Acclaimed Venice, CA artist, and former cinematographer, Thomas Jewett shared his unique vision of Picnic Tool.
Picnic Tool tee shirts are coming in the new year - look for them in January. Look forward to posting your picture in your new tee shirt!
Picnic Tool fan, and ace photographer, Carlton Freeman is already nostalgic for his first listening of "Einstein". Thanks for the great graphic, Carlton!
We'll be making our debut on Little Steven's Underground Radio, channel 21 on your Sirius XM dial, on rock legend Genya Ravan's show, Goldie's Garage. Tune in 8p pm PST, 11 pm ET.
CALLING ALL GIRLS!
Are you a girl, and wanted to be in a music video that doesn't exploit you? Here's your chance! We're getting ready to start work on our next video - this one for the song "About Gurls", and it's going to be a tribute to girls. We are looking for girls, of any age, to send us clips to use in the video. We're looking for upbeat, happy clips of girls singing, dancing, running, walking, working, playing, cooking, or anything. Surprise us! We promise every person who submits a clip will be used in the video. The deadline is December 15, 2017.
Click HERE for info
We here at Picnic Tool Inc are HUGE Flamin' Groovies fans! Few bands in the last four decades have lit the path of indie rock,'n roll, true to the spirit of its founding tenets, like the Groovies have. And driving that rocking train forward, hanging on by fingernails to the edges of the rail, was the ripping bass playing of George Alexander. Not only a rocker, George is a deep thinker, and soulful dude. So you can appreciate our head spin when we got this pic from George! Along with it he included the comment, "I am highly impressed. I really dig “I Love the Truth” especially for the song title alone!" Now that's praise we love! Thanks George!
Picnic Tool is a band based out of Orange, CA, with rotating membership. Bodie Plecas is singer and songwriter, who plays guitars, keyboards, and harmonica. Goffrey Moore played bass (and lead guitar on title track), and also produced the EP “Einstein”. Larry Aberman, who performs on three songs, has played with A-list artists such as Nile Rogers, Wynton Marsalis, Ben Harper and Joe Sample, among others. Joseph Moore plays drums on “About Gurls”. I’m going to start by confessing that I barely had my first listen a week ago and have only listened to it a total of three times. But trust me when I say I can distinguish an average record from an outstanding one. This, of course, is an outstanding one. Right from my very first listen, “Einstein” skyrocketed into my sphere of favorites.
But what makes it so special? Charm and artistic creativity. These are simple qualities lacking in a period that seems to be more obsessed with making technically mind-blowing productions instead of artistically creative ones. These songs were recorded in rehearsal rooms and bedrooms, in no more than two takes – “To maintain spontaneity and adrenaline,” says Goff.
The recording has melodic vocal phrasing, smart lyrics, crunchy overdriven guitars and driving rhythms…and just look at the EP cover. These things serve not just to bring a smile upon your face, but to bring out the nonconformity lacking in its contemporaries. This is what make the music and this band so special.
Of course the most impressive thing about this little homemade masterpiece is its complete lack of filler. It only has four tracks, so filler would be hard to come by you’re thinking. But even if this was a mega 40 track triple album, I’m sure that there would be no filler. Picnic Tool sound like a band that eschews excess. There are very few recordings that I have listened to where I can honestly say that each piece is just as good as the whole.
But this one’s different. Every song on here is absolutely incredible, from the catchy single “Einstein” to the eclectic closer “…About Gurls”. If I were to review each separate track, they would all get five stars, except for “Chinese Heart” and “I Love The Truth”, for which I would reserve six or seven stars.
When listening to this for the first time, I realized just how important this kind of music should be to the history of the industry. This is like the “Doolittle”, “Ziggy Stardust”, “Fun House” or “Velvet Underground & Nico” of its time. In the sense of being a recording that strays away from the successful routines of its peers and attempts to live by, and of its own ways.
At its core “Einstein” has a very garage rock sound with banging drums and ripping guitars, some nice hooks and complementing vocals. Every song just sounds sincere, unique, and recognizable, and in today’s sonic supermarket overflowing with elevator music that is an awesome achievement indeed!
