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February 16th, 2014, 6:53 pm

Why We Did A Music Video From The Kindness of our Hearts

Some of you who read the 2/15 Shameless Saturday News post have since spoken to me about the Eli August campaign, in which Mr. August states:

“We will be shooting another music video with my friends The Nerdy Duo. They shot and edited the video below out of the kindness of their hearts.”

“Mel,” you say, “You guys just shared a post on FB about Rhythm and Hues two days ago. Why would you do a video for anyone for free? Isn’t that a huge part of the problem?”

In most circumstances, you’d be 100% right and we would be contributing negatively to problems in the production industry. But our relationship with Mr. August and some of the circumstances of the past year deserve closer inspection than that.

We first became aware of Eli August & the Abandoned Buildings in a tiny rotunda at TempleCon a few years back. I have been a tremendous fan of them all since the first moment the soundwaves reached my ears. Have you heard their music? There’s a lot of really interesting stuff going on there-- starting with some very unique instrumentation (When I become Evil Dictator of the World, all musical ensembles will be required to consider how they sound with the addition of a cello, a clarinet, and an upright bass).

This is not exactly why we did the video, but it is why we made an aggressive effort to get to know Eli, who, we came to find out in the years we’ve spent talking to him between to-do's at conventions, is an utterly lovely person. And that’s why I’m a little ashamed to make this confession--

A year ago, practically to the day of us posting this (and the day after we’d returned from a convention where we had enjoyed far more time than usual with Eli), one of my closest friends, died suddenly and unexpectedly. I have yet to find enough of the right words to accurately express how much this has affected me-- all the way down to the fundamental core of my being. In some ways, it’s affected me more strongly than my own mother’s death fifteen years ago, but that was neither sudden nor a surprise. I may have met Angela because she was dating (and later engaged to, and even later, cohabitating with) Erin’s best friend (Those two have been friends so long, I often joke that I am the interloper to their hetero-lifemate situation). But she pursued my friendship like it was a personal mission. You can’t replace the kind of friend that she was-- she was our biggest fan. If we were making it, doing it, or going to it, she wanted to see it, buy it, be there, and tell everyone. She was my script editor, my confidant, and in some ways, the only equal friendship I’ve ever had in my life. Utterly irreplaceable and gone now. C'est ça la vie, c'est ça l'amour.

So within 12 hours of her passing we were there, hundreds of miles from home (and away from our new puppy!) in the thick of the mourning and living like highly functional zombies.

I could not find comfort in any of the things I usually use to self-soothe in times of trouble-- not in making art, or in work, or in movies, or video games. Music was almost letting me sleep at night, and that was something. The album of Eli’s I had on my iPhone had a song or two that let me cry one night, and that was actually a little bit better. So, on the third or fourth day of feeling like someone had ripped all of my internal organs out through my chest, I sent Eli an e-mail:

“Hey! Just a friendly reminder to send us the new album so we can talk video concepts!”

It’s not that the pretenses were entirely false. We had talked about exactly that the previous weekend. Except lying awake all those nights, I wasn’t thinking about videos. I was thinking about how I was going to put one foot in front of the other to help dress the house for people after the funeral and how I was going to bother feeding everyone. I was thinking about how we were all going to put our lives back together after this, and the most horrifying thought of all-- what was the point if this could happen again to any one of us tomorrow?

“If I could only forgive myself you say.
Just bear the burden now, there’s no one here to blame.
And time won’t ever be outgrown.
I fear these old regrets are the marrow of my bones--
How my mistakes and indiscretions crept into the darker part of me.
They haven’t gotten to you yet.

There’s no redemption from the way that we were.
I couldn’t bring them back. You could not bring her.
There’s something here that you need to know--
Won’t you just let them go?

There’s no redemption from the way that we were.
You couldn’t bring them back. I could not bring her.
There’s something here that you need to know--
Won’t you just let them go?”

-- Petals, To the Weak and the Weary

The chorus on that repeats forever, a personal message at the moment that I happened to need it. We might have all been heading into the dark, but at least going was starting to seem possible. And just maybe, once we got moving along the path, there might be some really sweet clarinet riffs or one of those cello chords that makes you weep with joy. I’m using those things as a metaphor now, but clarinet riffs and cello chords and beautiful music are actually pretty awesome things worth pressing on through hardship to experience. The first thing we really left our Cave of Mourning for was Eli’s NYC concert/release party. Which, as lackluster and mopey as we were, was worth doing.

“An age old phrase or a dead man’s saying
You’re better off doing than at home praying.
Maybe I’m not long for the living world.
But the time I’ve got, I vow to be less unsure.”

--The Living World, To the Weak and the Weary

Eli is mistaken about our motives in his summary: it’s not really the kindness of our hearts. Helping someone who helped you through hardship is enlightened self-interest, the stuff that friendships are made of. We’re proud and happy to count Eli among our friends and we’re very excited for the new campaign, because the world absolutely needs another album from Eli August and the Abandoned Buildings.

Less than three,
The Nerdy Mel

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