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The Other Steve Miller
Posted in Behind the Scenes

Andrea Desmond’s “Teal Water” — Making the Video

(A brief note from the future: We were actually very unsatisfied with the final result, so much so that Andrea had it taken down from Vimeo and expunged from the Internet, like it never happened. I’m publishing this post retroactively in 2014 because it represents an important part of my musical history—and it took a long time to write. Now let us never speak of this video again.)

Last November, Andrea Desmond and the White Lights played at the Hard Rock Cafe as part of the Seattle Jammin’ Challenge, a local battle of the bands put on by Seattle Wave Radio. This performance served as the culmination of a month-and-a-half-long quest for Hard Rock Cafe greatness: First, we had to be voted through on Seattle Wave Radio (Andrea’s song “I Can Wait No Longer” apparently received a high amount of fan votes), followed by a very competitive, four-band semifinal round at the High Dive (this being our first full-band show, and one day after our Portland trip for this interview) before progressing to the big time, the main stage on 1st and Pike. Up to that point in my life, it was the first time I’d experience any success whatsoever in a battle of the bands setting1 — and we didn’t even have to “win.”

On November 29, 2012, Seattle/Tacoma-based groups Jake Nannery, Silver Bullet, Sea of Misinformation and ourselves each played a 45-minute set for a January performance at the storied Neptune Theatre, alongside Alan White of Yes (yes, that Yes) and founding members of Heart. The night of the competition was long and loud with stellar music throughout, with us being the closing act. A tweet from good friend Joshua Lynch accurately sums up the night:

#Rockin to @ADesmondMusic & @stevetmiller at the @hardrockseattle with @claraganey #twitter #tweetdrive2012

With snares off and amps switched to standby, the judges announced the winners and runners-ups: Jake Nannery took the top prize, followed by Silver Bullet, then us, then Sea of Misinformation. I can’t remember what Silver Bullet won, but us, at third place (or second runner up), received an early Christmas present that we weren’t able to see until August — a professionally made music video.

Following the Jammin’ Challenge, however, a music video wasn’t very high on our band to-do list, and we instead focused on performing, rehearsing, writing, and practicing for much of the gray Seattle winter. This time also saw the release of the Milk and Rain EP, which is set to be re-released by Spectra Records (more on that later). From December through March, the band played any opportunity given, from the main stage of the Crocodile to an baby-grand piano/acoustic show at the appropriately named P___y Room. For the spring months, the members focused on outside endeavors2 — school, work, Lent — but the dream was still alive. In mid-April, we finally took strides to claiming our Seattle Jammin’ Challenge prize by meeting up with (names omitted) of (name omitted) at a quaint Mexican cafe in the Central District located a few blocks from where I live. For almost an hour, the four of us discussed different ideas and concepts for the “Teal Water” video, ranging from full-moon werewolves, to the various band members making their way to the Crocodile for a show (I would be on my bike, equipped with a helmet cam), to shots of us just performing interspersed by candid shot of the band hanging out back stage, being our goofy selves. We settled on the “en-route to the gig” concept, and aimed to meet sometime within the coming weeks for the shoot — so, naturally, it didn’t occur until late June.

The month of May passed, and juggling multiple schedules3 pushed back the shoot to the night of June 23. The days leading up to the shoot were incredibly packed for me; this included rehearsals and a gig with Mariko, followed by a rehearsal and early morning set at mile six of the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon4, immediately followed by a trip to nearby Vashon Island with some friends. The next day was the Orthodox feast of Pentecost and related festivities, and after a quick respite, it was time to head to the Crocodile for our high-def closeup(s).

We brought most5 of our gear, so as to give the impression of a live performance, and because of the lateness of the shoot (8 p.m. to midnight), we scrapped the going-to-the-gig concept and stuck to just us on stage, playing our instruments, looking happy. The camera crew, consisting of (names omitted), filmed each of us individually a couple times before filming the entire band. I was the first person to be filmed individually, and given the activity-filled weekend, I’m not sure how photogenic I was. I also had to remember where I sing harmonies in the recording versus where I sing them live6, as well as what I play in the recordings back in September versus what I play now (as I mentioned earlier, the songs have greatly evolved). But I wore a hat throughout it all, so that makes my sleepiness seem like musician mellowness, not to mention gave me a very Jason Mraz-like appearance.