Director Jordan Ellis' idea to have Al Einstein front a teenage rock back has proved an instant hit. Key to getting the idea to work on video was having the right actors to bring the band to life. Everybody contributed - Alice Ellis' casting company found Smokey Miles, Orange County people connector Pam Atta found the drummer.
Nina Ellis, the director's daughter, proves she's no family hire, but a born natural with her gum smacking, cool vibe while playing the bass. Nina, the new teenager, grew up on the Beatles, Ramones, and Talking Heads, but lately its been Lamar Kendrick, Taylor Swift, and Kesha that have her moving. She studied piano initially, including music theory. But it was the flute that captured her imagination first, and she plays in the school band. Nina also sings and plays ukulele Her sports interests include basketball, which she plays with a team, and soccer.
You would expect teenage Eddie Cochran look-a-like, Nikola Milicevic to play a little guitar. And you'd be right. He's also been playing the piano for a few years. Nikola's musical tastes run wide - from country to rap, and all stops in-between. At his school he's in the theater program. Basketball, soccer and swimming are the sports he's into at school - unless you consider the mock trial team a sport. He's also the star of his folk dance group. And he still finds time for PlayStation and his friends.
From the beginning it was clear that for the idea to work, we'd need a really good drummer for the video. Filling in for Larry Aberman, the Einstein drummer and thundering herd of one, is no small task. We were very lucky fate brought us Josh Wolfe, a fantastic drummer, with unbridled energy. Josh comes by his talent the hard way - lots of practice. He plays in several bands, as well as the drum line at his school. Josh listens to a lot of music, all different kinds, and likes a good game of chess. In the video he does a good imitation of a hurricane.
Q: Thanks for sitting down with us, I know you’ve been busy lately.
A: My pleasure.
Q: So, let’s get to it. We know you’re a huge fan of both music and movies. Which came first for you - music or movies?
A: Music. My mom had the album Whipped Cream & Other Delights by Herb Albert and the Tijuana Brass and loving the song “A Taste of Honey”. I also remembering singing “Raindrops Are Falling On My Head” in choir, and then hearing the song in the film Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. I loved that song.
Q: In regards to movies, which ones initially captured your interest?
A Clockwork Orange, Taxi Driver, Night of the Living Dead, Destroy All Monsters, Our Man Flint, The Legend of Boggy Creek, Assault on Precinct 13, American Graffiti, Going Places, Animal House. I’m sure I’ll think of others later...
Q: What was about them that moved you?
A: They all are very different films, but they are all things I hadn’t seen before. They were either extremely funny or sexual or violent or scary but each one exposed me a new world that I didn’t know existed.
Q: So do you feel that you connect with one or the other more viscerally?
A: Yeah, Clockwork Orange. It changed my life, for better or worse. That’s the film that first introduced me to who a director was.
Q: And what was the first music you attached to?
A: Aerosmith and Led Zeppelin
Q: What's your favorite period of film?
A: The French New Wave, with a close second being American’s new wave between 1968 to mid 1978.
Q: And what period of music?
A: 80’s indie college scene, more specifically all bands on the SST label.
Q: If you had to list your favorite films, what would they be?
A: Well, obviously A Clockwork Orange. I’m also a big fan of Taxi Driver, 8 1/2, Au Hasard Balthazar, Andrei Rublev …
Q: Two of our favorite directors – Robert Bresson (Au Hasard Balthazar) and Andrei Tarkovsky (Andrei Rublev). Au Hasard Balthazar is such powerful film.
A: Yeah, that film blows me away every time I watch it. Others include Ordet, In the Mood for Love, Apocalypse Now, Weekend, Satantango, McCabe and Mrs. Miller, Shampoo, What's up Doc. So many …
Q: And what about songs, not full albums, but what songs impaged you the most?
A: Well, the Beach Boys - Hang on to your Ego, for sure.
Q: Some personal experience there?
