Category Archives: Music Video

Production Designer Andrea Leigh essential to award-winning video for Thugli’s “Sic Em”

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Production Designer Andrea Leigh

Andrea Leigh is not just a production designer. She is an artist. She is a creator. She produces a specific world, completely designed with the goal of portraying a message, or developing a character, or evoking a feeling in an audience member that no human being on the screen saying their lines could. Being able to do that through her work gives meaning to every job she works on, and she is outstanding at it.

Working on several award-winning and celebrated projects, such as the film Friends Like Us and the web series Whatever Linda, audiences and critics at the world’s most prestigious film festivals have appreciated Leigh’s work. She also has worked on many celebrated commercials, including the award-winning Prickly for Scotts Weed B Gone, the viral E.L.F. Play Beautifully advertisement, and the insanely popular 2015 Teleflora Mother’s Day campaign that received international media attention and 11 million YouTube hits. However, Leigh’s success does not end there. She has also worked on some captivating music videos, including Downtown for the Juno award-winning rock band The Sheepdogs, as well at the Thugli music video Sic Em.

“The guys of Thugli were great. They loved the director Amos LeBlanc’s vision and loved how we brought all their ideas to life,” said Leigh.

Amos LeBlanc has directed a controversial video that was widely successful, and he had won “Best Video of the Year” the previous Much Music Video Awards (MMVA). The tone of the Sic Em video was dark and thoughtful, and this made Leigh want to work on it.

“It was great working with the director Amos Leblanc, he had a very clear aesthetic image that he wanted to portray, clean, modern, dramatic skyline, lots of smoke and special effects. He was always interested in hearing what kind of changes I thought we could make art direction wise. It’s nice to have your creative vision valued when shooting something so specific and thoughtful,” said Leigh.

Music videos are usually long days packed with many shots and not enough time, but this was a two-day shoot that Leigh used to her full advantage, and had the time to do exactly what she wanted. That also meant they had that magic hour lighting two days in a row, something she describes as quite spectacular.

“That’s one of my favorite shots in the video, where the guys are all standing in single file formation with the magic hour sky behind them,” Leigh described. “The cast was a blast to work with. It was a night shoot so naturally things can get a little silly when everyone’s trying their best to stay awake. Lots of jokes, lots of laughs. It always helps on a long shoot when the cast and crew hit it off.”

With the help of Leigh’s eye for production design, the video went on to win the Much Music Video Award for “Best Dance Video.” The music video also earned over 75,000 views on YouTube, sparking widespread popularity among fans and critics. Leigh says she feels like they really accomplished something with the video, and the producer Geoff MacLean says it wouldn’t have been possible without her help. MacLean is a very respected and accomplished Executive Producer. Vision productions is an iconic production company that has produced work for several internationally renowned artists, such as Prince, Rihanna, Drake, The Weeknd, Calvin Harris and countless more.

“The music video is, thanks to Andrea, a fascinating visual production which instantly captures the attention of the viewer. She coordinated closely with the director, the choreographer, and other experienced creatives on set to determine the placement of the props, and the organization of the set. While the entire production is a visual achievement thanks to Andrea, specifically her work arranging the set for the dancers, as well as the props and décor for that segment gave the music video its down to earth and ‘back to the basics’ feel, which was the goal of the client. I credit a great deal of the video’s success to Andrea’s leading role, and attribute her with much of the music video’s all around commercial success and critical acclaim,” said Geoff MacLean.

“Andrea’s achievements throughout her career are reflective of top performing production designers and art directors in her field. The success of her productions is indicative of this fact, to be sure,” MacLean added.

Watch the Thugli Sic Em music video here.

Zeon’s Music Video Journey

Alejandro Salinas discovered MTV when he was just 10 years old. As a child growing up in Mexico City, he would listen to songs and always think about what the music video would look like. When he saw a new one come out and it would not match his expectations, he would become thrilled at the idea of making his own version. When one came out that was better than he imagined, he would become overwhelmed with excitement and the new possibilities that those amazing ideas had brought on for the industry, the world, and his creative perception. The love for music and inspiration it draws generates a need for him to create visuals for it.

