The Rocks Off 200: Rachel Bays, Filming Them Softly
Welcome to The Rocks Off 200, our portrait gallery of the most compelling profiles and personalities in the far-flung Houston music community -- a lot more than just musicians, but of course they're in there too. See the original Rocks Off 100 at this link.
Rachel Bays standing in for a lighting check at the Tim Kasher shoot
Photo by Jonathan Conner
Who? Recently, the Houston Press took a good look at the people in Houston who direct music videos for some top local acts. One of the standouts on that list was Rachel Bays of Cymatic Pictures, who directed the video for Adam Bricks's melancholy "Kristmas." The video all but fell into our laps and showed great promise, making Bays high on the list of folks we want to see more from.
She got started thanks to Buxton's Chris Wise, who invited her to a CD release party eight years ago. It was the first local show that Bays had ever been to, and she was floored by the crowd's manic energy. More importantly, she wondered why no one was filming such a spectacle.
Since then she's made it a point to be the girl with the camera in her hand, taking high-quality live recordings from Houston's music heroes and now more artistic works through her original music videos. We can't wait to see where she goes from here.
Home Base: Bays has nothing but nice things to say about every venue she's been allowed to film in, but particular love goes to Walters. Her first video was shot there, where owner Pam Robinson allowed Bays complete run of the place. Later, on her own initiative, Robinson cut a hole above the sound booth because she thought it would make a neat place to put a camera from the attic. Bays sings Robinson's praises as a supporter of all aspects of Houston music very loudly.
Photo by Amanda J. Cain
Good War Story: "Save for getting knocked around at music festivals, they're pretty all tame," admits Bays. "The Tontons release show at Walters with Wild Moccasins, Young Mammals and Featherface was the most chaotic."
We had four cameras, three operators, and shot all four bands straight through. Usually we'd set up a large studio stand with a room mike, but since the show was sold out, it would have been too dangerous to have it in the crowd.
Instead, we extended a stand out from the window and duct taped it to a chair that was sitting in the attic. The entire set-up, shooting and breakdown time totaled ten hours. At one point during the show, someone had spilled a full beer on my back and it was running down my legs, but I didn't move a muscle because I wanted the shot.
Sadly, the audio and some of the video didn't come out very well and we had to scrap the whole show, but we learned a lot.
Story continues on the next page.
Music Scene Pet Peeve: At the end of the day, Bays is someone who does what she does because she fell in love with Houston's local bands. What makes her the saddest is watching these acts break up. She tends to get very attached to her subjects, and it's always a shame when that focus suddenly shatters.
Five Desert Island Discs:
- Led Zeppelin, IV
- Gustav Holst, The Planets
- Bill Conti, The Right Stuff/North and South
- Stevie Wonder, The Definitive Collection
- Fleetwood Mac, Rumors
Why Do You Stay In Houston? "There is a lot going on here," Bays says. "Even the filmmakers seem are coming out of the woodwork now, it's very exciting! In the beginning I thought I was the only one focusing on live performances, until I met Jon Conner and Jennifer Harley."
Jon and I officially incorporated Cymatic Pictures this year; [it's] a video-production company, and hope to see it grow. I am also in the middle of a degree so I will be here for a while. I prefer to travel, but I'll always consider this home.
In the beginning we had grandiose dreams of filming all of the shows for free or dirt-cheap and making super inexpensive videos -- just throwing everything we had at this scene. We just wanted to help, because we love these people and their music. But after about a year of data management, gear purchases, expenses, time spent away from work shooting and editing, it all became unsustainable.
I simply didn't have the personal cash to fund everything, and slowly had to sell out to corporate gigs. But I want to bring it back very soon, I want to investigate the history more and tell the story of this place. Ultimately, these musicians brought my love of film back to life. That's something you can never fully repay, and I can never thank them enough.
Best Show Ever: "That's a tie between Daniel Johnston at Fitz in 2012 and Plants and Animals in Dallas the same year," she says. "Daniel Johnston had this one line like, 'I love all of you people but I hate myself.' His lyrics are so endearing, yet brutally honest.
"Plants and Animals I drove to see with a friend, and they were so bummed when they came all the way down to Texas to play to 12 people," she continues. "But they played their hearts out anyway and it was just this intimate, intense, house-party vibe. Super-nice guys, too."
See the rest of the Rocks Off 200, and the Rocks Off 100's 2013 alumni, on the next page.
Punk-Rock "Newcomers" Screech of Death Erin Rodgers, the Keys to Glass the Sky Alex LaRotta, Crate-Digging Fistful of Soul Brother Alycia Miles, Triumphant Soul Singer DJ Piam, Poison Girl's Bacon-Fat Funk Specialist Mister Insane, Host of The Insane Show Jake Rawls -- Kemo For Emo Is Back Santos Pastrana, Sound Engineer and DJ Ninja Heading Upstream with RIVERS' Chris Tamez DJ Dayta, Keeper of That Good Good Matthew Davis Buehrer, Runaway Sun's Globally Thinking Bassist Fat Tony, Third Ward to "BKNY" Noon, Rapper With a Lot on His Mind Matt Cash, Clear Lake's Cassette Tape Wailer Jason Smith, Alkari's Space City Rocker DJ Penetrate, All Lit Up in "Neon Lights" Catch Fever Is Catching On Renée Jonard, Princess of Noise Pollution Junior Gordon, Big Man With a Big Sound Chad Smalley, Blaggards' Barse Player Damien Randle, K-OTIX Man of Action Kevin Anthony, 45 Southbound Man DJ Good Grief Knows How to Have Fun Robert Kuhn, the Well-Traveled Islander Gunnar Cushway, Insko's Feel-Good Utilityman Mario Rodriguez, Tax the Wolf/Bang Bangz's Wonky Power Monger John Smith, Goodtime Continental Club Manager Dwayne Cathey, A Good Man to Scare People With Walter Carlos, Guitar-Punisher of Funeral Horse Ryan James, Putting Up a Good Fight John Cramer, Guitar Apostle of Project Grimm Big Gerb, Houston's Hongree-est MC Steven Higginbotham, Hard-Working Wheel Worker Alisha Pattillo & Her Swaggering, Soulful Sax Brandon Ray, Punk Rocker Turned Filmmaker/Animator The Excitable Boys of Another Run Flash Gordon Parks, DJ as Funky Professor DJ Main Event, Kratez Crew JumpOff Man Odd Hours and Back to Back's Hank Doyle Legendary K-OTIX Producer Russel "The ARE" Gonzalez Dylan Bryson Sings the Blues (Rock) DJ Damon Allen, R.O.C.O. Fellow Tom Lynch, New Kid On the Block Ashley Worhol, Goth-Metal Queen of Katy Joe Ortiz, Clockpole's Master of Nonsense Marzi Montazeri, the Man Dimebag Darrell Called a Bad Motherfucker John Salinas, the Beat Beast of Only Beast Homegrown Cowboy Crooner Charles Peters Adam Bricks, NYC Expat Metal Journeyman and Blasé Bassist Alan Hilton Kyra Noons, Houston's Reggae Sunsplash DJ AudiTory, the Maestro of LuvItMane The Nephilim Terror's Death-Metal Growler Danny Carroll Tommy Grindle, Guitarist of Square and Compass The Bailout Bureau's Mysterious "Bob Bovary" DJ Twinkle-Toes, Won a "Dick-Measuring Vinyl Orgy" With Two iPods Beanz N Kornbread, Gmail-Loving Production Duo You(genious), Party Crasher Turned Musical Auteur Daniel Alexander, Klein's Backyard MC
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