[Originally posted at ‘Round the Square]
Recently I was able to unplug from the daily grind in an incredible new way. I had the unique pleasure of playing rock star for a weekend when my band, The Longwalls, was invited down to Plymouth Rock Studios to shoot a video for our song, Zombies!.
I’ve been writing and performing with indie-rock bands for about 10 years now. Over the years there’s been some great moments, but for every good one, there are nights humping gear through the snow to play in front of two friends and a bartender. There’s endless rehearsals, late nights stuffing packages to be mailed, and even later nights updating the half-dozen web outposts a band must manage these days. In short, it’s a part-time enterprise that rarely, if ever, breaks even.
So why do it? For me, playing music engages a part of the brain that’s hard to flex otherwise, and disengages those parts of the brain so overly taxed during regular daily life. And in those moments where everything clicks, well, it feels pretty darn good. As a brand strategist at Sametz, it’s important to reboot at times—it’s just as necessary, to me, to learn from one project to another, as it is to sometimes forget all I know and confront a new challenge from a new perspective. Playing music is part of that process for me. Although sometimes, one just wants to play rock star! When the opportunity arose to shoot a video, needless to say I was pretty excited.
We started shooting on a Friday night. The feeling of being rushed into a large room and seeing throngs of people—people who all seemed to recognize us as the band—was a new one for all of us. After a quick session with the make-up artists we trekked over to an abandoned Walmart to begin the shoot. The Plymouth Rock crew was amazing. They turned a former bank branch at the Walmart into an Army laboratory, and the cavernous backroom into an aircraft hangar where the band would be playing live. (Army bases, it turns out, are the only venues safe enough for a gig in a zombie-ridden apocalyptic future. Beats Central Square, in the snow I suppose.) After a chase scene, and a few scenes at the lab, we wrapped for the night.
Saturday we spent several hours shooting our live scenes at the “hangar.” One camera swirled about our heads while another glided left and right on a track in front of the stage. With our song blaring through the PA we lip-synced a dozen times while a crowd of extras danced and cheered. We joked that it was the best crowed we’ve ever played to; too bad they were about to be overrun by undead! On cue, 15 more extras arrived in full-on zombie makeup. We shot a few different scenes with the zombies “crashing” the gig and wrapped for the day.
Sunday was spent shooting in an abandoned house. Every zombie flick needs scenes of terrified survivors boarding up windows and barricading doors while zombies descend. We shot late into the night, making it a long weekend for all. The crew and the extras couldn’t have been more professional, engaged, supportive, and—most of all—patient. This was all new to us, but they made us feel like we deserved to be there. For that, we’re eternally grateful to Plymouth Rock Studios and everyone involved with the shoot.
Over three days, we signed autographs, spoke with reporters, had our pictures taken dozens of times by dozens of people, and gave away a bunch of CDs and guitar picks. Yes, I felt like a rock star. And yes, it was a little rough coming back to work on Monday. But in the end, I’m reinvigorated. Aside from feeling really good about the band, I’m re-energized as a creative thinker. The shoot was a non-stop creative exercise, and watching the crew compose shots and solve problems—problems I never knew existed—was both exciting and eye opening. The dedication of the extras, spending hours in uncomfortable makeup, in the rain, because they so badly want to act, was inspiring to say the least.
I’m lucky to work in an environment that encourages us all to unplug, to keep ourselves fresh, and find new ways to broaden our perspectives. Some of us paint, some dance, some make music, some are starting families, some are challenging themselves with out-of-the-norm freelance work, and, for three days in September, one of us got to play rock star.
And without further adieu, the video: