By Davis Blount
Melody Chow is a film student at BYU entering her Senior year. As someone who has constantly been drawn to music, she decided to blend two passions and make a film documentary about the Provo Music Scene for a class project. After spending a few months in her hard drive, Melody decided to do something more: She wanted to re-cut the film and get it ready for public release.
Thus came The Sound of Provo documentary: a 10-piece mini biopic about different entities around the music scene. The ten-piece serial documentary will feature Deadtooth, The Blue Aces, Drew Danburry, Velour manger Kaneischa Johnson, Provo Yacht Club, Jenn Blosil, Provo Mayor John Curtis, Night Wings, Isaac Russell, and The Medusa Collective. “The Sound of Provo” will be premiering Monday, October 19th at the Velour Live Music Gallery. Before the premiere, we were able to sit down with Melody and learn more about the documentary.
AP: How did the idea for The Sound of Provo come together? What was the inspiration for this film?
MC: So, starting in January of this year my friend, Sterling Elliot, and I were taking an Intermediate Film Documentary class. I had always wanted to do something about the Provo Music Scene. One of the first films I made here was a process film of a band setting up and then eventually playing at Velour. It was just this past year that I had the idea to do something slightly larger in scope to try and encompass more of what was going on.
After talking to Sterling, we decided to focus on the music scene and make it a lifecycle piece. At that time Muse, for lack of a better term, was “dying” but also having a rebirth. The Provo Yacht Club was just beginning their journey. And then there was the Velour, which is like the bastion of local music right now. To start, we filmed the Provo Yacht Club doing a show, which was pretty cool. I also reached out to Stephen Cope, the owner of Studio Studio Dada to talk to him about the process of recording with different artists and making music with them as well. Stephen works with a lot of cool acts: He produces for Bat Manors, Quiet House, Officer Jenny (himself), and a lot of other acts that I really liked. So, we got in touch and went out to get Pho and started talking about music and Provo. Eventually, we started talking about the exclusionary culture against LGBT youths in the area and how there were not many outlets for these non-gender conforming people to turn for support. He described to me a sort of “safety net” that he was working on where female and non-binary musicians could come together and thrive: The Medusa Collective. Back then, it didn’t even have the official name, but that is what it has become. A few nights later, I was in Studio Studio Dada with Stephen and recording while Quiet House was making a string arrangement for their album. Eventually, I found myself at the first Medusa Collective meeting where they were really putting down stakes and getting things rolling. The meeting was reminiscent of the 80s-90s “Riot Grrrl” movement. From there, we just followed them from their beginnings to the first show.
AP: Was your intention for the documentary always to be episodic or was that discovered somewhere along the way?
MC: That definitely came along in the making of it. In fact, it wasn’t really until we were looking at all this awesome raw footage that we had when we decided to make it episodes. To be quite honest, a lot of the footage was very Medusa-centric, so to expand the scope of our documentary, we had to make it into episodes. That idea kind of sprung from Beehive Stores, a project by my professor, Brad Barber, to highlight some of the things going on in the lives of Utah residents. These are all 3-5 minute docs that are about a specific person in the music scene. The Medusa Collective’s doc ended up being 12 minutes and was the only one that I edited myself. I wanted to be over that one because I didn’t want it to be spun the wrong way and wanted it to be handled by someone who understood the story and had lived it.
AP: So there are ten episodes or mini-docs that highlight different parts of the local music scene. Is there going to be any screening for the work as a whole?
MC: Yes, definitely! Drew Danburry is one of the features of an episode and when I showed him the cut, he liked it and suggested that I do a screening hosted by the Provo Film Society. This was awesome because it meant that there would be a screening at the Velour. I feel like it is really nice because the film is able to come full circle in a lot of ways. Because so much of the film was shot in the Velour, it only felt fitting to show it there. That will take place October 19th, 2015. Ticket sales will go towards raising money for an independent theater to open in Provo, which would be a really attractive addition to the community.
AP: Will there be another screening at any point in the near future?
MC: I’ve actually talked to Stephen about doing a showing at Studio Studio Dada, but nothing is nailed down just yet. Fortunately, all of the episodes will be online and available for streaming online right after the premiere.
AP: With an eye to the future, will this be done serially? Can we expect more episodes coming from the Sound of Provo or is this case closed?
MC: What’s been so great about this series is the fact that so many different people have volunteered their time and efforts to the creation of this project. We have seven different editors: Amanda Barwick, Arielle Nelson, Jase Van Meeteran, Jessica Cahill, Kelyn Ikegami, Aubrey Clark & Steven Olson. We had three graphic artists: Libby Frame, Tylee Hansen & Michelle Whitaker. Sterling Elliott and I (Melody Chow) did camera and sound and we had an awesome project mentor in Ben Ungren. With all of that help, I couldn’t see myself continuing this cycle here in Provo. I fancy trying to do a similar project with other cities, like “The Sound of Portland” or something, but it is hard to imagine making it happen without all the amazing support that I have received.
AP: Is there anything else that you want to highlight? What are some things that the casual viewer might not see when viewing this?
MC: First and foremost, I just want reemphasize the collaborative effort this project has been. It was important to me to not make this pushy or one-sided. I really wanted to show another facet of the musicians that you might have not seen, I wanted to go into their homes and foster a connection between viewers and musicians. All of the people I interviewed were so great and I want them to be more relatable to those who enjoy their music. That, to me at least, is the point of this whole project.
AP: So lastly, Drew Danburry donated a question for you: “What was your ‘conversion story’ into the music scene?”
MC: My first local show was a The Moth & The Flame show… and I cried. I was just so overwhelmed when they played “How We Woke Up” [laughs]. It was so awesome! I was so stoked to be there and had a fat crush on the band. It was just being in that space, being a part of that moment… it was everything.
AP: Is there a question that you would like to donate to the next group?
MC: If you could make your own Kolache flavor, what would it be?
“The Sound of Provo” will premiere at Velour Live Music Gallery on October 19th, 2015. You can watch the mini-doc on Deadtooth below.