Moody Houston alt-rock band Pale premiered its video for "Catastrophic Skies," a song that was once under serious consideration for one of the Twilight soundtracks, last week. David A. Cobb of Houston Calling was invited to the set and sent in this report...
In late April, I got a call from Pale's singer/guitarist Calvin Stanley asking if I would be interested in checking out a video shoot for the band's new song, "Catastrophic Skies." I was intrigued, as I had never gone to a video shoot before, had been listening to an MP3 of the song for a while, and was curious to see how the band's video would play out. Plus, Stanley indicated that the shoot would be par with a Hollywood production.
One Saturday morning in early May, I drove to the edge of downtown Houston, past where I'd normally feel even remotely comfortable venturing, and ended up at a dilapidated mill or warehouse in the Fifth Ward that is apparently where Art Cars go to die. It was immediately obvious that the video shoot was indeed a massive event, complete with everything you'd expect in a Hollywood-style production: make-up, costumes, pyrotechnics, catering, generator trucks, photographers, extras, and hangers-on like me.
The first person I encountered was Hank Schyma (lead singer/guitarist for Southern Backtones), who I would later find out plays a fairly prominent role in Pale's video. Schyma and I have spoken on many occasions, and I am a fan of the Backtones' music, so my inquisitive nature led us down the path of discussing his band as opposed to what I probably should have been covering.
Why I didn't question the eye patch still baffles me.
Prior to "Catastrophic Skies," Pale had a trio of videos under its belt, some successful, some not so much.
"'Glowing Black' was my favorite up 'til now," Stanley says. "It seemed to fit the song very well, and it was in working on that video that I met some of the same people who worked on this one. There is, however, no comparison between experiences.
"We shot 'Glowing Black' and 'There' in one six-hour day in the same place. Jason Konopisos directed those, and he's just that good. I'm sure we'll work with him again. 'Catastrophic Skies' was the kind of experience that many Hollywood veterans who worked on it said it was the most legit set that they'd ever worked on.
"I loved being told what to do for once. The same concept and sound as big as it was that I saw in my dreams, I literally now can watch. It's a miracle."
It was also readily apparent that the theme of the video was some apocalyptic aftermath, with upwards of 50 extras dressed in Mad Max-style finery. In case you're curious, apparently skateboards, cigarettes, make-up, motorcycles, musical instruments and microphones survive the apocalypse (or whatever).
I spoke with each of the band members- guitarist Robb Moore, drummer Travis Middour, bassist Stephen Wesson and Stanley - during the shoot, but mostly left them alone to focus on the video. Director Sean Duke, along with cinematographer Chase Rees and the rest of the crew, kept a level head throughout my time on the shoot, despite the heat and tedium of watching one scene over and over.
"It was a huge production," Stanley says. "Much bigger than we anticipated. It was an honor to have what started as a small, independent project turn into a virtual media love fest. We had the best of the best come in from around the state to work on this and volunteer their talent and time, initially because they believed in this song and the band..."
I gave up after the crew nailed the video's initial scene, although I was curious to see how the entire video would take shape. Moore told me that he heard that the video would be ready by the end of May - a deadline I knew to be rather aggressive - and it surprised me when I found out last week that Pale was holding a premiere of the "Catastrophic Skies" video at River Oaks Theater. I hadn't returned for the second day (and night) of filming, so I didn't know what to expect.
"I was very surprised it came together so quickly after filming," Stanley says. "Chase Rees, who shot the video, also edited the entire project. He was so in love with what we had achieved, his impatience level met mine, and that's a beautiful thing. With this band, I want it now, I want it fast. Everyone worked hard and wanted to be able to see their work, so yeah, it was fast.
"Personally, I'm thrilled with the final product," he says. "The band is thrilled with the final product, which is highly satisfying considering I had to build this thing so quickly. I've gotten to where sometimes I don't inform them properly. It's a bad habit, but there's a motivation that comes with that.
"After we had finished the song for the Twilight film people, they didn't get back in touch with us. Our record label was dragging its feet doing anything. Our manager had just committed suicide. My philosophy for surviving in this business and keeping the band inspired to rise above the many heartbreaks we've been put through is to always outdo ourselves whether anyone is paying attention or not.
"My first priority was to reward the guys for all their sacrifices and perseverance with something a bit eternal; a great concept on the big screen - and trust me, when our parents saw this with glowing approval for once- that's a hell of an accomplishment."
Despite its theme, the video for "Catastrophic Skies" is not all serious. Between Schyma's eye patch and Southern drawl, Stanley's Texas fetish and Moore's joke about his guitar, the video contains plenty of humor.
"My favorite part of the video has to be Robb's solo," Stanley says. "I practically lived with this man for almost a decade and still geek out with fan boy lust when watching him play. He's going to be a legend whether he knows it or not."
"Catastrophic Skies" seems to be laying the groundwork for another film, and Stanley says he has plans for a trilogy: "I'm already writing what would be the prequel and then will move on to the finale. If we manage to obtain and expand this team and (hopefully) pay them, I'd like to go bigger and more intense with both projects. I'm also considering writing a feature-length film under this concept."
Stanley says the band has recorded more than 20 new songs for an upcoming release, but wants to spend some time focusing on spreading the word about Pale's new video. "We have a lot of plans to get this video out," he says. "It's gonna cost some money but that's the game and we're done screwing around..."
"Much like this video, we are expecting a masterpiece in a very thorough story that I think everyone will want to hear," he says. "Stay tuned at Palerocks.com and please join us in our fight to get Houston recognized internationally for what it is: An incredible artistic community."