Mission: Create 10 hilarious, spectacular YouTube videos combining artwork, photography, and choreography by six seriously talented individuals with new orchestral versions of my "Household Items" music. Household Items is a collection of songs comically utilizing sources of text like commercial products, my childhood poetry, and lease documents for lyrics and artistic inspiration. Since composing music from warnings on a can Spot Shot carpet cleaner, I've produced 23 songs and 2 videos (Pirate's Booty and Chester the Bull) using an eclectic set of genres to assign musical identities to colorful texts. Examples include the description on a box of SleepyTime Herb Tea sung as a soothing lullaby, grooming instructions from my beard trimmer belted like a Gospel anthem, and a childhood poem about a lonely bull combining music that could be from a scary movie, cartoon, and jungle-based reality show. Whatever the style or text, the goal of Household Items remains the same: create an experience that is both musically engaging and makes people nearly burst internal organs laughing.
My new videos will build on the success of my collaborations with artist Heidi Aispuro and working with an ensemble of strings and rhythm section by bumping things up a few notches; l'll harness the power of an orchestra, the artistry of my many collaborators, and the photo submissions of project backers to create a smorgasbord of entertaining sights and sounds. It's my belief that these Household Items videos will create lots of laughs and smiles and turn my project from a quirky thing friends and family know about into a YouTube sensation, helping me discover an audience for my music. I also plan to use the new artwork and expanded instrumentation for live performances and to enhance an educational music program I developed called Story Songs.
Why I need your help: Funds raised through this campaign will commission work from 3 artists as well as choreography, photography (plus photo editing and props), and videography; cover costs of recording a 23 piece ensemble with strings, brass, rhythm section, timpani, and vocals in a professional recording studio; and pay for a publicist to get the videos seen by the masses. I can't begin to express the trust I have in all these talented people and how amazing the results will be, provided we can get it funded. Keep reading for closer look at the wild plans you can help me execute, information about the amazing talent I'll hopefully soon be working with, and a history of Household Items.
The New Plans:
Function Urban Detox: "Featuring a powerful combination of prickly pear extract and the smog scrubbing super anti-oxidant n acetylcysteine" and some 80s Michael Jackson-esque grooves. I'm excited to design and model an "urban warrior" outfit.
Warnings From Paul Applegren's Elevator: A friend found this sign in his building's elevator that seems designed to induce panic if one was ever trapped there, despite its efforts to the contrary. Favorite Line: "There is little danger of this elevator running out of air or dropping uncontrollably." Artist Heidi Aispuro will be complimenting a increasingly turbulent musical landscape provided by a klezmer ensemble with an illustrated story of being stuck in an elevator.
Important Questions (My Insurance Company Requires I Ask): A list of ridiculous questions from my landlord blends nicely with a little old-timey music. There's only one appropriate answer to all questions and audiences are always happy to help provide it! Expect pictures of me riding a siberian tiger around my apartment, having friends over for a kiddie pool party, and attempting to do tricks on a trampoline.
Trader Joe's Cinnamon Raisin Granola: An ode to a tasty cereal that is sadly no longer on the market. It's hard to match the enthusiasm that Trader Joe's sometimes describes their products with, but I think I have an answer with a live Celtic music video featuring the ferocious tap skills of dancer/choreographer Ian Berg.
Sleepy Time Herb Tea: "The part of the day spent with Sleepytime Herb Tea is like coming home to find a friend waiting for you by the fire" I don't have a fireplace and none of my friends have keys to my place, so that's a slightly disturbing thought. However, you won't hear any disturbing sounds in the music; only beautiful, gentle strings and delicate images by artist Alison Healy to soothe you, because "There's no time like Sleepytime"
Firewood Addendum: You know you landlord is a little nuts when your lease includes a dense document on proper firewood storage, maintenance, and carrying instructions. Laura and the Orchestra bring the intricacies to life musically as images appear and fade in front of the fireplace.
Aerosol Warnings: I've always joked at shows that Household Items is "edutainment," because certain songs have important life lessons, like teaching all the things one shouldn't do with an aerosol product. Watch for a personal demonstration of unsafe behaviors as the orchestra drives home the danger.
How To Grow a Beard/Mustache (Instructions From My Beard Trimmer): We've all wondered how to do it right. Listen for some solid, soulful advice on points to consider when growing or maintaining a beard/mustache. I'll be helping reinforce the message with concrete examples of different facial hair configurations.
