For this installment of Rendezvous, I chatted with a friend of mine prior to the Tour, but someone who we’ve run into during our travels. I saw director and musician Brendan McCarney, co-owner of Last Frame Pictures (@lastframepics), back at Supercrawl, where he kicked off the filming of his Young Rival documentary. But this interview was all about another project of his.
Brendan just completed his first feature-length documentary, Ages & Stages – The Story of The Meligrove Band. The film is set to have its world premiere on June 13th as part of Toronto’s North by Northeast Festival, and I got to chat with Brendan to find out all about it.
First off, I love the poster! I’m kind of mesmerized by it!
The lead singer of the band (Jay Nunes) made the poster – he also does the bands album art.
What was it like spending so much time with The Meligrove Band – how much time was spent with them in the 2 years it took to make the film?
Getting to know the guys was amazing. They are the nicest, most genuine people. I spent a lot of time with them over the 2 years I was making the film. At first I would see them around once every other week and would film a show of theirs. After I stopped filming I found myself still hanging out with them at shows or just for a couple beers. Mike and I see each other for beers on a regular basis and I actually spent the entire [Victoria Day] long weekend with Jay (he’s producing my band’s EP).
I know you’ve toured with bands before. How far did you travel throughout filming? What were some of your favourite spots? (The CN Tower bit sounds exciting!)
Filming at the very top of the CN Tower was unbelievable. It was definitely a dream come true. I filmed them all over Southern Ontario – London, Niagara, Brantford, Peterborough, etc. and of course a ton in Toronto. I would’ve loved to film them in more cities throughout North America but really the “live performance” aspect of the film is an incredibly small one so it wouldn’t have made sense to go on tour with them anyway.
Rather than dealing strictly with The Meligrove Band, you interviewed other artists and bands as well. How did you choose who to interview about the Meligroves? What did interviewing their peers offer to the doc?
I interviewed a little over 40 other bands/industry people about The Meligrove Band. I basically contacted people who knew the band or were big fans of them. There’s a lot fun stories that are told throughout the film about all the different guys in the band. It was great to get so many different takes on those guys. The general consensus was always that they are the best, most fun dudes, they play incredibly tight shows and they are essentially the best band who had some horrible luck.
And there are some Hamilton musicians featured in doc: B.A. Johnston, Arkells, Young Rival. I spotted in the trailer that the B.A. Johnston interview took place in This Ain’t Hollywood, one of our favourite venues. Did you film much in Hamilton?
There are a few Hamilton bands, yah! And you’re right, that is This Ain’t Hollywood. Good eye! I didn’t ever actually film the Meligroves in the Hammer. Hamilton and Toronto are definitely different scenes but because they’re so close geographically there’s a lot of friendships between the two cities. It’s all more or less one giant extended family to some degree.
Without giving too much away, does anything in particular stand out that those bands offered?
B.A. tells some great stories about the Meligroves. He’s the funniest guy in Canadian music hands down and he doesn’t disappoint in the film!
It looks like there are some emotional moments in the film that you got to capture. Did you set out with a specific narrative in mind, and did it evolve throughout filming, changing your original intent or direction of the doc?
I didn’t have a clear idea of what this film was going to look like going in. By that I mean I had no fucking clue, haha. I’m a huge fan of “the found story” in documentaries so I just pointed my camera at them and let them run wild. The very last set of interviews I did with the band had an emotional element to them for sure. By then I had gotten to know them really well and had unearthed certain things that, while incredibly emotional subjects, were relevant to the band’s story so those questions sort of had to be asked. That was tough for me. It’s hard to ask certain questions knowing the response you get will be a sad one and then having to stand there filming instead of walking over and giving them a hug.
The film seems like it gives insight into what it’s really like for a band – the good and the bad. Do you see the film more broadly as doc about the Canadian music industry?
I guess the film gives an insight to the Canadian music industry to some extent. It touches on things that have happened to the band regarding their record labels and things of that nature but the film is really about the 3 core members of the band. Of course other areas of music, writing and the business side come into it but it’s much more about 3 guys who are still in the same band they had in high school and their relationship over the last 15 years.
