Riding Into Canyon Candy: Q&A with Javelin
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Cousins Tom Van Buskirk and George Langford started cranking out beats together as youngsters at their family’s summer house in Cape Cod. A boombox, a microphone, and a Gameboy were their earliest instruments. Since then, the duo, having dubbed themselves Javelin, have come a long way — they’re releasing music on David Byrne’s Luaka Bop label, and touring the country at a near-constant pace. Their journey’s through the great American west proved inspiring. And, so, we come to Canyon Candy– a new record and film inspired by the duo’s travels, trials and tribulations, so to speak, in the American West.
Can you take us into the original impetus for the project?
It started driving through the Western landscape, as we say in our video — but the very first inkling of Canyon Candy was from a minute-long track we had made in about 2006. Just a short cowboy tune cut up for a project in which we collaged record covers and did the same to the music on said record. The song (and record) is “Songs Of The West.” Luke Fischbeck (Lucky Dragons, whose Sarah Rara currently has a project on Kickstarter) came up with the title Canyon Candy, which we liked because it sounded vaguely euphemistic.
I remember hearing Cowpoke about a year ago, which has a distinctively western beat. Had you conceived the idea of Canyon Candy as a cohesive set of tunes inspired by western ballads?
“Cowpoke” was an early re-visitation of the cowboy idea. By then we had already begun conceiving the record, but we still didn’t know yet if we could actually do it. That track came out of feeling just dead beat after touring (we toured about 80% of the time for a period of 6 months). Cowboy music was the perfect remedy to being completely
spent on performing dance music.
Javelin’s sounds have always been very visual to me. Was there any plan to do a long form film to the music, or was it just a happy coincidence of merging ideas?
George often talks about tracks in visual terms — he once sent me a track saying “picture you’re in Vietnam, the hot bow of a patrol boat, and this comes on the tiny radio.” I think this way of picturing music, especially the instrumental/recording aesthetic side of music, is brilliant. There was never a plan to make a film version of Canyon Candy. It was pure happenstance. Mike (Anderson) and Johanna (Hickey, lead actress) had been working on a pitch for a gallery show about buffalo. George took him into the other room and showed him what he was working on — a song about buffalo.
Aside from living in Brooklyn, did you feel like you had to film in NY? And in turn, what challenges/advantages do you think this will have on the aesthetic values of the film?
Director Mike Anderson: Filming in NYC is amazing as we’re surrounded by incredibly
talented people who are generous enough to donate their time. Nobody’s getting paid on this, it’s all volunteer. The best thing about it is the constrictions that New York provides: you can’t just drive out to the desert like in LA or whatever and shoot some sunsets.
Because of that, we’re creating everything from scratch, so it’s a totally controlled, singular vision. There’s a tremendous amount of freedom if you’re given an empty box and told “make a Western in this.”
What films in particular helped inspire the attitude/aesthetic of Canyon Candy?
Mike: My grasp of film history is pretty shallow. Oscar (Boyson, producer) has seen everything that’s ever been made and remembers it shot-by-shot. Not me. He’s dropped tons of must-sees on me: Johnny Guitar, Rio Bravo, Tears of the Black Tiger (so dope, that one’s Thai), etc. I came into film through painting. So while I’m naturally drawn to like George Melies or Metropolis, I look to artists first. Bruce Nauman, Kerry James Marshall, Simon Starling: I like the way those guys compose a narratives. Way-late-Picasso. Jack Kirby, Cormac McCarthy. The dioramas in the Museum of Natural History.
What made you think, “We may want to turn to Kickstarter for this?”
We weren’t seeing a whole lot of help from our label, mainly because the scope of what we wanted to do was bigger than a music video. We wanted it to be a bite-sized internet epic, the idea being that, attention spans as short as they are, we were going to make viewers have to sit through shots and really engage with a dreamy slow pace— and of course knock their socks off with intense action and violence to make
the dichotomy work. It was a bigger project than we could fund ourselves, and we didn’t want corporate sponsorship meddling with our vision!
Oscar Boyson (film producer): A lot of the ideas behind the film were well developed before we started looking for funding. We considered collaborating with a number
of different brands in hopes of getting a bigger budget, but all that really did was inflate our sense of what the project could be. We opted for Kickstarter because were sick of waiting around for someone else to give us the green light and we knew we’d lose momentum on a project that we all love. It has a contagious kind of passion to it which we thought would translate well on Kickstarter, and we knew that between the Playbutton, the record, and some of the other amazing prizes we could give people some strong incentives to get involved.
You guys are doing some cool stuff with the release, particularly
the playbutton badge? Sherrif’s badges were always really prominent in
my youth. How did you hook up with Playbutton? Who designed the
button? It’s way cooler than an iPod.
Playbutton is the best idea in the world of portable music right now. My brother clued me into its existence — a stand-alone lightweight button with music on it and a headphone jack. The buttons are produced in New York I think but the guy I met was European, (he ruled!). Our Playbutton design seemed obvious to us — it couldn’t
have been anything but a sheriff’s badge. Paul Diddy, Luaka Bop’s design commando, helped us design the badge image and the art for the box. Anyone know the people who buy for Urban Outfitters? This thing is the shit!
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