Now, that young boy from Mexico City goes by Zeon, and is recognized around the world as an outstanding director and editor. Despite working on films and fashion films and achieving extraordinary success, he still knows his passion is the same as the 10-year-old boy who would watch MTV all day.

I make music videos. I create a visual world from a song. I direct and edit the process, and I’m very detail-oriented. It’s the most rewarding discipline for me. It encompasses so many different art forms and you’ll never be bored by it. There will always be new songs to be inspired from to create new visuals, and that keeps me coming back to them,” said Zeon.

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Zeon in Lady Gaga’s “Til It Happens to You”

One of Zeon’s greatest accomplishments was working with Lady Gaga on the music video for her Academy Award nominated song “Til It Happens to You”, showing the stories of women who are raped on college campuses. The video has been viewed over 37.5 million times on YouTube.

“I love Lady Gaga and she is someone I look up to,” he said. “But I also wanted to work on this because of the importance of the video and the impact it would have on society and rape culture. I was there behind, in front of and beside camera throughout the whole process, and it was a very fulfilling and honoring experience to have taken part of.”

Jamie Holt, the producer of “Til It Happens to You” was impressed with Zeon’s work and asked him to be involved with her next projects, the music videos for the band Icon for Hire, for their songs “Now You Know” and “Supposed To Be”. “Now You Know” premiered February 2016 and has over 1.4 million views on YouTube. “Supposed To Be” premiered June of this year and has over 826 thousand views.

“It was a lot of fun. Each video presented different ways to be explored creatively,” said Zeon. “Jamie allowed me to fulfill her vision through editing by expanding the ideas she had in mind and by also adding my personal touch to make it impacting.”

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Still from Icon for Hire’s “Now You Know” music video.

Zeon’s first taste of true success came when working on the music video for “Arrójame” for the legendary 80s/90s Mexican rock band La Lupita, a humbling experience for Zeon, who had his music video on TV debut with this video.

“It was very emotional moment when I saw the video on television for the first time. I never knew when or how it would ever happen, that a music video of mine would be on TV, but when I was watching the premiere with my cousin and grandma and the video came up, it felt very touching to see a video I worked on debuting on national television,” he said. “I loved the song and I thought I could create an interesting video for the band. They are very talented and hardworking people. Even after years, they’re still hustlers and I found that very inspiring.”

The producer of the video, Estívaliz Zaragoza, had worked with Zeon previously and says she would never miss an opportunity to collaborate with him.

“Working with Zeon is full satisfaction, because he is always on top of his responsibilities and tasks, he never hesitates on helping his team mates. His creativity and ideas are refreshing and right on spot. He always has something to share, knowledge, helpful information and useful ideas. He has a mixture of skills that make you want to have him in your team and collaborate in his projects: He is proactive, disciplined, detail-oriented, a team player, and super creative,” said Zaragoza.

From there, Zeon’s career took off. He worked on the fashion film Dieode and the celebrated fashion documentary Mextilo, and worked on the music video for the iconic collaboration of legendary Mexican singer Lila Downs, the Spanish Niña Pastori, and the Argentinian Soledad for their song “Que Nadie Sepa Mi Sufrir”. The video has amassed over 2.5 million views on YouTube, and their album received a Grammy nomination.

“It was a very exciting opportunity to work a new project with such legendary artists from different Spanish-speaking countries,” said Zeon. “I didn’t have an award in mind at all, I just wanted to make sure I could deliver a video that worked best for such great artists, but it’s very honoring to know that you took part in such a great achievement in an artist’s career. The album not only got nominated, but actually won the Latin Grammy in 2014 for Best Folk Album. And then the next year it got nominated for the 2015 Grammy Awards for Best Latin Pop Album, which is amazing as well.”

Zeon knows he has the power to push an artist’s vision even further. He has been studying music videos for almost his entire life, and can sense what works and what doesn’t. He strives for perfection, and that is what he is known for achieving.

“I love the emotional, narrative and visual impact I can have on the final result of a video. It can completely shift an artist’s career. It thrills me to push alongside them, because we’re both moving forward in ways we never imagined” he concluded.