A: Haha. Maybe. Let’s see, Beck’s - Loser is still great; Beastie Boys - Sabotage, The Beatles - Ticket to Ride and Strawberry Fields Forever, Rolling Stones - No Expectations, The Breeders - Cannoball, Pixies - Where’s is my mind, Bod Dylan - It’s Alright, Ma (I’m only bleeding), Can -Vitamin C, The Cure - Just Like Heaven, Daniel Johnston - Some Things Last a Long Time, Minutemen - History Lesson Pt.2, Davie Bowie - Rebel Rebel, Dinosaur Jr. You’re Living All Over Me, Elvis Costello - Lipstick Vogue, Frank Ocean - Strawberry Swing, Funkadelic - Can You Get to That, Gang of 4 - At Home He’s a Tourist, Glen Campbell - Wichita Lineman, Hank Williams - Lost Highway, Husker Du - Celebrated Summer, The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion - Bellbottoms, Joy Division - Transmission, Kanye West - I am a God, Neutral Milk Hotel - Two-Headed Boy, Nick Cave - Fifteen Feet of Pure White Snow …
Q: What an overlooked piece of genius that is.
A: Yeah, anything Nick Cave. The video is fantastic too.
Q: You were on a roll, keep going …
A: Pavement - Summer Babe, Here, Public Enemy - Night of the Living Baseheads, REM - Harborcoat, Radiohead - The National Anthem, The Replacements - I will Dare, The Smiths - How Soon is Now, My Blood Valentine - Soon, The Stooges - Fun House, … I have to stop. I could go on forever.
Q: Clearly a big passion, music.
A: Yeah I still seek out new things. My iPhone is loaded!
Q: You're two earliest features, Guns Before Butter, and A Little Crazy - they’re quite different in style and tone, do you feel one or the other is more your thing? What did you learn from those films that you carried into your later work?
A: No, not particularly. I think it has more to do with the amount of time in between the two films. Over that time, I changed as a person, and then obviously as a filmmaker. Also, one film was shot on 16 mm and the other one was shot on DV. There’s a finite amount of footage you can shoot on film, because of budgetary constraints. So, you do more wide and single takes. When you shoot on DV you can shoot for as long, and as many takes and angles as you like. Which is not always a good thing!
Q: Alpine Village People, your web series, is such an original idea, and the humor unique, with its own rhythm. What inspired the idea?
A: I came across the Alpine Village People through casting a beer commercial, with our company, Alice Ellis Casting. We had such a great time during the shoot, I wanted to work with them again. So, I came up with the idea of inserting the APV into a music video for the band Thee Oh Sees. They were to play a Black Flag type polka band driving form one show to the next, a “get in the van” 80’s indie tour. We had so much good footage that wasn't used for the video, So Sky Elobar, the lead actor, and I decided to create a web series based on on the trials and tribulations of the APV.
Q: How did you come upon the timing and tone?
A: The tone of the web series mostly came from my sense of humor and the wacky band members. By the way, Bob Smokey Miles, who plays Einstein in the video, had a part in the 5th AVP episodes.
Q: The music video for Caretaker, which has Abe Lincoln wandering through modern day LA, is another example of your unusual take on things. How did that come about?
A: Well, I had this idea to make a short film involving a friend of mine who impersonates Abe Lincoln. That project never happened. But later, when I was vacationing in Hawaii and listening to what I thought was Chopin (turned out it was The Caretaker), this image of Abe Lincoln wandering the streets of LA popped in my head. My friend was not able to shoot the video, instead I found Robert Broski (who was fucking amazing!) who played Abe.
Q: Were you making a statement with that video?
A: I wasn't really trying to make a statement. I was more interested in capturing and creating the images of Abe and then letting people make their own interpretations.
Q: It would be a shame to talk about your music videos and not mention your excellent short documentary on the often overlooked, but excellent band, Cowboy Nation. Did you have a prior relationship with them, or were you a particular fan?
A: I meet Chip Kinman working at a commercial casting studio. Chip invited me to a Cowboys Nation performance at the House of Blues in West Hollywood. I went to the show and was blown away. I fell in love with their sound and we started talking about doing a documentary on their band and the cowboy scene.
Q: Lastly, where can people watch your movies and videos?
A: For all my short projects you can go to my website at www.jordanrellis.com. And my first feature film "Guns Before Butter" can be streamed at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_zfUVs8YEOw
I hope to have my second feature film "A Little Crazy" streaming later this summer.
Q: Thanks for taking the time to talk, Jordan.
A: I love talking music and movies!
Editor: Two of Jordan's music videos are linked below.
