In the first part of this article I talked about music bands in web series, giving a couple of examples of fake “vintage” series. I will carry on here with more contemporary set works.
Comebacks: ToyBoize and Noah’s Park
Comebacks are all the way, these days. It started with the Eighties revival, then it went on with the Seventies revival, then again with the reunion tours of the last ten years, putting together bands taken as dead, sometimes for a last trick of the tail, sometimes for a last cow milking, sometimes for both.
So, it’s kind of appropriate that even web series stage the comeback of their own made-up bands. Even better if things don’t go exactly as planned.
Back in the days, at the end of the Eighties, ToyBoize were the ultimate british child band, reportedly put together “by Scottish pop svengali Rab Morrison, who came up with the idea whilst relaxing on holiday in Sri Lanka”.
They were extremely young, around twelve; even if the recorded voices sound older (well, not a big deal: it was the Eighties, after all); each one had his own skill or distinctive look (the break dancer, the insanely “rats-tailed”, and so on); and the band came out full packaged, with everything needed to be idols of the youngest masses, including a dance move mimicking their logo and a Christmas album. At least, until the inevitable break up, that skyrocketed the child prodigy lead singer to a successful solo career and threw anyone else back to anonymous and pathetic lives.
Now that reunions have become common practice and that the Internet can break the distance between you and your always devoted fanbase. Now that you can film your comeback, behind the scenes, and make it a documentary to be releases on the web and to pave the street for a new row of shows.
Their story is told in ToyBoize (2008), a brit mockumentary produced, for once, by a television company (talkbackTHAMES, a division of FremantleMedia – RTL Group). Written and created by Jack Brough, Jamie Deeks (also director), Dan Johnston, Ewen Macintosh and produced by Victoria Payne, the series features the notable contribution of Ricky Gervais (that wrote and recorded the hit I Like You Girl with Navelgazing).
Obviously, in a parodic comedy about four grown-up men trying to pursue success by mimicking their old 12-year-old selves, the main catch is contrast. Which is, here, quite unmerciful, both about skills and looks.
In a bubble of almost surreal isolation and denial, that absurd-on-so-many-levels purpose is pursued by the group more with wishful thinking than dedication, resembling at times (especially in the final, online concert) more a childish daydream filtered through adult hallucination and squalor than anything vaguely definable as professionalism. But they’re harmless and, in a way, pure. And that’s what makes them work and likable, as characters.
The series is on YouTube, together with their original video I Like You Girl.
The band was given a Twitter account (now inactive).
Noah’s Park were a pretty successful Canadian rock-and-roll band. It was the Nineties, the genre is alternative melodic bluesy rock, the one that the grunge revolution wiped away from mainstream. Then, as in the best of families, the lead singer packed up to pursue a solo career in the UK (gaining an interesting and factitious accent in the process) and the rest disbanded and carried on with their lives.
With that path ultimately fading away, it’s time for a reunion tour (but in really modest venues, it seems); though some old grudges can be held back only by the need to make some money and (maybe) to walk the stage one last time.
That is until a zombie outbreak blows, actually.
In The Key Of Z (2011), offspring of the Canadian collective Nocturnal Emissions, is the only one in this list not to be a mockumentary. But, as said, It’s also a mash-up, though the musical biopic/comeback story still plays a great role in the whole: the combination between the two genres’ tropes is, in fact, brilliant and the series doesn’t discard the initial setting to make room to horror (as in a From Dusk Till Dawn fashion) but the comedic work upon the rock ‘n’ roll clichés goes on together with the analogue upon the zombie storyline. So, even if the tour is canceled, someway the series manages to carry on with the band’s tale, just displacing it in a totally unpredicted setting. Nothing misses: from the nymphomaniac and nutty superfan (now dysfunctional mom) to buried arguments coming back to surface, to the classical “distribution” of personalities among the band.
We hear them playing live only once, briefly. But on the other hand we hear a bunch of songs as soundtrack (usually matched to striking and contrasting real-life situations).
Season One is on YouTube and Blip.
Indie artists striving for success
Finally, there’s a bunch of series aiming to capture that peculiar electricity of a band or an artist on the rise. Sort of.
The All-For-Nots are an up-rising indie rock band from Williamsburg (Brooklyn, NY). Or so they say.
They play a little derivative, melodic rock-pop-punk that could easily fit the series’ contemporary indie scene (the one that stopped being innovative and became a “genre” in itself. “The fact that they are an indie band adds a little popularity to the show because indie bands are everywhere right now”, says the falsely naive press release on the web site). Though the band happens to be pretty much improved when their number one groupie (that turns out to be a girl full of resources) steps in as lead singer, replacing the rather insipid voice of the guitarist/mastermind.
Meanwhile, they’re getting old (as old as a rocker can be when reaching his thirties with an uncertain career). And while some of them live the band experience like an unchanging present or the proverbial eternal adolescence, others happen to face an inconvenience called “real life”; while others, again, see the whole thing as it probably is: a good time, that quite soon will end.
Out of fiction, The All-For-Nots show (2008) is created by Kathleen Grace and Thom Woodley (The Burg), produced by Brooklyn based indie studio Dinosaur Diorama and distributed by Michael Eisner’s Vuguru (who’s credited on the website for the original idea).
It’s a mockumentary reporting the “actual” band’s longest (and probably last) tour, from New York to California, to a Hollywood TV appearance that will spearhead them into mainstream success. Sort of. And it’s just funny, clever and lovable.
What these guys miss in artistic achievement, they make up for with humanity and frankness. The trip is a slow unfolding of the personalities, the rising conflicts, the unexpected backgrounds or talents; and the more classical clichés (like the good-willed but totally inept manager) are balanced with an indie-flavored narrative that goes way beyond the parody of the independent, hipster compliant music.
24 episodes (10 minutes each), named after each town the band plays in, plus extras (don’t skip them, they’re actually shorter episodes).
On Hulu and Blip.
The band has two Facebook profiles (not sure why, here and here), and MySpace, of course.
Here you can see their Catch Up videoclip.
Shiva is an interesting and mysterious underground rapper.
He has a despising attitude towards consumerism and modern society’s vices that make him sound almost like a preacher. But he’s himself a peculiar consumer: he’s a cannibal, and a murderer.
His story is told in the quite outstanding Rhyme Animal, an original 2007 short movie later split into snippet-sized episodes and released as a web series.
Created, directed and produced by independent filmmaker Jorge Rivera (co -written with Aaron F. Schnore and Billy Fox), the series is the only drama of this pack, a clever blend of horror and music bio-pic, where the dark elements plunge, almost like an external parasite, into a more “conventional” depiction of the rap underground scene.
Shiva’s music is heard in live performances and in the background.
It’s available on KoldCast , while the original short is on Vimeo (but with a lower definition).
Forlon Gaze are a recently formed post-emo australian band.
There’s not much to say about them: they suck. And their leader/mastermind is ignorant and dumb beyond redemption, believing he’s breaking new ground when he’s gust deriving and recycling, after the maximum time. His agent is apparently on the same boat.
As a series, Forlon Gaze (2008) is a plain satire, created by Sarah-Jane Woulahan and Jud Campbell.
It’s been promoted through a web of social/transmedia expansions made by MySpace and Youtube band’s profiles, personal Facebook/Twitter profiles of the front man an manager, blogs. The band also performed live.
I can’t say much more because, after watching the four available episodes at the time of this writing, I’m less than impressed. But it seems that Australian audience responded quite favorably, and the series gained some awards nominations. So, maybe it’s just me. Or maybe not.
Exclusively on KoldCast.