To keep the footage consistent, each of us played during each others individual shoots; that way, Steve Nicholson wouldn’t magically disappear during William’s closeup. For the full-band takes, the film crew used an impressive camera on a dolly, the kind that can sweep toward the subjects and pull out for a wide view (I’m no film student, so forgive my ignorant-sounding descriptions). I had to try my hardest not to look in the camera and break the “fourth wall,” thus entering the realm of metafiction. On another reality bending note: Because we played to an empty showroom — well, not entirely empty; there was the film crew and the lighting technician — we joked about intercutting footage of hardcore punk rock crowds (moshing, crowd surfing, stage diving, etc., all done by shirtless, angry people) alongside our performance to create some contradictory cognitive dissonance. Thankfully, this idea wasn’t implemented in the final cut.

By the final take, we must’ve heard/played “Teal Water” some 20+ times. Needless to say, we were well practiced for this song. The video was finished and on Vimeo in late July. Kudos to the team at (name omitted) for their professionalism and excellent end result (note from the future: I was in denial). Thanks for making us look so good (note from the future: ibid.)

And a (somewhat belated) thanks to Seattle Wave Radio for holding the Jammin’ Challenge. Not only did we get a top-notch promo video, we made good friends with fellow jammin’ challengers Jake Nannery and Sea of Misinformation. Since the November Hard Rock show, we’ve played with Sea of Misinformation three times and Jake Nannery twice, with both of those shows also being Sea of Misinformation. It’s one happy, Seattle-based musical family. Without question, it was the best battle of the bands experience I’ve had to date.

Without further ado, here’s the video for “Teal Water,” presented in high definition for your aural enjoyment.

(Video omitted)


Andrea was recently signed by Spectra Records, an American-based independent label. The finer details are still in the works, but this means that things will begin to take off (note from the future: it didn’t work out). It’s cool to see how greatly things have evolved from one year after the humble “Cupboard Sessions.” I’m both thrilled and honored to have the opportunity to play alongside Andrea, Steve N. and William. More exciting updates to come.


I’m trying out this footnote thing, hopefully more in the vein of David Foster Wallace (not that I am in any way comparing myself to him) and not so much the Bill Simmons “witty/insightful/clever” sports-meets-pop-culture brainchild known as Grantland. There was a time when I viewed the pithy and self-congratulatory writing as quality “journalism,” but after a while, the various correlations between the 1996-98 Chicago Bulls and, say, the second season of Webster really got on my nerves. The final straw was a comparison between Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian and a Dwayne Wade dunk. That is just utterly stupid. I’ve also begun to view the bloated and overblown mass that is professional sports as a giant time/resource suck, not to mention a distraction from more important things — though I still do love the occasional Bulls game now and again. (For a greater sense of the waste that is professional sports, check out pages 9-11 of Senator Tom Coburn’s “Waste Book.”)

That said, this is not meant in the slightest to be like Grantland’s use of the footnote. I plan to follow this practice for essential information only, of course.

1. As my handful of faithful readers (a.k.a. my parents, Uncle Metri, myself) know by now, I’m not typically fond of battles of the bands. Recently, I’ve begun citing the famous Bela Bartok quote to sum up my feelings, but this sentiment is grounded in experiences I’ve had throughout my musical life, starting with my first performance. It was the school talent show my eighth-grade year, and my band 2%Tipp played a punkified version of “Blowin’ in the Wind” and, befitting for the occasion, “Another Brick in the Wall, Part II.” We closed out the afternoon, and judging by the audience reaction — junior high kids in uniforms — we were by far the favorite; it didn’t even matter we were horribly out of tune. When the winners of each category — vocal, instrumental, miscellaneous, the latter of which we were (nonsensically) placed — were announced at the end of the day, we even didn’t place. Instead, a recitation of the famous “To Be, or Not To Be” soliloquy from Hamlet and a second bewildering, nonsensical monologue supplanted us from receiving those coveted Hastings gift certificates. I laughed at the time, but Saint Francis Upper School was outraged at the news. Since then, my feelings toward musical competitions have been ones of ambivalence, if not slight disdain.

