Coming to the legendary CMJ Music Marathon and Film Festival, which opens today October 19th, is an event you really don’t want to miss out on. One of the greatest performance bands of all time, the Los Angeles born legends Fishbone, led by the cool brothers Angelo Moore and Norwood Fisher, will be at (Le) Poisson Rouge this Friday night, October 22nd for a special performance following the screening of the new documentary by Lev Anderson and Chris Metzler, Everyday Sunshine: The Story of Fishbone. The screening will be at The Norwood Private Club at 4:00PM with the concert to follow at (Le) Poisson Rouge at 9:00PM. This is going to be an energetic, entertaining, and also moving night where the story of Fishbone will take hold of all in attendance and allow for a better understanding perhaps of the human condition while getting crazy with the funk/punk/rock/ska/soul (I can keep going) sounds that will pouring out of the venue. You can see my review of the film here and I was also recently able to talk with both Anderson and Metzler about the film during a very informative interview, here is the bulk of that discussion.
The first thing we talked about was how this film came together. I wondered if they had been Fishbone fans growing up in California or if they just thought their story was one that would be entertaining and compelling for audiences. Anderson began talking about his father’s eclectic love for music, and how his father had the first Fishbone EP, and took Anderson to a concert when he was about ten, so he had always kind of been a fan of Fishbone. Even more poignantly, Anderson added about Fishbone, “as a ten year old kid, their music seemed very naturally appealing, it had that high energy, kind of spastic punk rock, ska sound. So I was a fan of theirs pretty early on.” He said that he gradually continued to learn about them over the years through interviews he would read, liner notes, anything that came across his path about them.
As he made his move into filmmaking from a career in urban planning, Anderson said that when he met Metzler, they talked about how documentaries can tend be a little boring, but he thought that the story of Fishbone could branch out and people who were not necessarily fans of Fishbone would be able to get into it. He felt it would be a “fun story to tell. I knew that those guys were all characters, strong personalities that could carry a film, just through their own charisma and attitude about life.” Metzler had not previously known a whole a lot about Fishbone, so he and Anderson went to a show in San Francisco and he knew that he wanted to do the film. Anderson said they approached the band and over time, developed a trust with them and were able to pull it off. Metzler continued on, adding that the band was just all about fun, both on and off the stage, so when he met them that first time in San Francisco, he knew they would be in for an adventure.
I next asked them a little about their background, how they came to be filmmakers (you can see the bulk of that info here), but as I had hoped, it lead them to share a little bit more about the early process of how Everyday Sunshine came together. Anderson, after some discussion of his path to film, began talking about documentaries and his feelings about them. He said he “loves documentaries because you can combine elements of music, and history, and art, and politics, and the Fishbone story is kind of the perfect synthesis of all that, in terms of being able to tell a story that is rooted in the social history of our country for the last 40 years.” He also said that he and Metzler met while doing post production work on a film, getting on easily as friends right away and transitioning into collaborators on this project.
Metzler, a graduate of USC in business and film, began talking about his background, but coming quickly to his interests in this project as well. Coming from mostly narrative filmmaking, Metzler said that his desire to tell stories had led him to where he was, and when Anderson began talking about this project, he conceded candidly that “I’ve never really been a big music guy, I appreciate music, but I don’t really understand it, I just like to listen to it. And when I met Lev, you know, you’re always kind of on the lookout for great stories, and when Lev told me this story about these six black guys that were bussed from South Central out to the white suburbs of LA, and they quickly fell in love with punk rock, I just felt like that sounded like a neat story, you know, it’s like, these guys kind of defy all stereotypes. And both Lev and I both like this idea of music docs that transcend being fans of the band, so you can not only appreciate their music and art, but them as people and also the larger cultural and social backdrop of the film, which definitely plays a large role in the story of Fishbone.”
