Exclusive: Chasing The (Vincent) Moon

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Last week we visited Rough House in San Francisco and hung out with the three guys who conceived Chasing The Moon, a video podcast inspired by French filmmaker Vincent Moon’s popular Takeaway Shows. After a conversation about the dishonesty of people who wear contacts, the deliciousness of creamy root beer soda, and the slowness of travel during rush hour, we finally got down to talking about the show.

Flavorpill: How did you begin Chasing The Moon?

Scott McDowell: For me, it was born out of desperation. I have been a partner at Hyde Street Studio C for over two years. Before that I was an intern for about a year. My mentor was moving to Portland, which meant that I was losing all sorts of gear. The studio wasn’t going to be booked as much. The rent was going up. I was kind of like, “Holy crap, I’m fucked. What am I going to do?”

At that time, I was really learning how to interact with clients. It’s a slow process. It takes a long time, and it doesn’t always work obviously. I was desperate to hold onto my studio, my primary source of income, and my passion. I was trying to figure out how I could actively promote myself. I had just gotten a new iMac with a giant screen and got really into video podcasts. I found out about Blogotheque and the Takeaway Shows and I thought, “Wow, this is really something I want to do.”

I had also found out about Morning Becomes Eclectic — they do a podcast once or twice a month. I thought, “I could do this. I have a studio, I have mics.” And I could do a different thing where instead of going out, I could put it in a space and have my own style. I was going to do it myself, but it was going to be a real disaster. At a game night I mentioned the idea to Brian here, and he called me right after and was like, “Hey man, I’ve been thinking a lot about your idea, my buddy and I want to talk with you and get involved.”

Brian Berberich: I liked his idea and he needed some help on it, because he doesn’t know video.

SM: I’ve learned enough since to know I have no business trying to do it on my own.

BB: He knows music… I enjoy music, but I don’t know it very well. Elijah mixed a record for a friend’s band and has experience with video. I thought he’d be perfect to direct it; I’d produce it; Scott would do the music end of things. It’d be the perfect partnership.

Elijah Pahati: We had the gear, we just needed something to do.

SM: And Elijah has a great fuckin’ eye.

FP: I wanted to say, that the cinematography is gorgeous.

BB: Elijah does the lighting and the set up, and operates one of the cameras.

FP: There are three?

BB: Five.

FP: Do the performers do everything in one take?

SM: What you see is one continuous take. Sometimes there are mistakes, and we redo stuff. Fifty percent of the time the retakes don’t have the vibe of the first, so we go with the mistake.

FP: What’s the next episode?

EP: Judgment Day. They’re a string metal band.

BB: They’re unique. Unique is usually like, “Err… they’re… unique.” But they’re great. They are so different. Scott is in charge of getting the bands. He’s done a good job so far. He may screw up any minute.

SM: Sometimes it feels like I barely pull it together.

FP: Do you know most of the musicians personally?

SM: At this point… yeah. Some I know better than others. It’s a tough position. It has added this extra stress that I wasn’t expecting — all of my friends and clients want to be a part of it. There is a lot of politics involved…

FP: The politics of friendship.

SM: I set a rule. All of the episodes can’t be friends and clients. I don’t want the same people on too much. It’s easy to get your friends to come on. The people you don’t know, if they don’t have a relationship with you, there is a trust issue. It takes a bit more work. So far, everyone we’ve done, I’ve had some personal connection to.

FP: When I first heard of Chasing The Moon, I was reminded instantly of La Blogotheque. I thought you guys were chasing Vincent Moon.

SM: That’s the hidden joke of the name.

EP: He’s a huge inspiration, but we don’t want to mimic anyone. We didn’t know how it was going to end up. We just jumped into it.

SM: I’m so excited about podcasts and internet video as a medium. It’s exploding and there is so much potential. I’m also really excited for what it does for the musicians. It’s a whole new way to perform and expose artists in an intimate way. Music wants to be ephemeral. The fact we’re trying to capture it, right off the bat, we are bending the rules and cheating. It’s never going to be as exciting or real or connect with you on such an emotional level as seeing someone live does. That’s my personal belief; it’s not always the case. When recording, there’s all this work to do to match that. I’m into capturing the moment, the raw thing. It’s not always the best way to make a record, but when you can see the person, the little mistakes don’t matter. It’s like you’re watching them play in your room.

FP: Watching it from the outside, it doesn’t feel like you’re watching the musicians in the studio. Its intimacy is totally romantic.

SM: Some of the Takeaway Shows are really intimate… the Bon Iver ones.

FP: I felt that way about St. Vincent’s. Do you guys feel good about the direction you’re going in?

BB: Yeah! Artistically, it’s great. We’ve got a great product. We have to figure out how to grow it. Exposure is hard. We’re trying to find ways to keep it going. It would be the dream job to be doing this. It’s difficult to get to that point. How could we do it? Sell advertising, which we don’t want to do. Sponsorships… we have what we want. How do we grow?

SM: For me, from the start, it has been about sustainability. With every decision, I’m always balancing. Is this something we can continue to do? Early on, one of my biggest fears was bringing these two guys in. How do we grow, but not increase the workload? Technology has made it cheaper and possible to broadcast a show every month. We own almost all the gear we use. It’s a matter of paying to be in the space, and the time we put into it.

EP: We aren’t always thinking about these things. We are having a good time. The bands Scott brings in are so enjoyable. I get a lot of pleasure from meeting them and helping show people their world. I feel like each episode is the band’s thing. It’s their work. The biggest praise is that bands want to do it.

SM: The San Francisco music scene is such a fucking cool community. This has given us a role. This has allowed me to circumvent studio politics, I’m like “No! I’m a cool guy who loves music who wants to help you guys do your thing.”

EP: The San Francisco aspect is huge. We went into it admiring other guys’ work. When I see my favorite bands in a well-shot piece of film there’s this mythic thing where they become more than human. It’s really powerful. When I see them live, which is magical in itself, they are human. It ruins the illusion. I wonder if I can do that for local artists. There are a lot of talented musicians here; I just want to showcase them.

Download previous episodes of Chasing The Moon from their archive.