Bedroom Community will need no introduction to some of you, but to many they will be a new discovery. They are a record label and a collective of musicians from the US, Australia, UK and Iceland and were founded in 2006.
In 2010 they decided it would be a good idea to tour as a collaborative project under the name of The Whale Watching Tour, a concert that I was planning on attending for their London date but which then got cancelled due to the Icelandic Volcano saga and the ensuing chaos. The Tour did carry on nevertheless.
Now they have released a very special DVD featuring a documentary about the label / collective which focuses on the tour titled Everything Everywhere All the Time and a second DVD as part of the same package with a concert film of The Whale Watching Tour.
The documentary features the key players:
Sam Amidon sings and plays fiddle, banjo and guitar. He was born in Vermont into a family of folk-musicians, Sam draws largely on traditional music in his own recomposed folk tunes. Alongside the likes of James Yorkston and Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy he is probably one of the most played artists on Folk Radio UK, it was through Sam we discovered Bedroom Community.
Ben Frost relocated from Melbourne, Australia to Iceland. He has composed for stage and film and his albums have been heralded as “the future of electronic music” and he has been mentored by Brian Eno.
Nico Mulhy who lives in New York City. He composes for orchestras, choirs, opera , ballet and film. He has arranged and conducted for musicians including Antony, Grizzly Bear, Jónsi and phillip Glass.
Valgeir sigurðsson, an Icelandic producer, composer and engineer. He is also the founder of Bedroom Community and has collaborated with the likes of Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy, Feist and Kronos Quartet
Daniel Bjarnason an Icelandic composer and Puzzle Muteson, the alter ego of an enigmatic songwriter from the Isle of Wight (UK) are also part of the collective.
Pierre-Alain Giraud’s documentary is a mixture of fly-on-the-wall footage alongside some very candid interviews which give the film a tremendous honesty and reveals not just the passion of these artists but also highlights some of the awkward hurdles they all had to overcome to bring about The Whale Watching Tour.
They all agree on one thing though…the project should never have really worked. They are all from different backgrounds, they each have different ideas…it was this aspect that appealed to Valgeir,along with Ben and Nico they recognised early on that they had what they called ‘homeless music’; music left over from individual projects from which the very rough idea of a label began to evolve.
Ben Frost states at the outset that if it was his label he would have made rash decisions that would have inevitably led to disaster. They all place a lot of faith and trust in Valgeir’s decisions…as Ben states “when Valgeir says something he means it. There are very few things he’ll voice that don’t become a reality in some way”.
The documentary builds around this central core of hope and dreams that you watch evolve throughout as it culminates in some incredible performances unlike anything I have ever witnessed before, the scope of the project is genius.
Throughout the film nothing is hidden or pretentious there are moments of joy as well as those of sheer frustration, you feel the fragility of situations such as Ben’s frustration in translating his ideas to classically trained musicians. Although Nico takes over to translate Ben’s ideas as best he can the experience is stressful and it shows like thin ice about to disintegrate. Sam Amidon also steps in during one sound check to deal with everyone talking over each other with different demands…Sam has a gift of being able to shout without sounding angry and things are soon back on an even keel.
They have their good nights on tour as well as their bad. The camera catches it all and the highlight of ‘bad’ is the Icelandic Volcano eruption which leaves Valgeir in London ready for their Babrican performance with Nico in NYC about to be evicted. But when they all finally get together the camaraderie is there in heaps. The bond between them was a personal highlight of the film and you have to admire and love them for their perseverance and passion. When things do go well, they go really well and the joy on their faces is a picture.
The documentary is not without some great moments of humour, from the discovery of the ‘not so nice’ tour t-shirts, the crazy tour bus driver who looks like the ‘Doc’ out of ‘Back to the Future’ and Sam Amidon’s acting demonstration in facial expressions.
Whilst it would have been easy to over-balance the documentary towards one extreme of highs and lows the editing has been done very well and you’re left with a very well balanced film that shows the reality of what the artists face whilst on tour as well as a dream becoming a reality…that is the enduring memory and you will want to seek out every Bedroom Community release after watching it.
I’m not going to mention the 115 minute concert film as that is the fruit of the dream, but you won’t be disappointed…and although it shouldn’t have worked…it did!