Metzler added further on this subject, also talking about about the film in terms of its story and the how they put the film together, saying “we knew there were these funny moments and also these moments that might make you choke up a little bit, but until we debuted the film, and you’re screening it to a packed theater of people, and you just hear people laughing at all these moments, moments you didn’t even realize were funny, it’s nice to see people getting pulled into the story. And especially in the case of Angelo and Norwood, they have such a great sense of humor and perspective on life, it’s nice that their personalities were able to translate from the stage to being on-screen.”
I wanted to dig a little deeper into the forces that have shaped them into filmmakers and who may have influenced them in this journey. Metzler began talking about this transition into making a documentary film as opposed to the narrative work he had worked in the past. He saw Errol Morris’ documentary Fast, Cheap, and Out of Control and felt the way it captured the humanity in all of us was a way he wanted to make films as well, and he was ready to give documentary work a go. Anderson continued on, citing Morris as well as Werner Herzog for being filmmakers he was inspired by and really enjoyed their work. He talked about Jim Jarmusch, saying how he enjoyed the way Jarmusch found such interesting characters in the underbelly of American life for his films that were not like typical Hollywood characters. Metzler jumped back in talking about the independent filmmaker of today, how they inspire, not necessarily in an emulative way, but in a way that respects and appreciates their approach. Metzler added that both he and Anderson like these stories about people on the fringes of society who decide to try and walk their own path, something Fishbone certainly has done and any artist worth their bones tries to do.
I also wanted to know more about the process of making the film, if they had learned a lot of things about Fishbone, if they had set out a clear plan that the production would follow, did they instead let things unfold in front of them, or was it some combination of the two and other factors. Anderson began saying that they certainly discovered things along the way, but they also knew what the general framework of the film would be before beginning the shooting phase of the film. One of the things he said they gained a greater understanding of was the dedication of the band to their craft, especially within founding members Moore and Fisher. He said “the guys currently in the band are so dedicated to pushing their legacy along, they are not content just sitting on their haunches, reminiscing about the good old years, they are out there making new music and looking to appeal to a new audiences. It was really kind of refreshing to learn and it inspired us to not just make a historical film, but show what it takes for artists to keep living their lives the way they want to.” This deeper understanding of the hard work involved with the creative process coupled nicely with the expanded knowledge thye and the viewer gains about the members of Fishbone as people.
Metzler added that he felt “you can’t make a film and spend four years making it without learning so many different things. I have always kind of described documentary filmmaking as going to grad school to get your PhD. We just happened to get our PhD in Fishbone.” How cool is that, seriously just another amazing part of making films. He continued on, talking about what else he took from making the film, saying “a good chunk of the historical portion of the film, we are kind of dealing with these larger issues that gave rise to this black punk band from South Central LA taking place in the 1970s, 1980s, and early 90s, I mean I was born in 1974, so all this happened during my lifetime, but you’re kind of too young to realize and understand the political and cultural resonance… So when we were making this film, it’s like you’re able to look back into Fishbone’s history, but also our nation’s history, and my own history. To be able to look back at all this history, for me, was very fascinating, to be able to understand it through some of the guys who lived it was just great.”
Look for more on Everyday Sunshine: The Story of Fishbone in the next two days, including interviews with Angelo Moore and Norwood Fisher as well as other places you can see the film coming up, including Friday night October 22nd at The CMJ Music Marathon and Film Festival. Head over to The CMJ website for ticket information regarding this event and other fest sites for upcoming screenings and music performances. Also be sure to check out the links below for more information on Fishbone and the film Everyday Sunshine. If you are interested in following along with the coverage of Everyday Sunshine: The Story of Fishbone, The CMJ, or film festivals in the future, you can receive these articles directly as they are published by clicking on the “Subscribe” button at the top of this piece. You can also follow me on Twitter by searching for ericshlapack or by clicking the link below.
For more info:
The CMJ Music Marathon and Film Festival
The Los Angeles Film Festival
The 2010 Tucson Film and Music Festival
Everyday Sunshine: The Story of Fishbone
Become a fan of Everyday Sunshine on Facebook
My review of Everyday Sunshine
Le Poisson Rouge
Norwood Private Club
Coverage of TFMF
Follow me on Twitter