Thao & The Get Down Stay Down Release Video for 'Phenom'
Thao & The Get Down Stay Down, the Oakland-based band fronted by singer and songwriter Thao Nguyen, is now debuting the new video for the track "Phenom." Shot entirely via Zoom video conferencing software in the midst of the California's Stay At Home order, the video was filmed without any of the collaborators ever being in the same room together.
Watch the video below!
The video is directed by Erin Murray (Ed Sheeran, Charli XCX, Troye Sivan, Muse, John Legend) and Jeremy Schaulin-Rioux (PUP, Lights, Calpurnia) and produced by Victoria Fayad (Moby). Murray, who choreographed the video for previously released track "Temple," also handled choreography on "Phenom."
"We were due to shoot the video for 'Phenom' with Erin and Victoria in L.A. in late March. That shoot was of course rightfully cancelled in mid-March, and the fate of any kind of video and release of 'Phenom' was very much in question," notes Thao. Then, as she explains, a new video came together over the course of a week:
Monday, March 23: "My manager Joe floats the idea for a 'Phenom' video constructed entirely within Zoom."
Tuesday, March 24: "Erin and Victoria hop on board with the project, and Erin sends over a new treatment that afternoon. Jeremy joins, and the production team coalesces."
Wednesday, March 25: "We have our first and only pre-production meeting (via Zoom)."
Thursday, March 26 & Friday, March 27: "Erin somehow works out all the choreography for a live Zoom dance video incorporating eight dancers and myself, all sheltering in place in our respective homes."
Saturday, March 28: "We hold our first and only five-hour rehearsal via Zoom."
Sunday, March 29: "Shoot day. Everyone logs on at noon and wraps at around 8 p.m. Erin, Jeremy and Victoria begin post-production immediately."
Tuesday, March 31: "Jeremy sends the first cut at 3 a.m. Toronto time. The final 'Phenom' video is delivered at the end of this same day."
Erin Murray says, "I had fun adapting many of the original video ideas into the Zoom space, an outlet that was totally new to me in a storytelling/choreographic sense," while Jeremy Schaulin-Rioux adds, "it speaks to the power of Thao to channel the rage and beauty of this song, turning isolation into community in a way that's unique to this scary moment and also universal to a fed up world."
Of the track, Thao notes, "'Phenom' is a direct descendant of the song 'Meticulous Bird' from my previous album, A Man Alive. I wrote it late last year. I was reading Octavia Butler and Ursula Le Guin and channeling other worlds, a sort of post-apocalyptic utopia wherein time collapses and generations of the true leaders and the scorched of the earth come back and rule, wherein the earth itself comes back and brings to bear. I was and am always in deep awe of the fierce and focused throughout history who have worked and organized at the front lines, calling bulls and protecting vulnerable life. They are the real phenoms and we are strong from their strength. The first seed of this song was that guitar riff that is layered over and over again at the end. 'Phenom' is at the edge of mania with the miscarriage of truth and justice and power, but believes in a more virtuous time and place in the distance."
The video comes in anticipation of the band's fifth studio album Temple, due May 15 via Ribbon Music. The record is available to pre-order on CD, limited pressing transparent salmon vinyl with a 24x12 folded poster, and digital download at http://smarturl.it/TempleAlbum. A limited edition Temple Food Dessert Kit is also available for pre-order with the album at https://thao.merchtable.com. The kit consists of chè, a tri-colored rice pudding with toasted coconut and cashews, prepared by acclaimed chef Diep Tran, the founder of the Banh Chung Collective and former chef and owner of Good Girl Dinette in the Highland Park neighborhood of Los Angeles. Proceeds from Temple Food Kit sales will go to Alma Backyard Farms, a non-profit creating dynamic opportunities in urban farming. It exists to re-claim lives of formerly incarcerated people, re-purpose urban land into productive urban farm plots and reimagine disenfranchised communities in Los Angeles as a HUB for transformation.
The album is among Thao's most open and honest work yet, finding her coming out in her public LIFE AFTER a long career in which she kept her queer identity quiet in an effort to avoid turmoil with and alienation from a family and culture she deeply loves. "But that s will kill you," Thao says.
Photo credit: Shane McCauley
"I have divided myself into so many selves. I am nervous, but hopeful that in belonging to myself, I can still belong to my family, and my Vietnamese community, especially the elders." She continues, "I believe that shame has made my work more general, when I've always wanted to be specific. This record is about me finally being specific. If you listen to my music, I want you to know who you are dealing with."
Thao almost opted not to make another record, feeling that rock music no longer was capable of saying what she needed to express. But it turns out making a record was necessary; it forced her hand to create a space wherein she could finally exist as her entire self. Temple is an album compelled by love and the urgent need to live one full, whole life. Thao and her girlfriend got married recently, and she says, "I have my partner and our home to ground me in this life, in my one life. And everything I do now, everywhere I go, every time I present myself to people, it is finally all of me."
Temple is the first Get Down Stay Down record to be self-produced. Thao teamed up with longtime bandmate Adam Thompson to produce the record; he also shares writing credits on five songs. Mikaelin "Blue" Bluespruce (Solange, Carly Rae Jepsen, Mariah Carey) mixed the record. "Blue mixes more in the hip-hop and Pop world and that's what we wanted," says Thao. "More fidelity, more upfront beat and groove-heavy mixes that are filled out and immersive...high highs, low lows, lush tones."
Temple follows Thao & The Get Down Stay Down's 2016 album A Man Alive which was released to widespread critical praise. NPR Music called it a "brilliant, jarring new album...[Nguyen's] most rewarding work yet," while Pitchfork raved that it is "Nguyen's most rhythmically robust, gleefully discordant release to date" and Stereogum called it "explosive and melodically dense." Over the past year Thao served as guest host of the acclaimed podcast Song Exploder.