True Bromance with Boonparn and Loomis
Andy Bizer said “Man, you should get Boonparn to direct this thing. We’ll fly him down and give him a bunch of booze and po-boys.” Sure enough, that was the offer and that was the budget.
You would never guess at first glance that these two guys would be friends at all. Art Boonparn, a soft-voiced Thai-by-way-of-Connecticut Tulane student seemed like the yin to Louie Bankston’s Cajun maniac yang. But then that’s how the cosmos works sometimes, isn’t it? In the vibrant and too-small-to-clique-up underground music scene of New Orleans in the early ‘90s, Boonparn and Bankston (aka Loomis) were both workaholics when it came to creative output, so it was inevitable that their paths would cross—and cross often. Art DJed “The World of Punk” for WTUL, put out his zine, simply titled Boonparn(which was my high school handbook, by the way), played bass in the hardcore band Andon or just showed up randomly in bands and projects around the city. And by now you’re probably familiar with at least some of Louie’s discography, but let’s have another quick glance at a few of his past bands: the Clickums, Royal Pendletons, Loose Diamonds, the Persuaders, the Black Rose Band, his own One Man Band and now finally the Missing Monuments, Louie’s most focused attempt at a straight-ahead, radio-friendly (and now video-friendly) pop band. And while we lost Art to New York City following Katrina, he still haunts New Orleans from time to time and actually flew down a few months ago, reuniting with Louie to film the Missing Monuments’ first video. The track, “(I’m Gonna) Love You Back to Life” is a slightly melancholy, mid-tempo rocker transformed by the video into a soundtrack for a hot tub full of babes, blood and hot sauce, cut with a “live” performance that could double for early CBGB’s footage. I caught up with Art to talk about making the video, his relationship with Louie, exorcising demons and a little music video 101.
What made you and King Louie choose “(I’m Gonna) Love You Back to Life” in particular to shoot?
Choosing the song just happened because Louie sent me all the songs that are going to be on the Hozac 7” record and asked me to pick one for the video. After I listened to them all, I thought “(I’m Gonna)…” had all the elements that I was looking for in making a music video. It’s already a hit song and had an amazing guitar solo and it was just so catchy! I always feel like you can’t make a music video for an average, mediocre or crappy song. Like, to me, music videos enhance the song so I always want to start with an amazing song that I love and that was a song that when I listened to it, I truly dug it a lot and thought that it would be a good video song. I called Louie to discuss it and he agreed.
Who was the cast and crew and what equipment did you use?
For the cast and crew, I basically relied on a lot of old friends I knew from when I lived in New Orleans. Michael Bateman was a big help sort of being my assistant, because I was doing pre-production from New York a week before, getting ready to do the shoot in New Orleans. And I figured it would be good to get my friend, photographer Gary LoVerde involved to help be a shooter. I love his photography; he actually did the photo for the cover of the King Louie One Man Band Chinese Crawfish album that I’m on the cover of, so I thought it would be cool to get him involved… Warren’s interesting, he’s like Louie’s brother from another mother that he’s known since he was a child. He’s the painter in the video and he’s also the painter on the cover of the Missing Monuments Painted White album, so we thought it would be cool to get him in the video, so now the main subject of the album cover comes to life. The girls were all my old friends: Katie Boudreaux, Ashley Elliot, Camille Burke, Allie Ferguson—that was the first time I met her. She was cast by Bateman. One important member of the cast, Megan Murphy, was a friend of Louie’s. She was also brilliant and genius; she let Louie rub raw meat all over her. And they were really good! It was a hard thing to do to be in the bathtub full of raw meat, Zapp’s chips (that got really greasy), muffulettas, Crystal hot sauce—I had this idea from a vintage Crystal commercial where there are a bunch of people having a formal dinner and they toast Crystal hot sauce like glasses of wine, so I wanted to do that for this video and it just went crazy. I didn’t expect people to be dousing each other in hot sauce. So that was pretty amazing. And the way I like to work, I have things planned and then leave a lot of room for improvisation and anything goes and hopefully capture the moment.
The equipment we used: Gary has a Canon 7D and I have one also, so that’s what we used to shoot the haunted hot tub part and the shower scene and the party… For the live band performance we shot that in super 8 black and white… with a light that I used to shoot super 8 indoors. It’s like 800 watts of blinding light! The people in the crowd were old friends: Matt Vis, Ben [Glover] from Bipolaroid… and the other people were all great and danced along and did what we needed them to do. So overall it was great to come back and work on a project with a bunch of old friends. What can I say, it was a dream come true.
Can you talk a little bit about the concept? The haunted hot tub is pretty crazy. Who came up with that?
