ACKLAND has had quite a year... we released our single "Rain" back in January, played some really fun shows around LA, and then went on to release our debut self-titled album via a multi-media, multi-disciplinary show at Art Share LA. We've done some really fun collaborations (music videos, etc.) but this was probably the most involved, with a LOT of moving parts. Get ready for some great film photos taken by photographer Pete Agraan.
Working with dancer/choreographer Felicia Skye was wonderful - we met up at CalArts a few times in the dance room to conceptualize and try different approaches to the two interlude pieces from the album. My concept when I asked her to perform on the release show was that she'd do some sort of ritualistic movement, involving covering her body and face with white paint throughout the two pieces of music. I didn't want it to be completely choreographed, as the music is never played the same exact way twice, the dance shouldn't be performed the same way either. She was 100% on board with this, as I expected she would be. I explained to her the meaning of the pieces - they tell the story of a person who is losing themselves in their depression, and not seeing their own beauty. The ritual represents the control the person has over their own disappearance, though they go through this ritual as if in a trance. Felicia asked so many amazing questions about these ideas that all aided in her beautiful interpretation of the pieces. Because we didn't have a way to actually practice with the paint in the CalArts dance studios, that aspect was all improvised. I think this element added refreshing spontaneity to the performance at Art Share.
If you haven't already seen them, check out both of the short films I produced (and star in) for these interlude pieces, which employ a different interpretation of the ritual/white paint concept:
For many years (really, since I was about 16 and saw Feist perform during her tour for "The Reminder"), I have wanted to collaborate with a artist who uses projection and water/oil art. I never forgot how immersive my experience was at that Feist concert - she had a huge projection behind her for the entirety of the show of oil and water that was being manipulated live by some cool artist. Feist gave the artist a shoutout but I alas, I did not write it down. This was before I had an iPhone and a "Notes" app. Well, it turns out I didn't need that artist's name, because by some miracle, I met Miranda Kahn. She does a lot of different stuff, but when I mentioned to the dean of the CalArts music school, David Rosenboom, that I was looking for a projection artist, he laughed - because the project we were working on together for his show at Redcat (Hymn for Insurgent Arts), included someone who had experience with just that medium - Miranda! In the Redcat project, she was going to be acting, but she also does shadow puppetry that incorporates swirling backgrounds created with water, oil and food coloring. I immediately called her up and asked if she'd be willing to do just the latter, without the puppetry, as a live performance aspect of the ACKLAND Album Release Show. We met up for coffee, and it was obvious that she completely understood what I was looking for, and that she was going to go above and beyond. Like Felicia, she asked a lot of great questions - about the meanings of the song lyrics, the flow of the album, overall themes and visual ideas I had while putting the album together, color schemes, etcetera. When we got together with the band to do the dress rehearsal, I was floored by how much the music and the meaning came through in her improvised art. Here's a video from the dress rehearsal of Miranda's interpretation of "Rain".
So many people came together to make this show a reality.. including but not limited to Bradley Butterworth (he did the sound), Erika Bell (she helped produce), Fahad and Cynthia Siadat (they ran the box office), Art Share LA itself, and of course everyone in the band. It was such a great learning experience for me, and only strengthened my urge to do more collaborating, more concert curating and producing, and more creating. I'll leave you with this - evidence of another collaboration with my good friend Michael Lopez, who actually went to that Feist concert I mentioned with me back in the day - he made the amazing outfit I wore for the show!