 

A CANADIAN’S PERSPECTIVE ON “AMERIKA”

There’s no escaping the discussion of current events in America right now. That should come as a surprise to no one. With an election that has taken most of the past two years and a complete switch in the majority political party, it seems as if the entire planet is watching the US. You can’t turn on a news programs without getting the network’s opinion, so why should music be any different? Of course, musicians have long used their creativity to present their ideas, there’s nothing new to that. You can go back more than two hundred years to the protest song “Yankee Doodle” and see that even the founding fathers had musicians weighing in with their take on current events. The more overt and modern equivalent of this is the music video. “Amerika” is the song and video by Canadian band Wintersleep which presents their perspective of the modern US events and temperament. Just as with “Yankee Doodle”, “Amerika” is a protest song. The first person director Scott Cudmore thought of for the cinematographer position on “Amerika” was Peter Hadfield. This duo has worked on a number of high profile videos (including Vimeo Staff Pick “It’s Okay, I Promise” by Harrison x/Clairmont the Second and the sci-fi “Needs” video from Adonis Adonis) and both were eager to repeat the experience. Katy Maravala (producer for “Amerika”) was also keen to repeat her experience working with Peter as well. Maravala, whose client list includes; Drake, Rihanna, Arkells, and Halsey declares, “Peter has always been one of my first choices as director of photography. I feel confident in saying that Peter is one of the most genuine, humble, and talented humans I have ever met. As proof of his incredible talent, “Americka” was nominated for a UKMVA [United Kingdom Music Video Award]. The breathtaking images in this video were not easily earned. During the video we encountered some challenging locations; frozen waterfalls, old houses, a two-hour hike in the woods, and desolate buildings all in the middle of a Canadian winter. Peter remained positive, upbeat and an absolute joy to work with even during this tempestuous time.”

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While the relationship vignettes are compelling, the vistas in “Amerika” are grand and give the video a cinematic feeling. “Amerika” was shot in Hamilton, Ontario; a steel town on the coast of Lake Ontario that has come into hard times. The people of Ontario often refer to Hamilton as “The Hammer”. While the town possesses a great deal of beauty, it’s easy to see there many of its residents are surviving day to day. The opening shot was taken on the coldest day of the year with a temperature of -40 degrees F with wind chill. At times, Peter couldn’t operate the camera because the wind made his eyes water and the cold would freeze the tears. Hand warmers were taped to the camera batteries to keep them functioning. It was less than ideal circumstances. The crew shot for an uncommon five days in order to get shots at precisely the correct time of day for the desired effects. Their guerilla approach called for a lot of hiking through snow to reach some of the isolated locations. Again, less than ideal in subzero temperatures. It’s hard to find elite professionals whom are willing to endure these scenarios but Hadfield instills, “I am extremely passionate about creating socio political messages in film making. That’s what I’m here for. When I see it in other videos it makes me so happy and excited. When there’s anyone that’s willing to go out on a limb and say something truthful about the way our society is functioning, I couldn’t be more excited. Mainstream artists make art videos too. Kanye West has amazing music videos. There were parts of Beyoncé’s “Lemonade” that were beautiful and evocative. Radiohead just put out an incredible video shot by Paul Thomas Anderson and Robert Elswit that I definitely consider art. If I could make something as potent as that “Daydreaming” video, I’d be very pleased. The alternative artists like Wintersleep who put out videos that have less glamorization in them have the freedom to strive for more substance. They’re freer to say something political or polarizing because there isn’t as much money involved or pressure from the record companies and distributors. The music industry has fewer record companies directly involved, allowing artists to self-release. I think we’ll start seeing more videos with greater substance. We’ll start seeing more videos like Kanye West’s “Famous”. But there will always be artists on the fringe, making meaningful work and encouraging the next generation of people to develop their talent. The hope is that they use this to make a positive impact on the world. This is the agreement among all creative people; we are to use our talents to improve the lives of people and the world itself.”

