INTERVIEW – Brendan McCarney (Last Frame Pictures)
I interviewed filmmaker Brendan McCarney a year ago when his first feature Ages & Stages – The Story of The Meligrove Band premiered at Toronto’s North by Northeast. When I found out the subject of his next feature-length documentary with co-director Mike Gillespie would be Hamilton’s own Young Rival, I was super excited to hear more about it.
Authentic – Young Rival’s Journey Through Canada follows the band on their cross-Canada tour and also stars members of Arkells, Hollerado, The Sheepdogs, Born Ruffians, Wildlife and more. Authentic has its world premiere at this year’s NXNE.
I chatted with Brendan to get the scoop on the film!
This is your second year in a row premiering a film at NXNE! Congrats! That must feel really exciting for you to be able to share your work to that big of an audience again.
It’s very exciting! NxNE has been so supportive and amazing to us over the years so it was an easy decision to have the film premiere at the festival.
Unlike your last documentary, Authentic is specifically a tour doc. Did you set out wanting to make a film about touring? How did you choose Young Rival as your subject?
Young Rival and I were friends beforehand and it was sort of a half-baked idea that Noah [Fralick] and I discussed over a few beers. Somehow we all decided it was a great idea a couple weeks later and just ran with it. And yah, I did want to make a film centered around a tour. I always like to do something different with each project I do.
I remember the first bit of footage you took was when Young Rival played at Supercrawl 2011. Did some footage from that make it in? If so, I’m in there! I hadn’t met the band yet and it was actually you who introduced me. Full circle!
Unfortunately none of that footage made it in. I do remember that day though. You were quite excited to meet them! They are Hamilton royalty at this point! haha
After that Supercrawl, where did their tour take you and for how long?
We spent 5 weeks on the road with them. We did a lot of Ontario dates and made our way all the way out to the north part of Vancouver Island and back. A lot of kilometres.
It’s fitting, with my tourist theme with this blog, that this is a tour documentary. I’ve told the band that I love the “Indie Travel Guide” feature on their site where they give a rundown of the different cities they hit. It reminds me of what I’m doing – featuring spots to check out, where to eat, where to see live music, local band recommendations, etc. Is there a place that sticks out to you that was particularly cool on this tour? Somewhere new you haven’t been?
Definitely. Victoria was amazing! We had 3 days off there so we were able to relax and actually see the city. The one thing about touring that not many people realize is that even though you might play Winnipeg 5 times you might not ever see the city. So having a few days off was unreal and Victoria is such a beautiful city. I also loved Calgary. I’ve been there a bunch of times before but I still find new places to eat and things to discover in that city every time I’m there. Also my favourite city to drive through is Osoyoos, British Columbia. Breathtaking is all I can say.
Did filming on the road pose different challenges than filming a regular documentary? Was it more difficult, given the fast pace of touring?
Much harder! Everything we did was spontaneous and completely unplanned. For my last film everything was meticulously mapped out whereas this film I realized quickly I had to just let go and see where it went. So many more problems and issues come up when travelling.
From getting to know Aron, John, and Noah more since you first introduced us, I know that they’re the nicest, down-to-earth guys. I love that the title of the film is after one of their tunes, “Authentic,” because that’s just what they are. How well did you know them before filming, and did you get to be closer friends through this process?
We were all friends beforehand but not close friends. Grab a beer once every two months kind of pals. Now we are extremely tight. Noah now lives in Toronto and we hang out on a very regular basis. They truly are three of the most wonderful humans I’ve ever had the pleasure in meeting. Can’t say enough good things about all three of them.
It must have been so much fun to travel with Young Rival, not to mention how awesome it would be to see them play night after night! In the film, you also capture the band performing in some unconventional spaces along the way. What’s one of the more unique spots you shot?
It was a blast! We shot them playing in so many odd places but my favourite might be inside the mouth of the world’s largest fake dinosaur in Drumheller, Alberta. That was so crazy and cool. No one has ever done that and I suppose that could be a Guinness World Record! haha
Starting out, did you have a goal for what you wanted to show through the documentary? I remember last time you were saying you were more about finding the story as you go.
Yah I love the “found story” idea. We basically had the roughest idea imaginable and said, “Screw it, let’s do this!” and just drove with them, pulling out our cameras whenever we thought we should. I hate when documentaries feel staged or contrived so I try to always do the exact opposite.
In our last interview, you also stated that Young Rival is one of the best bands in Canada. They’re totally at the top for me too. You’ve worked with a ton of bands – what makes Young Rival stand out?
First off, their live performance is mind-blowing! They are also some of the best musicians I’ve ever seen. Their songs are so unique and catchy and they choose to do something different. Everything from Aron’s voice to Noah’s unbelievable drumming to John’s cooler than cool bass playing, they are just one of the best bands around… anywhere.
Young Rival is such a hard-working band – they tour locally and internationally and have put out solid albums and creative videos. Do you think they’re underrated as a band?
Of course they are. I mean, it’s impossible for every hard working, talented band to be successful. There just aren’t enough people and not enough money for that to happen. If any band should be rich and famous, it’s definitely them. Life isn’t fair and that is clear in this instance. I truly hope they keep putting out albums and touring like crazy and winning people over one at a time because they deserve all the accolades and recognition in the world.
It’s really exciting to see one of my hometown bands featured in a film. You also featured another Hamilton staple – Arkells! What insight did they offer on Young Rival or about life on the road?
Max [Kerman] did an interview with me. He basically just goes on to say how hard working Young Rival are and how much he respects them and loves their music. Essentially the same thing all the interviewees said.
The screening at NXNE will also feature a Q&A panel with Young Rival, is that right? Then they will play the after party along with a fantastic lineup of bands. What are the details on that?
There will be a Q&A with myself and the band as well as my co-director, Mike Gillespie. We are throwing an after party at Grossman’s Tavern (379 Spadina) where Young Rival will play along with Wildlife, PUP, Quiet Company and an awesome secret guest! I know you have loved our secret guest for a long time, too, so you better not miss it, Kristin! Party starts at 9ish.
We’ve done the Rapid-Fire questions already, so how about just this one – tell me what’s on your Playlist right now!
I’m in love with the new Surfer Blood album! It’s unreal! Also the new Vampire Weekend and The National are so great! I’ve also gone back a few years and have been listening to Hope Of The States and The Thermals lately too.
Thanks to Brendan for taking the time to answer my questions. I can’t wait to see the film!