Here at Sideshow Alley, we’re a band of filmmakers. A ragtag team of dreamers and creatives, coming together to make something beautiful. We love honesty. We’re drawn to the obscure. And we love capturing music and subsequently, musicians in a raw state. There’s no payroll keeping us here. There’s no boss telling us what to do. There’s certainly no client to phone in at zero hour to tell us they don’t like the birds who happened to chime in during a given take. And if we’re being really honest here: we wouldn’t have it any other way. A project outside the 9 to 5, purely fueled by passion and the desire to create something, well, beautiful. So, as we kick off our long awaited Season 6, it’s beyond fitting we do so with a musician who’s no stranger to burning the midnight oil herself: a self-starter and self-proclaimed busy body, Julia Jacklin.
For those familiar with Jacklin, the Australian-born songstress is enchanting to say the least. Her melodies are folk in approach, with nostalgic undertones of swing-time rock ballads, her voice has a beautifully haunting ache to it and then there’s her lyrics. Simply put, they cut. Her debut album, Don’t Let the Kids Win is a prime example, where many of her notable tracks address the acute awareness of time passing by and the feeling you haven’t achieved everything you should have yet -- a hefty subject matter for an early 20-something, and yet, fitting once you hear her describe her childhood.
“I was on a family holiday and watching a Britney Spears documentary,” Jacklin told Interview Magazine back in August. “I was very freaked out by how much she had achieved by the time she was 10.”
At the age of 11, she started training classically, first with singing lessons, finally picking up the guitar when she was 19, writing songs at 20, all the while studying to become a social worker and moonlighting in an essential oil factory leading up to the release of her first album. Somewhere along the way, she picked up a knack for directing, developing a keen understanding of cinematography, punchy color palettes and subtle humorous undertones (as evidenced in the official music video for “Eastwick,” which, like all of her videos, she directed herself).
Let it suffice to say: Julia Jacklin is a woman after our own hearts.
Naturally, when her manager called with news of a tour stop in Brooklyn, we jumped at the chance to collaborate with her and her band, knowing full well the bar would be high, and the visual standards even higher. Challenge accepted!
First things first, like all good bands who've been off the road for a while, sometimes you need a little practice session before the first show. It had been some time since we last filmed an episode so we had to dust off the cobwebs and check in with the latest production values. We trialed a bunch of fancy equipment in advance one weekend but in the end decided to stick with our guns. Big cameras, tripods and heavy gear just don't translate that well with 5 or more camera angles, where the primary goal is to retain as much intimacy and honesty as possible. Fortunately, our favourite smaller cameras have lifted their game, and aided by some handy gimbal accessories (for those unfamiliar, this is a fancy way of saying we had some gizmos to help stabilize our gear) we found the perfect balance to match our intentions.
Next, came the big question of: where the heck should we shoot this? If you’re a longtime follower of SSA, you know we love ourselves a good, backstreet alley, tucked away with perhaps with just a few neighbors in ear shot and the occasional stray dog barking in the distance. And don’t get us wrong -- New York is full of those. Good ones, too. But there’s something about the dreaminess of Jacklin’s music videos and New York in the evenings just as the summer heat starts to dissipate, that lead us to a rooftop. A rooftop overlooking a city of sharp angles, severe heights and sheer chaos, engulfed in the haziest of cotton candy-like sunsets. Bonus points if the Empire State Building makes an appearance, because, quite frankly, she’s still the crowning jewel, isn’t she?
We scouted around, stopping by numerous rooftops in Brooklyn, each one more impressive than the last, but ultimately, went with the Greenpoint building you see here. Why? Hard to say. Sometimes you just get a good feeling about a place. And sometimes that place has the most perfectly placed rosy pink heart graffiti strewn about that you can’t say no.
What happened next on that Thursday evening in May, just as the sun nestled over a blazing Manhattan skyline, was exactly the type of sunset we were hoping for and more. In true New York luck, the building of choice was a 6 flight walk up (always fun with loads of equipment and gear), but the view was well worth it, as was the beer we promptly had brought in from a nearby bodega. Julia and the rest of her band, Ben, Ian and Eddie joined after a bit of neighborhood exploring, hot off the heels from their latest tour stop with Andy Shauf in Philly a few nights before, ready to kick into their latest single, “Eastwick.” The wind picked up, bringing in the type of breeze that’s so welcomed after a long hot day in the city (but not necessarily welcomed by the sound team), as Julia’s lilting voice gently built around us, slowly at first, until layers of drums and electric guitar came in, adding the depth and the grit that we’ve come to know and love about her. It was a mesmerizing performance -- and one that we’re proud to kick off the season with.
As far as what’s in store for the season itself? This year, we’re excited to build out our roster of guest directors, tapping some of New York’s and Melbourne’s finest to take the reins of their respective episodes. As always, you can expect more location surprises, plenty of up and coming bands and continued collaborations with notable film industry leaders to help us in our pursuit of raw and candid music storytelling.
Here’s to Season 6! Thanks for tuning in!