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Stars like fleas


Réal : Vincent Moon

Shot in NYC, 2007

A Monday evening in August, in Thomas “Doveman’s” car, squashed in the back of the beat-up truck. We had just come from filming a video in the Steinway Piano factory in the heart of Queens; it was a video that put on us on Cloud 9. We were heading towards Jennifer Charles’ apartment in Greenpoint for a wonderful evening filming Elysian Fields. Sam Amidon (who will soon be releasing an amazingly unique album under the Plug Research label) sat in the passenger seat, speaking to me about his other project, Stars Like Fleas. The name rang a bell. David Fenech had mentioned it to me just before taking off for New York. I explained to Sam that the following day would be my last evening in New York, and that I was ready to leave the city on a high note. Thus, a splendid finale took place the following evening, lasting late into the Brooklyn night.

The videos we made that evening with Stars Like Fleas remain my favorites out of all the Take Away Shows to date. They’re also the most radical, very long and demanding. It was a sublime memory, the opportunity to be part of a unique moment. It captured the very essence of these Take Away Shows: the experience of creating and sharing a unique space for just a few fleeting moments. In these videos, the music moves before your eyes, slowly evolving and finding clarity, emanating out as the participants find each other–the camera included.

Stars Like Fleas is originally Shannon Fields and Montgomery Knott’s project, a rare and mythic group in New York that has performed in various forms since 1999. Montgomery is also the proprietor of the magnificent restaurant and venue Monkey Town in Williamsburg. It was there, after midnight, that I met up with the nine members of the band. There were a lot them with a lot of amazing instruments. I was alone with my poor little camera. Two hours later, however, with a glass of Lagavulin in hand, we were all on the same level. It was fantastic.

It all started in Monkey Town’s kitchen: everything was heaping over with superimposed sounds, all very pretty and messy. The musicians started to catch the drift, beginning to understand our project, which nobody knew about except for Sam. I asked them to play in the streets, but they refused. I asked them a second time, but they said it would be too complicated and too noisy for one in the morning. I continued to insist and they finally gave in. The nine inspiring minutes that followed began as improv, with Montgomery handling the vocals just until the group began to come together and follow Shannon’s leading melody. A friend of the band whom we met at the bar helped with sound, totally wasted and staggering. The song really takes off with Ryan Sawyer’s sorcery on percussion–watch him closely in the two videos. He’s really an amazing musician with an inexhaustible number of ideas and innovations.

The instruments were difficult to move as we lugged them back into Monkey Town. This time we were in the back room, which is a large cube that functions as both venue and movie theater with four projection screens. Everyone was more or less languid on the couches as the light from the film projector (playing a film loop that Montgomery chose; ten minutes prior, there had been some Mekas movies playing) seemed to drive the music with a particular tension. We turned around and around until we began to stagger and quiver. The light would go out much later in the evening before we parted, back into the New York night. Exquisite terminus.

The new Stars Like Fleas album entitled The Ken Burns Effect will be out this spring under the Talitres label. The album was recorded in part at Nicolas Vernhes’ Rare Book Room studio in Brooklyn. (Nicolas is a great French producer who has been abroad for quite a while and who I’m sure we’ll get back to in time.) It was mixed at the Greenhouse studio in Iceland.

#32.2 – FALSTAFF

Réal : Vincent Moon

Shot in NYC, 2007