During the college years, I played in three battles of the bands, each with varying levels of disappointing results. In 2008, acoustic duo Thomas Brady played a strip-down, if not somewhat lacking, mini-set for campus Christian group Chi Alpha’s first (and last?) battle of the bands. We didn’t place, which I’m not surprised, but had to participate in the event teardown, which defeated the purpose of having a simple setup. The following year, the there-and-gone Magic Square journeyed to Bozeman for a fated band competition held in the basement of the student union center. Suddenly down a drummer — to which then-bassist Carl Hansen filled the position, which he kept for the rest of the group’s life and into Newsfeed Anxiety — and featuring a friend who didn’t play bass on the bass, the Magic Square painfully trudged through a 20-minute (one that entailed Charlie smashing his guitar mid-song and myself inexplicably standing on my amp during a solo) before being more or less kicked off stage by event organizers. I never heard the final results of the contest, but I have an inkling we weren’t the best band there that night. And finally, there was the KBGA Battle of the Bands in 2011, whose rigid requirements of four types of cover songs and two originals didn’t and still doesn’t make sense considering it was a showcase of local musicians; why have undiscovered bands with original material play mostly other peoples’ songs? We did well enough (third or fourth of 12, I think) and there’s supposedly an in-studio interview segment floating around somewhere, but an out-of-tune guitar plagued the performance. I made sure not to make the same mistake for any further battles of the bands.

To conclude this footnote, I will reference myself by saying that while some bands may be better than others, what matters “is the connection the songs have with the listeners — something that should be measured on a personal, individual basis, whose merit shouldn’t be determined by a panel of judges.”

2. For me, this period consisted of a lot of practices with Mariko and the Rulers, whose recording endeavors you can read about here.

3. In addition to our own hectic calendars, we also had to take in consideration the schedules of the film crew, the Crocodile, and lighting technician (name omitted due to poor memory), who was just back from touring with the Macklemore and Ryan Lewis.

4. Our load-in was at 5:30 a.m., which is easily the earliest I’ve ever had to show up for a gig, but we arrived just as the sun rose over Lake Washington. The staged where we played was on Lake Washington Boulevard and Genesee, in the middle of loop around Seward Park and back down the boulevard (which meant the runners passed us twice), and the stage itself faced the side of a hill, with houses above it. After sound check, I noticed a robed figure sitting on the hilltop, so I ran up the embankment to speak with him. His name was Father Lucas, and was an Ethiopian Orthodox priest. He asked me why his street was blocked off, so I told him about the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon and how we were playing the stage below. It was a nice conversation, but was cut short by our language barrier. He bid me a nice day and I headed back to the stage. (I’d like to think he’s a saint, sent to the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon, held on the day before Pentecost, to bless our performance and the runners. [Note from the future: While he still may be a saint, I learned later that the Ethiopian Orthodox Church is actually not in full communion with the canonical Eastern Orthodox Church. This is due in part {or maybe wholly} to the fact that the Ethiopian Church believes Christ had a single nature–that is, a union between His human and divine selves–rather than two distinct natures–God and man–as taught in the Eastern Orthodox Church. I could try to explain the history behind this schism, but this post isn’t the place for it, nor do I think I could do the subject justice, lest I risk becoming a false teacher. All I’ll say that this belief espoused the Ethiopian Church—which is part of the larger Oriental Orthodox Church—is ultimately heretical, and while the Ethiopian Church has the Ark of the Covenant to its credit, they’re under the status of “non-canonical.” And now you know.])

We started playing around 7:45, just about the time when the lead runners came bolting around the corner. For the next hour and a half, we played to a large but fleeting crowd of marathoners. It was interesting to note the difference between the runners’ demeanors the first time by the stage — happy, alert, giving us the “rock on” sign — and the second time past — tired, worn down, much fewer acknowledgments. I used to run competitively, so I understand the dejectedness.

After a solid hour and a half set (our longest yet), Steve and I had to leave, which made it difficult due to runners coming from both sides of the parking lot. We eventually squeezed through a gap and had the trying task of getting back to Capitol Hill with all the usual routes closed off because of the event. I was eventually dropped off in front of an acupuncture clinic called the Pin Cushion, which I’ve visited a few times since the marathon. That was very fortuitous.

(Note from the future: We played this gig again the following year, on the same stage and at the same time, though I’d say the 2014 performance was superior.)

5. I decided it wasn’t important to go through the hassle of bringing my pedals and patch cables, seeing that any sound we made would be overdubbed in the final version of the recording. In retrospect, I should’ve brought at least my tuning pedal, though; having to tune by ear brought me back to the Newsfeed days.

6. One major difference between the EP and live versions are the addition of Steve N.’s dynamite harmonies and bass work, but because he isn’t on the recording, he shown here singing unamplified. He also has really, really long hair in the clip, which is quite a bit different than his cut buzz cut, a look I still find hard to recognize.

Out of habit, I joined Andrea on the bridge, even though I don’t sing that part in the recording. I caught myself as I lip-synch into the mic and smirked at my mistake, as you can see at (time omitted).