All Songs Considered Blog
10:02 am
Tue May 15, 2012

Mucca Pazza, 'Boss Taurus': Big Band, Itty-Bitty Stage

Originally published on Tue May 15, 2012 2:51 pm

Take a humongous group of excitable jokers who have too much free time on their hands, mix in enough instruments to satisfy an entire marching band variety, toss a few gigantic pom poms and enormously-loud/elaborate outfits their way and you'll get Mucca Pazza. The Chicago-based band is a 30-piece (yes, 30 trombonists, trumpeters, guitarists, cheerleaders, and more) community of "circus punks" that makes music that sounds like the results of a rowdy weekend at band camp.

Mucca Pazza's new song, "Boss Taurus," feels like a musical debate: the trumpets make a declaration; there's a response from the guitars; and the lone tuba tries to get a word in edgewise. The pieces constantly break apart and then get back to working together to get you bouncing in your chair.

The video for "Boss Taurus" has a remarkably simple concept — the members of the band perform and goof off on a tiny stage for three minutes. Its simplicity makes it easy to be swept up in the wave of exuberance and flashy colors packed into those minutes. In that short time, we can easily recognize the personalities of the performers — the single slightly-harried tuba player compared to the funky sax machines compared to the cocky guitar gods. I could easily see this video as an excerpt of a much longer film where the band has to put on a show to save their community rec center from an evil oil baron. Everyone's slightly awkward, a bit askew and having the time of their lives on the stage.

Director Jim Newberry described to us in an email how he wanted to focus on all the boisterous personalities in the band:

For this video I wanted to keep things simple. The musicians of Mucca Pazza are incredibly vibrant, energetic, and anarchic, and I didn't want to get in their way by using a lot of self-conscious film-making tricks. So we decided on a simple but lovely set with one camera locked down in a wide shot with occasional roving close-ups. I had worked with the band before and seen them perform many times, so I knew I could pretty much let them do their expressive, hilarious, inspiring performance the way they wanted to and it would be fabulous.

One of the things I love about the band is how there are so many of them — over 30 — yet each band member has his or her own distinctive personality; each wearing their own non-uniform uniform. They're definitely a cohesive unit, but each individual's personality shines through. That's what gave me the idea of having shots of them one at a time, either running or walking through the frame, or just standing there.

Mucca Pazza members Meghan Strell and Sharon Lanza talked about planning and designing the video with Newberry:

Our dear friend Jim shot black and white portraits of everyone in the band a few years ago. When we asked him to shoot a video, he proposed making a video portrait. We started out talking about individual portraits and developed the idea to capture the interaction of each section of the band, or section portraits. We shot the whole song all the way through a couple times with each of the seven sections, to provide Jim with a lot of material to sort through in his editing process. We wanted to capture and contrast individual interaction on the section level, and convey the personality of the trombone section vs. the drum section, for example.

We intentionally made the set too small for the whole band, riffing off our experience at many rock clubs where our 30 piece band performs on a 12'x15' stage ... or less. Jim wanted the set to be "beautiful" in a way and inappropriate for a marching band. The quick turn around and collaborative nature of the process are representative of the Chicago arts community that Mucca Pazza is so lucky to be a part of. Chicago is a city of generous and multi-talented artists that get things done.

The band's new album, Safety Fifth, will be out June 12, 2012.

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