The first video from the Picnic Tool EP, for the single and title track, "Einstein" is now live online! Directed by Jordan Ellis, and featuring Bob Smokey Miles in the lead role, the video is a great romp around the grounds (and rooftops) of a California middle school, led by Albert Einstein. Al fronts a band of early teen rockers, like a scientifically minded Iggy Pop. Please watch it, like it, and share it.
We'd be lying if we said some of the promotion work (actually lots of it) that we do for the Einstein EP is actually fun. Like getting the Beatles to help advertise the upcoming release of the "Einstein" video. Friday will be here soon - and its going to be fab!
A lot of time spent by director Jordan Ellis getting the colors right on the Picnic Tool video. The right amount of saturation is a hard balance to strike. When it comes to a video, its not just the music that matters, its how the images look, make you feel, and partner with the song. We're confident we got the right mix, you'll know when you decide how it makes you feel, 5 days to go until the debut of the "Einstein" video.
Director Jordan Ellis spent a parallel lifetime at the computer editing our first video, "Einstein", so that you could get maximum satisfaction. Bob "Smokey" Miles, the lead actor, brought triple-A game, an accordion, and a lot of tongue that fell out of cheek - which is to say, he was genius. It's either a major breakthrough for civilization, or the rock ingest video of the year.
You decide - July 7!
Hair and make-up for the lead character in the "Einstein" video was critical to making the whole thing work. So getting someone up to the job was key. We scored big time with Hilda, a veteran of film, TV, and commercials, and also and independent hair stylist. Her work on the set was fantastic, just wait until you see! Hilda works two locations, one in the City of Orange, the other in Studio City, both in the LA area. We're very grateful that she rescheduled a busy Saturday to bring her magic to our shoot. Hair by Hilda has two pages on Facebook, and you can see her website here.
The shoot for our debut music video, "Einstein", was completed May 27. A small guerrilla crew, led by ace director Jordan Ellis, did a fantastic job! We're happy to say it was hugely positive experience, as everyone was extremely happy with what we got in the "can". It was not an easy shoot, it was very demanding and ambitious, but thanks to a great team effort it all got pulled off. We even had visitation from a possible UFO. What else would you expect from a Picnic Tool video shoot? Premiere date for the "Einstein" video TBA. It'll be worth the wait.
Housesitting for Bob Dylan, playing music around the globe, and being recognized in some parts as a count, are merely stepping stones to a gig as lead actor in Picnic Tool's debut video.
We’re really lucky to have Smokey Miles playing the lead for the “Einstein” video. He not only housesat for Dylan, but was a regular guest in Woodstock. The best part is, that was just the opening act for a great career. Smokey is a man of many talents, and we plan to use up as many as we can.
A musician in his own right, Smokey has played roots based music, both solo and fronting a band, all over the US and Europe. His 1990 album “Waiting for the Hurricane”, was produced by legendary songwriter Otis Blackwell (Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Peggy Lee). His music has been featured in film, and on TV. His videos are pure aural and visual treats, candy to be ingested by the senses.
As an actor Smokey has appeared in countless commercials, movies and TV shows. One of his most recognizable characters is that of Count Smokula, but they're all unforgettable. Still, seeing the whirling dervish, ball of action he is in Picnic Tool’s “Einstein” - we're confident a lot of people will remember him for this role..
Take a listen to Smokey’s music, and a gander at some of his work, you’ll be glad you did. See it here.
Picnic Tool is in pre-production on a music video for the lead track oFF our EP - Einstein. We're very excited to tell you that the video will be directed by Jordan Ellis, from an original idea of his.
Jordan is a multi threat - writer, director, producer - who has a lot of experience behind the camera. He has shot several films, including the festival classic A Little Crazy, as well as videos for songs by Thee Oh Sees, Deerhunter, The Caretaker, Vanessa Wagner, Helen Stellar, Liars, and others. His web series The Alpine Village People, follows the misadventures of the world's most "bad ass polka band", who were first introduced in Jordan's video for Thee Oh Sees song "Chem Farmer". Cowboy Nation, his short documentary on the Kinman brothers' follow up band to their successful Rank & File, is a music lovers must view. Jordan brings not only a gifted visual eye to the project, but also an intense passion and love for music.
We'll have more from Jordan in a few days. You can take a look at his website here.
Continuing our homage to great rock covers series, Picnic Tool joins forces with Supertramp for a breakfast of champions!