The Whiskey Treaty Roadshow records live music video at Mass MoCA
At long last, the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art has joined a host of Berkshire-based organizations and individuals who have contributed to the The Whiskey Treaty Roadshow's first full-length record.
When the Americana band started the album-making process, the group planned on recording its new tunes at the North Adams institution. But due to logistical factors, the Roadshow opted to track at The Stationery Factory in Dalton instead, aiming to capture acoustic versions of its songs at Mass MoCA later on.
On Sunday, April 7, they did just that — with cameras rolling, too. Over the course of 10-plus hours, Bottle Tree Pictures filmed Tory Hanna, Billy Keane, Chris Merenda, Greg Smith and David Tanklefsky playing six stripped-down songs from the record in a room at the museum, which allowed them to use the space for free. While Bottle Tree Pictures has helped create music videos before, it had never shot musicians recording live before this project.
"The coolest part about the shoot from my perspective was we were as grateful as they were, if not — they might have been more grateful," Hanna said.
"I've always wanted to do a live music video," said Bottle Tree Pictures Creative Director Alex Enman.
Enman, executive producer Dan Gruenpeter and director of photography Dylan Law run the Boston-based production company that was founded just over a year ago. They had worked with longtime Roadshow friend and videographer Tim Bradley before the Sunday shoot; Law had also attended some of the band's live shows. For Gruenpeter, the Roadshow represented "perfect synergy" because the executive views the the band as a group on the rise, paralleling Bottle Tree Pictures' growth as a young company. The group's sound also resonated, particularly its harmonies.
"When they get singing all together, it's just a goose bumps kind of situation," Enman said.
The company began planning the shoot months ago after receiving a rough mix of the record. Storyboarding commenced shortly thereafter; the collaborators wanted to ensure that they covered instrumental solos and vocals. They also sought to generate an agricultural Western Massachusetts feel to the indoor set. Apple crates and plants were brought in, but the centerpiece was a floral wall built by Daisy Stone Studio. Hanna's wife, Susie, owns the business.
"It was just absolutely beautiful," Enman said of the arrangement, noting that the shoot's art director, Olivia Amorello, played a vital role in cultivating the room's environment.
In total, 11 people worked on the production, including previous Roadshow collaborators sound engineer Marc Seedorf and Bradley, who operated one of the cameras.
"We had a little village of people," Enman said.
On Sunday, the parties involved had agreed to film four songs. They got through six: "Pass the Peace," "Following Your Tears," "Cross My Land," "Reasons," "Rock 'n' Roll Deja-Vu" and "Hey Lady."
"We got six done because their director is just so good at this group leadership concept," Keane said.
"It was the perfect marriage of direction, organization and energy," Hanna said.
Recording musicians live can be a "tall order," according to Enman, but the Roadshow had the technical ability to pull it off.
"They are a live band, first and foremost," Enman said.
Indeed, Keane and Hanna liken being filmed to being onstage.
"It's a performance mentality, and we have been in front of cameras many times. I think if we hadn't, it would be a little maybe nerve-wracking, but it felt very natural," Hanna said, adding that a couple of acoustic rehearsals prepared the group for a rare stripped-down performance.
In more recent days, the band has been promoting its album release concert in Pittsfield on June 1, while engaging in talks with a record label that it is not yet ready to name. The group is still awaiting payment from PledgeMusic, the platform that it used to raise funds for its album and that is, as of this writing, still trying to be acquired after numerous delayed payments to bands. But that controversy is not stopping the band from pressing forward. For example, a more traditional narrative-driven music video for "Rose on the Vine" is in the works with Bottle Tree Pictures.
Neither the band nor the production company is exactly sure when all of the videos will be available to view, but you can expect to see some of them before the record's release.
"It's really just about content now," Keane said. "It's putting the cart before the horse to say, 'We're going to use this here, here and here.' It's 'create content,' and if that means going into the studio to do one song, or if that means meeting up with a film crew to record six tunes at an awesome location, just do it, and then you can utilize that content wherever you need to."
The budding production company will remember that content for a long time, according to Enman. The initial videos were both artistically fulfilling and logistically smooth.
"It was just one of those shoots where everything went perfect," Enman said.
Benjamin Cassidy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, at @bybencassidy on Twitter and 413-496-6251.
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