantity of coordination, and the synchronicity is addicting to look at.
Making it look really easy required numerous work. Co-director Schaulin-Rioux gave himself a crash course on the software program and acted as mission management whereas recording. In the meantime, Murray stored watch on the choreography and known as out cues for various segments. Everybody had a replica of the tune and an inventory of their respective directions, laid out by depend for the dancers and by lyrics for Thao. There was a click on observe earlier than the precise tune began, “So all of us would clap on the fourth beat to ensure everybody was synced up,” says Thao. And the group made certain that everybody concerned had a very sturdy Wi-Fi connection.
Other than all of this, there have been numerous difficulties to iron out with the choreography and framing that couldn’t be found out till everybody was in the identical digital area. “Sure dance strikes needed to be adjusted to look good in Zoom’s gallery view,” explains Thao, “and didn’t translate in the event that they have been too chaotic. We discovered that the strikes needed to be actually clear and clear and easy. I needed to be the point of interest and if an excessive amount of was occurring you wouldn’t know precisely the place to look.”
Thao is completely happy that they determined to plow by means of and make the video, and he or she acknowledges that this isn’t an choice many musicians have. “I don’t agree with the notion that it is a nice time for making artwork,” she says. “That places the onus on an already beneath appreciated and beneath compensated discipline. We didn’t got down to make a video with Zoom. That is the instrument that we had to make use of as a way to make a video throughout this mania.”
Watch the video for “Phenom” on YouTube. Thao & The Get Down Keep Down’s fifth studio album, Temple, is due Could 15th on Ribbon Music.