Week in Pop: Bobbi Rush, King Z3US, Longface

Sjimon Gompers

The rise of Baltimore boss Bobbi Rush; press photo courtesy of BobbiRush.

Longface

Strolling through the green fields with Longface; photographed by Natalie Escobedo.

Amid the complexities & quagmires of our modern age, innovative creations from the American primitive canon offer glimpses of a holistic sort of magic & mysticism. Blending trad inspirations & elements of magical realism, Longface presents the world premiere for their enchanted & odd video for “Crescent Moon” from Mark Skala for Skalawag Productions featured off their Sooper Records album Hillbilly Wit. The strange & enchanted wonderland welcomes you to witness & experience yourself, starring Anthony Focareto as Longface Basketcase, Andrea Mattson as Lady Gaea/veil dancer, Brianda Muriel as Hoola Hooper, Ginette Bernadini as a fire dancer/painter, Sean Hastings as orbucculum reader, Charles Jospeh Smith as a dancer with a team of creatures comprised of Patrick Holbrook, Darlene Vinicky, Eli Kercado, Glenn Curran, Jennifer Cronin & John Daniel. Mythic mayhem will spring before your very senses as old world weirdness meets the alchemy & imagination that keeps us inspired here in the now of our current era.

Having just finished their tour in support of their album Hillbilly Wit, Chicago’s Longface pulls out all the creative stops for their imaginative video for “Crescent Moon”. Longface’s signature organically grown sound is complimented with visuals of the magical, fantastic, enchanted, mysterious & otherworldly as every harmonic chorus & strum of string is treated to equally arresting images. The eponymous “Crescent Moon” serves as a paper mache centerpiece of the song & video as a mysterious wicker-headed (or moon-headed if you well, serving as something of a lunar representation in human form) individual is lamented & a fortune teller becomes overtaken by something foreseen in their crystal ball. Dark cloaked dancers partake in a masquerade ritual joined by flame wielders, a cryptic ballet of hoops & other odd choreographed elements that encircle the symbol of the song’s namesake. Longface’s ballad for the curved moon is presented as a fantasia that personifies a lunarian life, where we witness the life, times & strange sacrifice of the paper moon by way of immolated martyrdom. “Crescent Moon” is a mystic ode to the planet that reflects solar beams to earth during the sun’s absence by night, paying homage to a creative mythology that feels like a timeless tale & testament to the glowing character that shines upon us like a galactic beacon in the evening hours after dusk.

Longface took the time to talk to us about Hillbilly Wit & the video for “Crescent Moon” in the following interview:

Share some reflections about what the making of Hillbilly Wit was like for you all. What sorts of takeaways & Wisdom did you all takeaway from the making of the Hillbilly Wit album?

Hillbilly Wit evolved from the attempt to make a rock album into becoming a much more ambitious project. The initial Longface EP (The Life and Death of Longface, 2015) established a cast of characters basically by chance. The lyrics were written collaboratively in a group setting, and a loose story with a narrative arch is what came out. The band and chemistry at that time were new, and for whatever reason, riffing on characters was a lot of fun and a fruitful way to develop lyrical ideas as a group.

When we started Hillbilly Wit, we naturally fell into continuing some of the themes established in the EP. However, we aimed to be more descriptive and thematic in the exploration of the Longface universe. We already told a story on the EP. In Hillbilly Wit we wanted to capture what the Longface universe looks, sounds, and feels like. We wanted to show it to people as opposed to explain it. Conveying that vision required just as much effort and collaboration in the visual presentation of the material as the music did. One lesson that came out of it is that sometimes a conceptual musical undertaking also requires an equally strong visual presentation. The visual presentation will impact how people receive and understand the conceptual aspects of the music. So, we worked just as hard in collaboration with visual artists as we did with each other writing the music. Specifically, we worked with the following artists:

Nnamdi Ogbonnaya made the “Howdy” animated Video.
Ryan Gregory made the “Deep Fried American Dreams” video.
Mark Skala and Skalawag Production made the “Crescent Moon” video.
Jennifer Cronin made the album covers.

Natalie Escobedo made all of the band and associated album photography.

Walk us through the inspirations that informed the imaginative and mystical visual odyssey for “Crescent Moon” from Anthony Focareto, Mark Skala, and Skalawag Productions.