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While this video may seem to be something of a mirror to hold up to the US, Hadfield professes his fondness for the artists and potential of the people found in the spirit of America. He recognizes that the film world finds its epicenter in the US. Peter comments, “There are great music videos and incredibly talented artists coming out of Canada, but most talented people here end up going to America and succeeding. There are amazing opportunities there, you can’t deny it. I think being on a set in Hollywood would be an amazing feeling. I think the greatest joy is being on set, with a camera on my shoulder. There’s nothing more satisfying than getting to the right location at the right time and capturing something special. It’s extremely satisfying and inspiring, and leaves me wanting more and more. Being a cinematographer takes a lot of self-discipline; staying focused and working towards an unattainable goal. That unattainable goal is being a great cinematographer. The challenge is getting than next great shot. I’ve got in insatiable appetite for capturing images, and as my taste and skill grow, I’ll always be reaching for the next shot that means something.” Striving for greatness, isn’t that what we all want for America?

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A WRITER FOR ALL (FUNNY) PEOPLE

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When Miguel Rivas states, “I think we live in an era when people are becoming increasingly accepting of different types of stories, ones which they previously might not have paid much attention to. It probably has something to do with the social media age where you can hear back from other people about their lives and experiences in a way you couldn’t before. You would have your opinions and your views and you wouldn’t get them reflected back on you. That’s changed. If you want to understand someone else’s life and experiences, it’s much easier to do now. We should hope we’re all becoming more empathetic.” …this is possibly the most benevolent and optimistic view of social media’s effect on society that you have ever heard. Part of the reason is that the idea in itself supports a reaffirmation of faith in humanity; the other part is due to the fact that Rivas knows how to turn a phrase. As a professional writer, he understands the subtle emotional impact of phrasing. Rather than using this ability to support a political candidate, compose a novel, or impress bar patrons (well, that might happen from time to time), Miguel has focused his intent on bringing laughter and assisting other creative types in achieving their visions. Rivas will be the first to admit that his intent is not completely altruistic at its core; he loves nurturing the sometimes ridiculous ideas that enter his transom. Rivas is probably best known as a member of Canada’s comedy troupe Tony Ho, with whom he has written and performed on stage and on screen. However, he has many projects contained in his writing resume that testify to his individual voice and style.

At the center of any artist is a desire to take the joys and difficulty which life has handed them and exorcize them in a positive manner. It’s as much a catharsis for them (sometimes a painful one) as it is entertainment for those of us in the audience. There must be fertile and resourceful ground for these artist to communicate the feelings and ideas they are transferring. Miguel is sometimes the artist acting these situations out and even more often, the artist fueling them with his own words and ideas. Tony Ho has given Rivas many opportunities to explore different styles and scenarios in his writing. One of the most popular Tony Ho productions is Japan. This film is about office politics and the social dynamics that prosper in them. Rivas plays Pat Dunkling, the boss who has recently travelled to Japan and is overly eager to represent himself as an aficionado of Japanese culture. The apex of the drama comes when Dunkling decides that the business cannot support two interns so, Marty and Nolan (played by Adam Niebergall and Roger Bainbridge) will perform a Karaoke-off with the winner being rewarded a well paying full time position. Rivas wrote his character specifically to make fun of the type of person who travels to an interesting location and then tries too hard to convince others how impactful the experience was for him/herself. Rather than making fun of a specific culture, the idea was to communicate how certain individuals find it easier to “play” a role rather than simply discovering and relying upon their own identity. Miguel enjoyed writing this character (complete with a Dragonball Z haircut) as well as the roles for Adam (a ne’ er-do-well) and Roger (a slightly overly eager romantic with a fear of missed relationship opportunities). In writing and presenting the theme to Japan, Miguel was always mindful of the audience’s reception of his work. He notes, “You have to be very careful when it comes to what you want to say with comedy. Nothing is off limits completely but you always have to be punching in the right direction, as they say. We knew that the joke in our minds was this corporate culture where people absorb and consume whatever they can in order to make a stamp. My character’s buffoonish understanding of Japanese culture was the target, which was encapsulated in the line ‘Hmmm, very not what I think is Japanese.’ I wanted people to understand this character but perhaps not to like him.” Japan won the Grand Prize for best film at the Laugh Sabbath Film Fest at NXNE, as well as a nomination at the Canadian Comedy Awards.