If Poems: Here's my answers when I was 8 years old about what I would do if I was the president (make sure there were no problems), could go anywhere (go to China to see a couple of baseball games), have any pet (a monkey who can only say computer and fun), and had a thousand dollars (go see MC Hammer; buy vending machines). Music to be accompanied by original artwork also from when I was 8 and 1990 clip art.
Avon Peach Hand Lotion: The orchestra will help you "imagine the juicy aroma of a ripe, luscious peach" and do its a best to create a pampering, pleasant smelling experience for you. Expect further pampification from art by Jen Dervan.
The Creative Team
Heidi Aispuro, Artist: I discovered Heidi's talents watching her meticulously sculpt trombones out of tin foil as a roommate. I became more impressed upon seeing her notebooks of drawings that combined a sharply honed technique with imaginative, satirical humor. Thus the seed was planted for our collaborations on Pirate's Booty and Chester the Bull. One viewing of either video is all it takes to know the skill and wit of this fine artist.
Alison Healy, Artist: Alison is a versatile artist with an extensive catalogue of beautiful paintings, book illustrations, posters, cards, album artwork, and even hand-carved wands. She designed artwork for my 2nd album, Rhombus, that knocked my socks off and I'm very excited to see what she cooks up for the video series.
Jennifer Dervan, Artist: I became excited about the potential for collaborating after learning of the beautiful children's stories Jen authored and illustrated while working together at the Concord Conservatory of Music. For our first project, I composed music to one of her stories, combining it with narration to create a multimedia version of Myles the Shy Rooster. I'm thrilled to be working with her again.
Stephanie Golas, Photographer: My wife is an amazing photographer with a special knack for taking silly pictures. We had a blast working together on the hundreds of shots needed for Pirate's Booty and the results really speak for themselves.
Ken Michaels, Photo Editor: Check out Ken's video reel to see his magic of removing objects from photos! His skill at this makes him a sought after man by lots of companies looking to present the perfect image. I'm of course asking him to reserve this process to conjure up the impossible. When you see me scratching the ears of a Siberian Tiger in my apartment, remember it's not real and that no animals were harmed in the making of these movies.
Laura Grill, Vocalist: I feel lucky every time I have the opportunity to make music with Laura. Not only does she have a beautiful sound and refined technique, Laura possesses a versatility that makes her perfectly suited to the bizarre demands of Household Items music (being able to sing a soothing lullaby, operatic rock, and Mariah Carey-like pop).
Ian Berg, Choreographer & Tap Dancer: I met Ian recently after seeing him dance with a 20 piece big band. Hearing that performance and then watching a 50 minute show, "Chairs," he produced inspired me to carve out a place in the Household Items series for tap dancing. Ian will be choreographing "Trader Joe's Cinnamon Raisin Granola" in a live music/dance video.
TBA, 23 amazing musicians: Through my studies at New England Conseravtory and seven years playing music in Boston, I have worked with many incredibly talented and visionary musicians and have a dream team all lined up for this project!
The Household Items Story:
Household Items was born 2005 in Los Angeles, California. I was searching for texts to compose music for a friend who was a talented operatic singer. My friend suggested self-help books, but after reading the warning label on a can of Spot Shot Carpet Cleaner while cleaning up cat poop I became enamored of the dramatic potential of product descriptions, warnings, and ingredient lists.
In 2008 vocalist Angela Vicente and I recorded the 10 songs I had written using products, which included descriptions from a wine bottle, hand lotion, and the ingredient list of my prescription mouthwash. We pressed 1000 CDs and went on the road, performing in 8 cities on a path from Los Angeles to Seattle, and I learned the hard truth of touring. After sending hundreds of emails in attempts to book gigs, get media coverage, and find local bands to open for, we played for an average of 4 people per night. The tour taught me that making money playing original music is really hard but the fun of performing this music also left me determined keep going. While I haven't released any Household Items albums since then due to the financial black hole that is making an album, I've continued to perform the music and expand on the Household Items concept.
In 2010, I began work on my first multimedia video, Pirate's Booty, after becoming obsessed with the cheesy snack and pirate themed description. After composing 10 minutes of operatic pirate music, I brought together an artist, opera singer with a great pirate voice, a girlfriend with excellent photography skills, and a world class recording engineer to collaborate on this epic work. The 8 months of my life that went into making the video seemed to quickly pay off, though the monetary rewards were nonexistent. I had the new and pleasurable experience of having my work shared around the internet and appearing on blogs. After sharing the video with the makers of Pirate's Booty I received 5 boxes (125 bags) of the cheesy rice and corn puffs and found it to be the next best thing to money when rewarding all the folks who helped create the video.
