The last time I chatted with Brandon and Leah, the dynamic and down-to-earth musical duo from Malibu, we talked about their hugely popular first self-released single “Life Happens” and it’s feel-good, live-in-the-moment video that shows the two of them living their lives in and around the beaches and hills of Southern California. In part two of this three-part interview series, we dig deeper into their latest video release, talking about overcoming obstacles, finding the road to personal liberation and artistic expression.
For your second video release, you two teamed up with the geniuses at Funk Factory Films again and shot an old-time western-themed, edgy and much darker video at Melody Ranch. It’s an incredible production that looks like a feature-length film. It’s impressive from that stand point alone.
But not only do I love the video for “Vaseline,” I love the lyrics, the sound and feel of the song. It is a true testament of your artistic talent and creative vision…not to mention your versatility. A lot of artists tend to maintain repeat one particular style and sound, especially if it’s popular. After the bouncy and light feel of “Life Happens,” it’s nice to see the “shadow side” of Brandon and Leah…proving to everyone that you two are no one-hit-wonder.
Can you give us some background on the song?
B: We wrote the song with Boots Ottestad in New York City and we really connected with the song when we first started writing it. It represented us in a lot of ways, specifically the chorus.
L: The song highlights the point that no matter what position in life you’re born into or what role you’re given, no matter what it is; you always have the opportunity to change it. You may not be able to change it physically, but you can always change your outlook. I feel that there is a huge sense of freedom in that. You’re never completely imprisoned by your circumstances.
That reminds me of the Prison Yoga Project that Robert Sturman has photographed extensively. You may be physically stuck or boxed in by a situation or a set of circumstances, but you have the power to change your inner state of being…and that is liberating.
It’s actually very similar thematically to “Life Happens” when you describe it that way. I love that that message of liberation and mental freedom comes through in these both songs, two songs that on the surface appear to be very different in mood and feel. In reality, your shared outlook on life, your commitment to personal evolution and presence of mind and heart, come through quite clearly in both of them. That’s quite a feat.
L: Yeah, they’re similar in terms of the basis of their message, but the feelings and specific focus for each song is different. One song, “Life Happens,” is where you’ve already succeeded and now you’re embracing life. “Vaseline” is about the process and the struggle of realizing what you need to do to change your circumstances and come through the other side.
I love that, Leah. And you packaged that message in a beautifully produced concept video which is quite a departure from “Life Happens.” Can you tell us a bit about the video itself?
L: We didn’t want the video to be taken too literally or have the concept of the video be too specifically aligned with the song. What one person relates to is not what another person relates to, right? I thought by taking it and putting it back into a different era, it would let people connect to the message of the song without having the images deter them from it.
B: The concept of and the images in the video aren’t going to directly or literally pertain to anyone’s life. If it was set in modern day, it could speak to someone’s literal experience and we didn’t want it to be that. We just wanted the message to come across.
…so it becomes available to more people.
L: (laughing) That and I really wanted to shoot an old-time gun and I really wanted to see you [Brandon] on a horse.
B: And you got both.
*Spoiler alert* Thinking about it that way, the part where Leah goes through the window is symbolic of breaking through those obstacles and challenges, no matter what they might be. All of the images and pieces of the video are symbolic.
L: That is exactly right.
Just curious, why name the song “Vaseline?”
L: I just read Leonard Cohen’s “15 Poems” and they were really, really great. When you’re writing a song, you think about things…I think about my life and I’m a visual person. When I think of music, I see it, you know? When I was thinking about my life and writing this song, I was thinking about the chorus and the lyrics I saw it as these bumps…until “things go smooth.” What would that look like?
So you’re playing with words, painting pictures with words. Like the video, it’s not literal but symbolic. Again, it’s another departure from “Life Happens” which is in many ways quite literal in its lyrics and the video concept.
B: Yeah. In addition to what Leah just said, I think that you have to be vulnerable and open to taking risks. It’s not necessarily a word that you would put in a song. To us, it seemed to be the best way to describe what we’re saying, something simple. It was the title that resonated.
And you went with it… I like that you two are so connected to the words and images you created. And that you take those artistic risks.
The two of you are about to release an alternate ending to “Vaseline” which I’m excited about and Intent.come readers can help make that happen. Go to Brandon and Leah’s Facebook page, “like” it and then share it. They’ll release the alternate ending when they hit 30,000 “likes.”
B: Yeah, one reader will win a prize from us by captioning the picture of Leah to the left. We’ll announce the winner this Thursday at noon PST during our next UStream chat.
Intent readers, post your caption in the comments section below and include your email address before you submit. If you can’t make their UStream chat, they’ll also announce the winner on their Facebook page after their UStream ends.
If you haven’t read part one of my interview with Brandon and Leah, click here. Stay tuned for part three; the inspiring, intimate and insightful conclusion to my interview series with Brandon and Leah which will be published this Wednesday.