It must be kind of a dream for a music fan, to get to not only meet, but to get to know and become friends with musicians you’re a fan of.
It was really amazing getting to get so close to a band that I’ve been a fan of for 6-7 years prior. That’s something I never took for granted. Musically I’ve always loved and really respected the Meligroves so I was honoured when they agreed to let me follow them around for a huge chunk of time and get to peek inside what makes the band tick.
What does The Meligrove Band hope to accomplish with this film? Is this a really critical moment or turning point for them?
I don’t think this film is in any way a “turning point” for them. I can’t speak on their behalf but I think for them it’s a really cool thing to be able to watch a 90 minute film that sums up a major part of their lives thus far. I know the guys got a little nostalgic when I screened the film for them a few months ago.
Did that put a lot of pressure on you, to represent them well?
I felt a ton of pressure to make this great. Not because I necessarily care what fans or audiences think of it but because I didn’t want to disappoint the band. I’m not nervous to show the world this film but I was freaking out when I screened it for the band. I had to chug a few beers to calm my nerves. Luckily they really liked it and have supported me through this entire process. I couldn’t ask for anything more.
What are the details on the film’s premiere at North by Northeast?
The film premieres as part of NxNE at 4:30pm Wednesday, June 13 at the NFB in Toronto (John and Richmond). [Last Frame Pictures] are throwing a big party afterwards at 586 Richmond (at Portland). It should be a blast! Steam Whistle is sponsoring it so there will be tons of beer and we have 4 bands lined up to play [Nixon, The Fabulous Yawn, Two Koreas, Magneta Lane, Dinosaur Bones, plus a surprise guest]. It’ll go from 7 – 10:30pm. Everyone should come out and have some drinks and take in some cool tunes!
Favourite place to eat in Hamilton: August 8. So tasty! Love my sushi!
Favourite breakfast food: Cereal. Any kind. Bran Flakes to Captain Crunch. It’s all good!
If you were an alcoholic beverage, what would you be? I think I would be a good micro-brewed IPA. If for no other reason than I’ll get you drunk in no time! Ha!
Go-to karaoke song: I always seem to go for “Rocket Man” by Elton John. I’m not sure why as I couldn’t even recite any lyrics or even the melody really expect for the chorus. But I have also never sang karaoke sober so maybe that has an influence on my song selection.
If you could speak flawlessly with any accent, what would it be? British accent hands down. I could sound really classy while saying horrible and filthy things.
Favourite word: Is open-bar considered one word? Haha.
Favourite concert/live performance you’ve seen: It’s almost impossible to pick a favourite concert. Hollerado at the Opera House last October was epic. I got to film that show for the band’s upcoming DVD and I drank a ton of wine and beer with Hollerado and Wildlife (the opening band) backstage before that show. It was great! I saw Billy Talent in a 200 capacity club in Thorold about 9 years ago – that was crazy too! Any show B.A. Johnston plays is sure to be hilarious!
What is on your Playlist right now: I’ve been listening to about 5-6 albums non-stop for about a month… Deer Tick – Divine Providence, Said the Whale – Little Mountain, Real Estate – Days, Surfer Blood – Tarot Classics, Hollerado – Record in a Bag, and Young Rival – LP. If anyone hasn’t heard Young Rival they need to immediately!! (Especially because they’re from Hamilton!) I was lucky enough to get the opportunity to tour with them across Canada for a month and I can say honestly, they are one of the best bands in Canada, no question!
If you could detour to anywhere in the world right now: Great question! Hmmm… I think I would detour to Germany. Beer mecca of the world, how could I not go there!? I’ve heard it’s absolutely gorgeous too.
Favourite mode of transportation: I’ve always had a love of driving. Throw on some good tunes and just drive. When I toured with Young Rival a lot of days we had 6-9 hours of driving to do and I didn’t mind it whatsoever. I love the open road. There’s nothing quite like it.
What’s one thing you want to do: I really want to go skydiving. Seems like it would be a rush.
My thanks to Brendan for chatting with me – I look forward to seeing the finished product! In the meantime, check out the film’s trailer.