Guerrilla filmmaking. That, Mr. and Mrs. Orange County, is why your sons and daughters now have a slim shot at appearing on TV in several hundred seconds' worth of steamy girl-on-plastic-sheep action, erotic banana-eating and—oh, yeah, also they're all dressed like sexy mummies—makeout scenes. Where'd you think they were going at 9 a.m. on a Saturday? Traffic school?
They're working on a video with Dance Disaster Movement, the duo (singer/keyboardist/guitarist Kevin "Disco"Litrow and drummer Matt Howze) who've made rock a safe space for really uncoordinated dancing by a lot of typically frigid art-school kids. It's a subcultural watershed, tantamount to the U.S. Army catching Saddam Hussein, Osama bin Laden and Anthrax Man in tenderest flagrante delicto. Over this last year, the squirrelly Long Beach/Costa Mesa weirdo new-wave group's fast-rising star has lifted them to respectable under-the-radar fame—when was the last time you got to dress all in white and screech, "SHOOT ME IN THE HEAD!" in front of hundreds of shrieking Japanese fans?—and early this year, Dim Mak (home of Pretty Girls Make Graves and the Kills, among others) released DDM's debut We Are From Nowhere.
So now is the time for Dance Disaster Movement to flip on a camera and see what happens next.
"It's the first proper Dim Mak video!" Dim Mak Records tycoon Steve Aoki told us, sometime after he'd slithered into an ill-considered white spandex body suit that left so little to the imagination that we started feeling an afterglow. Aoki got buddy Brad Holland (drummer for Detroit buzz-band the Whirlwind Heat, reportedly chatting up girls with lines like, "Yeah, see this jacket? Yeah, Meg White bought it for me") to direct, and then set out to hijack two minutes of TV.
The song? "I Want Your Sass," a typically ambient, atonal, herky-jerky DDM number. The budget? "Small," said Aoki. "Very small." The setting? Koo's in Long Beach, looking as bleary and bewildered at 9 a.m. as everyone inside. The cast? Oh, simply everyone who's anyone who knows Dance Disaster Movement, like local Long Beach musicians who'd been buddies with the boys two or three bands back, and an enthusiastic contingent from KUCI-FM 88.9 who mummied up just smashingly, and even one kid who'd barfed up an actual cigarette butt—from inside himself!—the last time we'd seen him at Koo's.
And the concept? Um . . . mummies . . . dancing . . . holding bananas and tangerines . . . and . . . hey, you stole a plastic sheep from a church nativity scene? Oh, awesome, we'll use that at the end! Hey, does anyone want to make out with the sheep?
You couldn't help but get the feeling that most of the storyboarding could be reduced to a bar napkin with "VIDEO!!!!" Sharpied across it. But it worked. "I liked how open they were to ideas," said KUCI's Sara Adams, who served as de facto mummy wrangler for most of the day. "But I think the only preplanning was buying the bananas."
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
You have successfully signed up for your selected newsletter(s) - please keep an eye on your mailbox, we're movin' in!
But the camera has strange powers, you know, and several cameras with a coterie of swank Hollywood-by-way-of-France production assistants could make anybody loosen up. So what if Holland's directorial instructions amounted to something like, "When it gets to the freak-out part . . . FREAK OUT!" Everybody seemed to understand, above and beyond the call of dignity. Just follow this wiggling ass (swaddled in baggy BVDs with D-D-M screened across the cheeks) through a seizuring hive of mummies into the Koo's bathroom, where we'll check our bandages and pretend we're oblivious to the people writhing in simulated erotic ecstasy on the germy tile floor, and then for the climax? Would you mind, Mr. Holland, if we hold the sheep up to the camera and whisper, "Rosebud . . . "? No? Could we have all the mummies stagger into two columns? And we could ooze sexy-stripper-style down the line between them, inching on bended knee to the poor churchyard sheep, pausing then to lovingly smoosh a banana into his plastic mouth while all the mummies dance in sloppy slow-motion around us? Yeah, it is sort of like Buuel! What did he say? "Somewhere between chance and mystery lies imagination"? TOTALLY!
So, we don't know what it's like when big-money bands make videos. Except we do, because we saw Bad Religion do it once, and it's sterile and boring and takes forever, like doing the PSATs with a proctor who used to be in Minor Threat and with even less bearing on future life.
And Dance Disaster Movement? Our actual thoughts at the time, as possibly recorded on a stray mummy bandage with a dying Sharpie: this is fun! This is art! This is doing things with another man and a banana that I'll regret forever, and doing it for free, and loving every minute! And in another 15 seconds, this song is going to end and we're all going to rush the stage and knock over the drums and cut off our mummy bandages with safety scissors and finally creep hungover and exhausted outside into the light, but right now? I look like a freak and I'm part of something bigger than myself! PUNK ROCK STILL WORKS! Now pass the sheep!
"I Want Your Sass" will be available on a Dance Disaster Movement CD EP early in 2004 from Dim Mak Records.