Bands on film
A revolving cast of collaborators making music videos in Room 708
Though the website and live-video music project takes its name from the address of Origami Lounge—the place where each session is filmed and ostensibly produced by the recording studio/venue’s Scott Barwick—the owner/impresario is quick to note that Room 708 is a collaborative project.
“From the beginning, I wanted to make this a collective type of thing,” Barwick explained, slouching in an office chair in the control room of the cavern-like complex at Seventh and Cherry streets. “I’m into music and video and have a lot of friends that are, too, and know there’s a lot of other talent out there. So I figured, I have the space, let’s do something fun.
“I wanted people who don’t normally work together to work together, and collaborate with people I’ve never had the chance to before,” he continued. “Music is an easy way to bring all kinds of artists—musicians, photographers, set designers, whatever—together. My original idea was to have a revolving cast of completely different people working on each session.”
While touting the idea to possible collaborators, Barwick found two people—videophiles Robbie Reaves and Kyle Forrest Burns—who were particularly interested. With the trio forming the foundation, they recruited more friends, began filming and launched a website featuring videos of their first three acts—locals The Sad Bastards and Bunnymilk and Oakland’s Avita Treason—last spring.
The selection of artists is not limited by genre and a different nook or cranny of Origami’s spacious interior is transformed into a set for each shoot. The videos also vary a great deal cinematically. For example, Bunnymilk’s performances are somber, soft-focused and dimly lit, while Avita Treason’s are hyper-colored, heavily-filtered and filled with quick cuts.
Barwick said he wants to keep the overall mix of local to touring artists equal. Subsequent sessions have featured Chico’s Into the Open Earth and The Hambones, as well as touring bands True Widow (Denton, Texas) and You Are Plural (Olympia, Wash.).
Barwick said the Room 708 shooting process is rather loose and always developing, but usually begins with someone stepping into the director role.
“A lot of it is pretty off the cuff,” Burns added. “Sometimes the only pre-thought-out thing is who’s directing. They might have a vision of how to set up and then we all bounce ideas off each other.”
The band plays three songs, each with two takes, while the crew of the moment films the action on two to three cameras, depending on available manpower and equipment, while Origami’s recording resources are used to capture the audio. In keeping with the collaborative aesthetic of the project, directors hand the visuals off to an editor and sound engineers pass the audio on to be mixed by someone else.
This has already led to some interesting collaborations and not just with locals, Barwick noted.
“Ephriam [Nagler] from You are Plural is an audio engineer at a great studio in Olympia, so it was really cool for him to get to take his own band’s music and mix it,” he said.
Burns, Barwick and Reaves have redoubled their Room 708 activities recently, and hope to keep up a steady pace in the future. They’ve also considered branching out and doing more video work, such as short documentaries. However the project evolves, they’re all enjoying the collaborative process, and its final products.
“Everyone I show it to is surprised at the quality,” Reaves said. “We’re trying to do something we can all be proud of.”
“What I like most is that it’s like-minded people getting together and doing something creative,” Burns said. “I grew up being home schooled and making movies with my brothers. This has been a great opportunity to meet more people and do that.”
Barwick and company said they hope to recruit more people into the fold and are constantly looking for artists and technicians of all stripes to collaborate on future projects.
“The more people we have who are interested, the more we can do,” Barwick said.