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Wanda, another of Miguel’s compositions, was also nominated at the Canadian Comedy Awards and was shortlisted at the Laugh Sabbath Film Fest at NXNE. The storyline of this film was very different from Japan, involving a stalker, a polyamorous love triangle, and an attempted murder. It would not seem like the normal fodder for comedy and yet Rivas was highly adept and finding the amusing side of the dark humor. The idea started with a highly unusual point of inspiration. Miguel reveals, “Part of the inspiration was this visual gag where we wanted someone to die with their eyes open. Sometimes you reverse engineer an idea off of something pretty silly. Hey, comedy.” He continues, “I try and create all kinds of characters, but the film style we’ve leaned on and developed as Tony Ho succeeds best when there’s an element of reality for each character. In writing the characters, I can take them to some pretty unfamiliar places; then through performance, I try and add a level of emotional honesty. This is really important to me.” Bainbridge confirms that Miguel’s writing style is a key component to the success that has been achieved as he declares, “Tony Ho is now one of the most prominent comedy troupes in all of Canada, winning multiple awards and travelling around North America performing for thousands of fans, as well as publishing widely-watched online content. Miguel’s writing has been the spark countless times to enable us to achieve this great success.”

Sometimes the writing of Miguel Rivas is the spark for Tony Ho and, with an increasing occurrence, he has brought this spark to the bonfire of other talent. Space Riders: Division Earth is a TV series that might be best described as a parody (or even an homage) to the Power Rangers series much in the same way that Spinal Tap pays tribute to the great rock bands of the 70’s. The serious approach of not taking one’s self too seriously pays off with an abundance of laughs on this Canadian production. The show’s writers, Dan Beirne and Mark Little, brought Miguel aboard to assist as he explains, “Dan and Mark are frequent collaborators of mine. They asked me to do script consulting on this project. After they had written the initial drafts, they brought me on for punch-up and editing. After that process, I helped with the table reads and subsequent rewrites. The show is quirky and I thought it was so funny and creative, I was happy to work on it when they approached me.” Bierne relates, “Miguel is so accomplished and recognized in Canada for his work with Tony ho, we knew that he was truly funny. Our show has such a different sensibility and tone to it. Miguel fell right into place. He understood our show and how to add his talent to it but, even more so, he is a true team player. He was always searching out ways to add something. His contributions played an important part in our achievements.”

When Disney XD wanted to capitalize on the popularity of sketch comedy shows and market it to teens, Miguel was asked to add his writing to the project. Rivas will mock himself, noting that his age made him unusable in front of the camera for Disney XD’s Try It! so they made use of his abilities behind the camera as a writer. Surprisingly, it was an easy transition to write comedy for a younger mindset and performers. Rivas states, “A major benefit is, it helps you empathize with their experience. I felt some trepidation initially, but once you get into the groove, it becomes rather easy to slip into that mindset. It was really fun to remember how I thought about things as a younger version of myself. For a lot of my writing, I focus on mining comedy out of sadness and anxiety. It was actually pretty easy to convert that into a teen’s worldview. Who knew? Teens have anxiety! You obviously write it less dark but reflecting…that truth in funny sketches actually proved to be fairly easy.”

More recently, Miguel has ventured into writing music videos for artist like Brave Shores and Digits. These videos sometimes play on Miguel’s signature dark comedy style but “More Like You” by Brave Shores is disorienting and unnerving at points. It is a great indicator of the constant challenges Rivas takes on to carve new paths and explore his writing talents.