Not long after releasing Pirate's Booty, I discovered a treasure chest of material while visiting my parents: a book of poetry I wrote for a summer enrichment class in 1990. Days later, "I Like USA," "If poems," and "Chester the Bull" were added to the Household Items canon. Though weary of the work involved in making another multimedia epic would entail, the story Chester the Bull seemed destined for artistic accompaniment with its grand themes of loneliness, inter-species friendship, and personal transformation (punctuated by random kid asides). And so with the help of artist Heidi Aispuro, vocalist Rob Woodin, and Garage Band Master Vivek Patel, Chester the Bull joined Pirate's Booty in my collection of multimedia extravaganzas.
Chester was followed by my "Textual Suggestions" campaign, which asked friends and fans to submit texts in accordance with a weekly theme and produced the songs "Warnings from Paul Applegren's Elevator" and "The Perfect Mail Order Bride." Around the same time as Textual Suggestions, I also came across rich song material from a stack of bizarre lease documents I had to sign, including paragraphs of firewood handling instructions, pages of paranoia regarding personal and property safety, and an odd list of questions, adding the third category of source material for Household Items songs.
The most recent event in Household Items' evolution was enlarging it from a piano/voice duo to a three piece band plus string quartet. The effect has been to add power, color, and drama to the music, and has helped bring out the absurdity of assigning emotion and musical styles to my chosen texts. The two performances with this configuration have been satisfying, but have also led me to want to scale it up further. The emotional range and resonance of a large string section and the punch and power of a brass section will supercharge the music; along with all the new multimedia, it will create compositions that are that much more engaging and memorable.
Risks and challenges
I see several challenges to accomplishing my project goals, though I believe none pose a serious threat to ultimately getting my video series made.
1. Legal: Many people have asked me if there might be copyright issues involved in using product descriptions. After extensively reviewing the 1976 Copyright Act I don't believe any legal issues exist with using these texts, though I have requested permission from all companies whose products are involved to be on the safe side and am currently awaiting responses. That being said, I plan to make all videos regardless of the responses I receive. Though product descriptions are considered protected copyrighted material, my songs meet several criteria of the fair use provisions of the 1976 Copyright Act, which allow for use of copyrighted material for the purposes of "criticism or comment." The Supreme Court's unanimous decision in the 1993 case of Campbell v. Acuff-Rose Music strongly suggests that my videos would be protected by these words, with Justice Souter writing in his opinion, "parody has an obvious claim to transformative value, as Acuff-Rose itself does not deny. Like less ostensibly humorous forms of criticism, it can provide social benefit, by shedding light on an earlier work, and, in the process, creating a new one. We thus line up with the courts that have held that parody, like other comment or criticism, may claim fair use under § 107."
2. Editing: There's no way around the fact that stitching these videos together takes a tremendous amount of time. Pirate's Booty took nearly 3 weeks of consecutive 6 hour days for me to put together. With this funding though, I will make finishing the series on time my first priority. There is one factor taking much of the pressure off of me though that hasn't been true for my past videos: I have recorded in some form all the music I'm planning on using for the series, so once I have the photos and artwork completed I can put all the pieces in place. All that will be left to do is some slight timing manipulations when I have the final recordings in my hands.
3. Scheduling: This is a massive a project involving lots of very busy people and won't be easy to coordinate. The biggest challenge I think will be coordinating all the musicians schedules. One way I'm planning on addressing this is to record the rhythm section and vocals separately from everything else. This will let us take the time to really get each part sounding its best and avoid having to have 23 people in the same room at the same time. Yes getting 16 people in the same place at the same time is difficult, but I lead a 20 piece big band, so I know its doable with advance planning.
To fully execute my series, I'm dependent on 3 artists, a choreographer, and a photo editor fulfilling their project commitments. Luckily, I've worked with all these folks before and know they will come through in the end. Having money actually involved and a planned release date will be motivating and make the time line clear so I have no worries on this end.
My budget is the smallest possible number I could imagine for this project and despite my best efforts may fall short of what's needed in reality. I'm hoping to raise more than my goal to allow for a little breathing room and additionally compensate the artists and musicians involved. However, I'm prepared to finance whatever else is necessary to get these videos completed.
- (30 days)