The “Crescent Moon” video was inspired by the visual creations of Anthony. For the better part of a year before the video shoot (while Hillbilly Wit was being written, recorded, and mixed) Anthony was exploring found object art and sculpture in his free time. He would find things and paint, change, or alter them into something else. Those creations were being influenced by the process of writing and recording Hillbilly Wit, and vice versa. The “basket case” mask that appears in the video came from a wicker cradle that Anthony found in an alley while walking his dog. He thought it looked creepy and turned it into a mask. There is a photograph out there somewhere of Anthony right after he found it, wearing the cradle unaltered on his head [laughs]. Ultimately, he amassed a large assortment of objects influenced by the Longface universe that the band was simultaneously constructing in “Hillbilly Wit.” These objects were a natural source of material and inspiration for a video. For “Crescent Moon,” Anthony designed the sets and acted as creative director with the use of the objects he fashioned. He worked closely with director Mark Skala and the rest of the crew of Skalawag to bring “Crescent Moon” to life. Mark spent a lot of time with Anthony exploring the sets and the objects. They went through a few drafts of the script. They riffed, collaborated, and progressed ideas back and forth. Mark is an incredible director. Anthony would propose overly ambitious ideas, and Mark would rein them in to account for what was feasible. Mark and Skalawag also used a number of experimental techniques to create and influence the imagery of the video. They spent a lot of time exploring slow motion, visual layering, and dramatic lighting. It was fantastic; that shoot (two twelve hour days of shooting across two locations with a cast and crew exceeding 15 people) may have been the best part of creating the record. Anthony pulled all nighters before each shoot to prep and design the locations.

Cover of Hillbilly Wit, photographed by Natalie Escobedo, artwork by Jennifer Cronin, layout & design by Dillon Kelley.

How do you feel the inventive and ritualistic video furthers the power and purpose of “Crescent Moon”?

“Crescent Moon” is about imaginative escape. The lyrics are about imagining being somewhere else. The ritualism in the video helps to convey the escapist and imaginative qualities. The video as a whole also sheds light onto the contours of the Longface universe by manifesting what his imagination conjures when left to wander.

What other visuals and musical odysseys do you all have in the works?

Right now we are concentrating on the live show, and how to convey the Longface aesthetic on stage. We are not 100% sure what the next chapter will look and sound like, but we have started to discus creative ways to expand the musical and visual aspects of the project. We’re very much interested in collaboration and trying to break down our artistic boundaries. Hillbilly Wit is a good start, but in some ways the ambitious conceptual nature of the project is challenging us to really do something big and different. Hopefully, we can answer that call to action even modestly.

Latest notes & thoughts on the Chicago scenes?

The Chicago music community is very rich, eclectic, and diverse. There is this pervasive sense amongst its participants that something is happening here. If enough people believe and work for it, then it must be true. The “scenes” are also very diverse in terms of genre. There are rock circles, hip-hop circles, experimental circles, etc. But there is a pretty strong effort to build eclectic bills and bring communities together. It’s sometimes hard to see where one community ends and the other begins because there are so many points of contact and enveloping outgrowths and collaborations. We played a show recently at a premiere venue with a hip-hop artist, a noise rock project, and an avant-garde experimental group. It was amazing. A lot of people / bands / artists in our immediate community collaborate and engage in extensive mutual aid and support. Everyone tours with each other, works on releases together, plays in each other’s bands, and shows up to each other’s shows. People champion eachother here. In a big, big way. It’s not just lip service, it feels like a community. Our label, Sooper Records (of which Glenn is a co-founder), like so many other organizations and outlets in Chicago, is trying to make inroads between communities and establish platforms for the amazing acts in the Chicago scene to be projected out into the great beyond.

Local activism and artists we should be hip to?

We tend to immerse ourselves in the work of our peers and contemporaries here in the city, and the people that come to mind immediately are those that we just collaborated with for Hillbilly Wit. We think people should check out visual artist Ryan Gregory (Flint, MI; made the “Deep Fried American Dreams” video), painter visual artist Jennifer Cronin (who made the album covers), photographer Natalie Escobedo (who did all of the inspired photography for the album and its launch), Nnamdi Ogbonnaya (who made the “Howdy” animated video) Mark Skala and Skalawag Productions (who made the “Crescent Moon” video), and Brian Sulpizio of the amazing band Health & Beauty (who engineered, contributed to, and mixed Hillbilly Wit).

2018 Meditations, prayers and wishes?

2018 will hopefully be a year of growth, inspiration and exploration through travel, tour, and work on the next chapter of Longface.

Longface’s Hillbilly Wit is available now via Sooper Records & you are invited to experience it for yourself.

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