The haunted hot tub idea all came around because Louie just moved into this house that was haunted. He actually had to have a priest come in and get rid of the ghosts. He told me early on he was having trouble sleeping there because there were strange sounds and doors closing, cabinets closing in the middle of the night… And when I arrived in New Orleans and got to Louie’s house I noticed a cup of water with something on top of it. And Louie was like “Don’t touch that; that’s holy water and we need to have that here so the ghosts don’t come out.” And there’s actually a bathroom in Louie’s house where we had to make sure once you used it you closed the door so the ghosts wouldn’t come out. It’s funny too because if you’re a ghost I think you can go through doors…. Louie was sending me pictures of his house and the hot tub and I was talking to my girlfriend about it and we started brainstorming. She came up with this idea of a haunted hot tub. So in the beginning it was supposed to be a little darker, like any teen coming-of-rage horror movie, where you have these teenagers hanging out while their parents are out of town and things go awry; they’re trapped in this house and they don’t know what’s going on and of course, the hot tub scene would be part of that. But in the end when we got done with it (maybe because we were so wasted), it sort of became more of a Girls Gone Wild kind of thing and a hot tub full of Louisiana products. It’s more just a hot tub with a bunch of gross shit going on but I’m okay with that. At least it looks fun and that’s important.
I know you and Louie have known each other for a long time and he once said “I love that man, though I love no man.” Tell me a little bit about how y’all met and the connection you two have.
I moved to New Orleans around 1987 and at some point I met Louie at Muddy Waters when he was in the Clickums and then later on with his band with Mike Hurtt (pre-Royal Pendletons) and we’ve just known each other forever. We’re definitely brothers in a sense. We’ve always been close, worked on projects—he and Matt asked me to record the Royal Pendletons’ first 7” on Goner and we’ve always talked about playing music together… but we’ve never actually done a musical project together. Doing this video with him was something I really wanted to do. And thanks to Andy Bizer because—when all this stuff happened when they turned in the masters for the 7”—Andy said “Man, you should get Boonparn to direct this thing. We’ll fly him down and give him a bunch of booze and po-boys.” Sure enough, that was the offer and that was the budget. Louie was great; he took care of all the production costs. We had a lot of fun going shopping for props the day of the shoot because I got so wasted the night before. Louie had to nurse me back to health with Pedialyte and Chinese food. And then we went to Party City, the hardware store; we went to Webb’s Bywater Music to get the infamous flying V that ended up underwater and thanks also to Matt Muscle at Siberia for letting us do the live shoot there… In a way, Louie’s one of my best friends in New Orleans. Our connection runs much deeper too because of what we went through with Katrina. We were together two nights before, just hanging out, partying and I was actually going to leave with him and his girlfriend but I decided to stay behind with my friend Brian at the American Can Company. And finally Louie and I talked on the phone some months later and exchanged stories and just couldn’t believe how crazy it had been for both of us—much crazier for Louie than me. But at this point we’re just glad to be alive, happy that we have each other and really wish we could spend more time together, so hopefully I’ll be back down and we can make another video for the Missing Monuments.
How did you get involved in directing videos?
I guess I started working on music videos around 2003, 2004 for my old band Hotchkiss. I had this idea that we would do an album of 10 songs and each song would have a super 8 music video and you’d get it on CD and watch the video, too. I guess that project ended because of Katrina. Then I ended up in New York and while here, my old friend Peggy Wang from Metairie had just joined the Pains of Being Pure at Heart. The singer, Kip Berman, wanted to do a video on super 8. So she asked me, because she knew that I was into Super 8. What I quickly did was cut one of the videos I was working on for Hotchkiss, because it was an unfinished project. At this point, I didn’t really know what I was doing. I was using my 2005 Apple Powerbook and iMovie. And I cut a video for Hotchkiss and then I put it on Youtube and sent them the link to see what I could do—and this comes with no film school training at all. Just more of a love of film and a love of music. And I like working on music videos because as a musician, it’s interesting to me to figure out what clip goes with what part. I don’t like to edit too much on the rhythm. Pro editors like to use sound forms to figure out where to put the clip but I try to just feel it. So that happened with the Pains, I made their first video “Everything With You” and ever since that I’ve had a new career—though I can’t really call it that. It’s more like something new to do, creatively.
How relevant is the music video now?
I think now music videos are really relevant for younger bands. I think about growing up on MTV: all the music videos you’d see, like Tom Petty or U2, were really high budget; they were almost like little films. And then here comes 120 Minutes and all of a sudden you’re seeing Sonic Youth, Dinosaur Jr., Mudhoney or an early Nirvana video. It was really exciting to see. At this point I’m a teenager and I really like this band; I want to see them in their music video. But in those days that was the only way you could see it. You’d stay up on Sunday night and watch 120 Minutes just to learn about some new bands. And now it’s a lot different too because websites like Pitchfork or Stereogum are really helping to showcase indie music, so the music video is still very important. Although I have to feel like if I was in a band, the music video is probably the last expense on the list because you figure you have to pay for equipment, practice space or recording. But I definitely see that the bands who are motivated realize a music video will help a lot and it’s much easier to spread these days because of the internet and things like social media. A band can be on tour and post their video on the club they’re playing and maybe some people in town will see it and want to go see them. I wonder if this music video stuff, because of the internet, has sort of replaced what college radio was? That I don’t know but I feel like it does help and it’s a nice tool to have. It’s cool too because of the smaller music blogs or any music blog from any city. If they say hey, the Missing Monuments are playing tonight, check out their new video. Maybe it’ll bring some people out. The cool thing that the Missing Monuments are doing with this video is they actually made DVDs of the video. Not a DVD with a Quicktime file of the video, but a DVD you can bring home and put in your DVD player and play and I think that’s pretty genius.