DVD Review; The Willowz – seeinsquares

I have had a DVD in my possession & the best of intentions of writing about it. You know how it is with life and laziness beating you down daily. Well, that is hardly a good excuse, so let’s just get on with it.

We all like music, right? I mean you don’t come here for updates on my 1 year old daughter’s newest, cutest trick. (Let me know if you want to hear about them, because I can provide stories in Technicolor detail). I love music. I have come to a point in my life where my favorite songs are made by some of my favorite people. That is living a rich life, friends. Sometimes the music is slicked up, shiny, major-label fare, but mostly it is folks doing what they love and throwing it out there into the world and seeing if anyone claps. Now, I am not one of those lo-fi DIY religious fundamentalist that can’t look past the spinning reel-to-reel machine to see the virtues of Pro-Tools and a good promoter, but there is something to be said for just getting stuff done without hemming & hawing over obstacles, monetary or otherwise.

I am in awe of prolific artists who are always 3 projects ahead of themselves, filled with so much creative energy that each work is thrown out there not so much for the awaiting masses, but because they must move on to the next thing or else he or she might explode from within. If you fly under the radar, it seems much easier to purge your creative inventory without hindrance. I have heard plenty of stories of records being held back for a "season" or a timed release or having to wait in the queue for a fellow label mate to have their moment to shine. It is frustrating and ultimately stifling for a work-horse artist to sit it out in the stable of label-limbo. So when you get your hands on evidence of a band cranking not only quantity, but quality you must take pause and tip your hat.

Admittedly, I had not heard of The Willowz until I got the DVD in my hands. Judging by their myspace page I am about 31,363 people behind. No matter…I can’t keep up with it all, man. What am I, Pitchfork? Any way, this is probably for the best because I had no idea what this band sounded like, looked like or even that they are from Anaheim.  All I knew was that Michel Gondry directed one of the bands videos and used 2 songs in Eternal Sunshine for the Spotless Mind. That is a pretty good endorsement.

The Willowz released a record last year called "Talk in Circles" that apparently was a hit, making it onto Rolling Stone’s best 50 albums of 2005 list. Ok, that is cool, I don’t get Rolling Stone any more, well I do, but they still show up at my parents house in Birmingham, Alabama and I can’t make them stop (for perspective I haven’t lived there since the first Clinton Administration, so that is a whole other story). Recorded in the bassist’s brother’s garage, the record is a sprawling, 20-tracked opus that jumps around genres with ease, but always remains energized and focused. A regular band would be pleased, maybe move onto to make a few video promos for the singles. They are on the smaller, but notable label Sympathy for the Record Industry, so I suspect the money hose is not drenching these kids. Oh yeah, they are all barely drinking age. Trust me, I did my research – all of this is old news, especially if you are from Orange County – I am not.

Well, you can’t stop art. The band has, somehow, managed to wrangle some of the video art-worlds hottest directors and on a thread of a budget, released a companion DVD to "Talking in Circles" called, cleverly, "seeinginsquares." Yes, all 20 tracks get 20 videos…and if I’m lyin, I’m dyin, not a single one is filler. The smart move was getting a different director/directing team for each cut and giving them, I don’t know, $100 to make a video (well not really, but it wasn’t much). The results are some of the best examples of low budget visual trickery you will find.

The first track, “Ulcer Soul” is a prime example of the “how-they-do-that” treatment. Director Ace Norton (who I think is like 12 or something…maybe early 20s) delivers the band in what appears to be their natural habitat, a practice space in some split-level in the suburbs, playing the song while suspended in air, like the pause button is stuck…I can’t even begin to explain it, think time lapse times 100. I read in the additional materials on the DVD (thankfully all directors have a bio and a bit of info about their respective projects) that the band had to jump in the air some 200 times to create the effect. Work-ethic? Yes, it seems so.

That is what I loved most about the DVD as a whole; the band seemed to really take an active part in creating the magic. Watching almost 2 hours of videos featuring the same band can be daunting, and often exhausting. I mean you really have to love a band to sit through every minute and I bet you a dollar you hit the skip button at least once. I have to say I didn’t do it; I sat down and watched the entire DVD without touching the remote. It was almost, and I swear I mean this as the highest of compliments, like watching an extended episode of the Monkees. The Willowz are such a unique looking band, that you will never mistake them for any other out there: Richie, the guitarist/singer/what appears to be ring-leader, is going to get the leading role in the future bio-pic about J Mascis, Alex is preparing for his role as the next fair-skinned baddie in Lethal Weapon 5 and Jessica, well she is the prom queen of 1972 that all the A/V club geeks wanted to date. They are all funny and charismatic alone and tear it up as a collective band. And again, none of them are any where near 25 years of age.

I could go into all of the infamous dirt on these guys, but why bother…you can read plenty of that stuff with a simple google search. Get the DVD and enjoy.

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