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MUSIC+FEAR+COMEDY=THE SENSIBILITIES OF ROGER BAINBRIDGE

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The most famous paintings of Beethoven depict him with a furrowed brow and wispy hair, a slightly mad genius furiously creating; pushing himself to produce works that never fully satisfy himself while seemingly inconceivable for the average man. Replace the piano with a comedic storyline and the symphony with a cast and film crew and you have an appropriate analogy for Roger Bainbridge. If such a phenomenon as Comedic Artistic Attention Deficit Disorder (CAADD) exists, Bainbridge is the spokesperson for it. Vacillating between formats such as; theater, film, live sketch comedy, music videos, and others, with his role as Executive Producer, writer, and actor, this Canadian comedic force has created a unique voice blending the dark and the humorous presentation of everyday life as well as fantasy. Regardless of the avenue with which he presents his ideas, Roger has created an identifiable voice in dramedy, most often presented through the vehicle of his comedy trio Tony Ho. The group, which includes Miguel Rivas and Adam Niebergall, has grown from sketch comedy into music video and film presentations. In the same way that Monty Python did some forty years ago, Tony Ho has become a brand of comedy with its own style and temperament. Modern accessibility to media and technology gave Roger the ability to experience all levels of production from conception to presentation. He used this knowledge to connect with and create the means by which Tony Ho and other artists would gain access to more ubiquitous means of presentation as their careers grew. Regardless of the production, his “fingerprint” is felt. This is surprising and satisfying in the music videos “Never Come Down” by Brave Shores and “Street Violence” by Digits. Both videos challenge us to look at dark situations and find the means by which to laugh at the ridiculousness of the situation by accepting our own lack of control of it. The “Tony Ho” brand that Bainbridge has worked so intensely to create is hard to place into words; in an effort to define it one might state that it is, “look at all the awful things that can happen in life, shouldn’t you take some respite in how ridiculous it all is and the fact that you can’t control or understand it all?”

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The success of the “Violence” video and Roger’s acclaim for his roles both behind and in front of the camera resulted in other musical groups seeking him out to be the creative force behind their music videos. When Brave Shores needed a video for their single “Never Come Down”, they reached out to Bainbridge because of his work on “Violence” and the films of Tony Ho. Jay McCarrol of Brave Shoes comments, “When I approached Roger, he pitched an idea about a bald guy who wishes for hair and suddenly gets a full head of green hair, which would be green screened to become different colors.  He pitched it in one sentence and it was perfect.  It was great to see his talent has such range. He could just put his unique spin on anything. When you work with Roger it’s because he can be so unpredictable, that’s what we wanted.  I knew he was some sort of mad genius when I saw all of the Tony Ho stuff.  Roger possess a different kind of “it” factor, the very rare kind.  Something about him is so pleasantly haunting.” Roger admits that he has always been a fan of music videos which extend the ideas and mood of the song while also becoming a piece of art themselves. With “Never Come Down” he felt there were multiple layers, as he describes, “The song was kind of an expression of ‘ignorance is bliss’, ‘I’m just gonna have fun, and go with what feels good, f*#k all this worry.’ This can be a great sentiment, to a point. I wanted to explore the idea of someone getting everything they want. Is it responsible to just live a blissed out life? Are you living in a way that considers others and yourself? My idea was to kind of sneakily make a video about the virtues of responsibility while making it feel like a party the whole time. I don’t know if that makes me a Christian Youth Counsellor or something, but it’s probably just another example of me being a contrarian. You say party, I say be a responsible father.” brave-shores-1-945x500

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The video shows Adam Niebergall (of Tony Ho) as the main character who is granted his wish of long luxurious (color changing, sometimes psychedelic) hair and proceeds to only care about whipping that hair and head banging. While amongst trick bikers, on the beach, or a number of settings, he casts off all responsibilities, including his now pregnant romantic interest. Karma seems to exact its penance from him at the end of the video as he has given himself a fatal neck injury…as a result of his new flowing locks. It’s a modern pop/electronic fable about not focusing on the self, delivered in the humorous and yet biting way for which Bainbridge is known. Whether creating thought provoking and laughter eliciting films or music videos that still manage to carry his voice in their message, Roger Bainbridge has become known in Canada as the person to go to when you need someone to take a project from inception to production and presentation. He is pleased to be the means by which others can further their art whether it be in the role of Executive Producer, writer, or actor. Bainbridge admits that he is still sometimes jolted back into reality, in particular in regards to his involvement with musicians and their videos. He confirms, “I love music videos. I feel like I’m part of the generation that really got the last gasp of them on television. I grew up watching them on MuchMusic, watching for hours waiting for cool ones to come on. I really loved the stuff coming out for the 90’s British bands like Blur or Radiohead or Pulp. They were so glossy and arty and different. It made the world feel a lot bigger than the small Ontario town I grew up in. But it never really occurred to me that I’d ever have the occasion to make one.”