It doesn't take Daniel Baldwin long to tell a joke that punchlines with philosophical rhetoric on the necessities of an on-set blow-job. That he plays the priest in the day's music video only makes it funnier. That the day's setting is the American Apparel mansion in Silverlake only makes it seem plausible.
Last week's shoot for The Gray Kid's “Happy Feet,” a song off his incredibly slept-on 2007 release, Vultures, had all the seeming excesses of music videos from a forgotten big budget time. Most obviously, there was the mansion, more specifically, American Apparel founder Dov Charney's stunning palace with a 360-view of Los Angeles — from Downtown's skyline to the mountains behind the Hollywood Hills. Then there was the presence of celebrity, taking the form of the aforementioned Baldwin brother. And there was a vintage Jaguar being driven by the song's singer. But a quick look at the catering — four medium pizzas and a few bottles of soda — proved that this wasn't a return to the million dollar videos of yore.
“It was definitely enjoyable, especially considering the means and shooting this super DIY style,” says Gray Kid says.
The loose narrative of the video is one of wedding day betrayal. It begins with a beautiful woman going on three dates with different men, before it's revealed that she's The Gray Kid's beautiful bride and the suitors are his groomsmen. In storyboard form, most everything is left unsaid and director Jenny Moyal's lo-fi style suggests that the final product will stay that way.
“She's pure aesthetics and has a very distinct approach, in respect to the technology,” Gray Kid, born Steve Cooper, says of the director. “Like using the actual Mac as the lock-off camera, sometimes, and for the most part, her output has been very fun to look at.”
As visually fun as it is to look at, her melancholy work and stylistic jump edits could appear a little at odds with the blissful laments of the songs and narrative aspect of the video. “The song is very pristine and cherubic,” he says, “but I think that there's something about the lo-fi thing, nowadays seeing all the HD, HD, HD, that brings it back to a dreamscape, and there's something very dreamy about the song.”
There's certainly something dreamy about the day's location, as well. Busts of butts and breasts sprinkle the otherwise elegant living room, next to large curios filled with ceramic animal figurines, while a chandaliered freight elevator stands dark and dormant in the main entry way. It's bustling with people but still feels incredibly empty. And like the video itself, there's something underlyingly unusual about the location, hiding under the surface of something that shouldn't be any more commonplace. It's a music video in a mansion with a celebrity cameo, but it's not.
“Happy Feet” is a spot of blazing sunshine on an otherwise dark album, one which showcases Gray Kid's indie rock tendencies…without a single bar of rapping. It was created as a soundtrack for the play, “Phaedra's Love,” a performance that never came to fruition when the rights were rescinded at the last minute. The album, which is well over a year old, never really went anywhere, despite an aesthetic that should've had the Pitchfork set giddily clamoring.
Gray Kid hopes that the video will introduce the song again, making way for the release of Free Music on “March Twentysomethingth,” and makes the DC-born musician's entire catalog available for gratis download. (His song “So My” from the album plays a key role in the 30 Rock episode “Source Awards” from last year.) It's also an indication of Gray Kid's recent direction, which sees him helming the lead for Spirit Animal, a band that plays his old hits as well as new ones. And between the mansion and the Baldwin, hopefully someone will be listening this time.
“The first music video I did was for Digital Underground with Tupac Shakur, so I'm old school, man,” Daniel Baldwin says. “This is a little different budget. Dan Akroyd and I did a little movie that he directed called Nothing But Trouble, with John Candy, Chevy Chase and Demi Moore…and Digital Underground came in and did the “Humpty Dump” song. Then they invited us to their video.”
Of Gray Kid, Baldwin says, “I like his voice, I like the tone of it…plus, I like the man. I've met a lot of young, up and coming artists over my years of doing the acting profession, and he's a very genuine person and I think you can hear that in his words when he sings.”
And, six-degrees-wise, Gray Kid was in the video for “Happy Feet” with Daniel Baldwin, who was in “Phoenix” with Kathryn Joosten, who was in “Rails & Ties” with Kevin Bacon. So this is a fairly Hollywood tidbit for the press releases. “Well, I mean,” Gray Kid says, “I put bacon in everything….asparagus, fuckin' chocolate, everything.”
The Gray Kid performs with Spirit Animal tonight at Spaceland, alongside Asa Ransom