Sunday, May 15, 2011

The Ruffled Feathers - Blueprints for our Failed Revolution

I started about writing about this Vancouver based chamber-pop band, The Ruffled Feathers, that I've been following ever since I came across their EP on bandcamp and how I was excited to finally see this video since they have been talking about it for months. I loved the story it told, the imagery felt just right, and everything from the necklace, to the wine at sunset, and especially to the burning piano was spellbinding. It is rare that I enjoy videos and even more rare that I feel like a video enhances a song, and this one certainly does. When I read the note that outlines the video on their website, I realized just how much my words were failing me. The note reads so well that it would be difficult to pick any one excerpt. So have a listen to the song and go on to read the note in full and watch the video after the jump.

To our feathered friends,
Months ago, me and my friend Geoffrey Vincent began work on the most ambitious project I’ve ever set out to complete.  The goal was to make a music video for the song Blueprints for our Failed Revolution (download for free at our Bandcamp page).  The song itself was inspired by stories my Grandparents have told me about the Chinese Revolution, as well as similar tragedies from around the world, such as The Reign of TerrorThe Spartacus Revolution, and the Storming of the Winter Palace, among others.
Charley on SeymourCommon among these intertwined histories is the struggle for human freedom, though somewhere along the way the original values and good intentions got lost.  The revolution ends up betraying the people who fought for it in the first place, and sometimes, it even transforms into the oppressor they fought against originally.
Yet, isn’t this how progress happens?  No one movement is going to be the end of change.  Human freedom is something that must be continually fought for, with each new generation.  I’m reminded of a quote from Samuel Beckett’s work Worstward Ho (1983),
All of old. Nothing else ever. Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better
The real message of this song is one of optimism and perseverance in the face of defeat.  This is the sentiment the video seeks to capture.
During the months we spent on pre-production, we gathered our resources and made plans.  Money was in short order, but we were rich in enthusiasm and hard work.  My friend Mike Ellis was in town for a week and illustrated the blueprint that was burned in the video.  I began work on props, such as the telegraph I assembled from various hinges and parts I got at Home Hardware.  Maps were borrowed from friends.  Drafting tools.  A desk.  We got a free piano on craigslist from a nice family (, though we obliged not to inform them we would be burning it off of old logging roads in the middle of nowhere).  I got strips of fabric to make leg-wraps for the boys in the band–a pseudo-historic but interesting aspect of our costumes. I Hiked up Mt. Seymour in costume on snowshoes with a desk strapped to my back, much to the amusement of the skiers and snowboarders.  We shot scenes in a burned down Juvenile hall, and even brought back garbage bags full of rubble for an indoor shoot. My friend Molly made a necklace out of an antique birdcage/wind-up clock I got in Shanghai, which Gina wears around her neck in the video. The fire department was called because of our enthusiastic use of a smoke machine.
In the end, we are pleased to present to you a little music video.  We hope it inspires you to keep trying in the face of misfortune and defeat.
-Charley Wu
The Ruffled Feathers

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