With its intriguing albeit seedy history as a brothel, the top floor of the Bijou Theatre may seem like either an awesome or a bizarre setting for a music video. Local rockers Sweet Years (guitarist Dakota Smith, drummer Zach Gilleran, and bassist Travis Bigwood) went with the former for their upcoming video for the supercharged “Fireproof,” from the new Sweet Years album, Coat Guts—and it pays off. Created by writer and director Brandon Langley, of Knoxville’s Mistakist Productions, the video coincides with the upcoming release of the new album, which was recorded by local sound engineer Blake Cass.
“He’s incredible,” Smith says of Cass. “He’s very attentive and really puts the work in.”
Langley and Smith started tossing around ideas for the video back in August. Smith, who also plays in Knoxville’s Royal Bangs, reached out after watching the pair of videos Langley created for that band, both of which premiered on Rolling Stone’s website.
“We didn’t want to do a classic video in which the band emulates their live performance,” Smith says. “So we started talking about tone and images. After agreeing on those we ended up with a loose story that I think is really perfect for the recorded material.”
“It was very much this organic back and forth,” Langley says. “We decided early on that we weren’t going to hold anything back—that if anything we came up with was good, it would stick, and all of the bad ideas would fade away.”
Shot across three distinct locations, the video starts in the claustrophobic halls of the Bijou, with a single steadicam shot following Smith around a maze of off-the-wall obstacles. Both Smith’s intense commitment to character and Langley’s dedication to achieving a seamless shot grip viewers from the get-go, shifting between unsettling and whimsical.
“I had been kind of experimenting with this roller-coaster idea,” Langley says. “Basically, bringing the viewer along for the ride without having any direct cuts in the video. I wanted to always keep the camera in front of Dakota while he was singing. There are so many details and distractions in that first shot that no one is going to notice everything the first time. Dakota is always the center of attention.”
Langley worked with his longtime partner, director of photography, and editor, Andrew McGary, on the video, and a team of volunteers and onscreen talent. He and Smith point out that the camaraderie on set was palpable and that the end product shows it.
“The video is full of local artists, musicians, actors, and production champions who all dedicated their time to make this thing,” he says. “It really makes us feel good about this time and place.”
The video and album release will take place on Saturday, Feb. 25, at Pilot Light. The show starts at 10 p.m. with opening acts Psychic Baos and Palatheda. Admission is $5. 18 and up.
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