Shiny Toy Guns Reloaded: A BlackBook Q&A

Nothing is broken beyond repair, at least if you’re a member of Shiny Toy Guns. The L.A. synth-rock quartet made a huge splash with their 2006 debut We Are Pilots, but the pressures of touring proved to be too much, leading frontwoman Carah Faye to depart the band and move to Sweden. While she started a new musical pursuit, Versant, the rest of the band (Chad Petree [guitars/vocals], Jeremy Dawson [keys/bass], and Mikey Martin [drums]) recorded sophomore album Season Of Poison on their own. Since then, the original line-up has reconciled and is ready to make its presence known once more. After years in the studio, Shiny Toy Guns are set to release third album III in October, and they’re introducing it with a longform music video entitled #Loverunner for the first single “Waiting Alone.” In the film, long-distance romance becomes more challenging than ever as Carah runs across the U.S. in search of her love interest in Brooklyn.Watch it below and then read our exclusive Q & A with Carah and Jeremy. 

You’ve just released the new single "Waiting Alone." How did that song come about?

Jeremy: Like most of our records, it started out as a completely different song.

Carah: It’s a really old chorus that I sang when I was 19 years old. Everyone has always really reacted to it, so we knew we had to do something with it. Even when they first asked me back, they were like, "Well, we want to use the ‘Waiting Alone’ chorus." I was like, "Oh, really?" because I had sung it when I was 19 and it went through a complete metamorphosis.

J: We changed the verses five times, we just couldn’t get it.

C: We turned it into Chad singing the verses and a new track, and it became what it is.

So it was really rewarding to see it all come together?

C: Absolutely.

J: On the tech level, yeah. I remember days when we were like, "Well, I guess we’re just not going to put it on the record." We were about to throw it away. The whole process of making an album is so dynamic, rollercoaster. Every day is like that game where the [moles] come up.

Did you conceive this as a full album, from start to end?

J: In conception, yes, but it’s like you and your wife are husband are going to have a beautiful baby girl and then it comes out and it’s a little fat boy. You never know. We knew we were going to make the best record we could possibly do. We had the trauma of love, the trauma of our band breaking apart and coming back together. We had all this in our minds that we knew was going to come out, we just didn’t know how or what color, and we just let it come out by itself naturally.

So it felt very organic?

J: Extremely. We waited until it stopped. Normally we have a timeline, a deadline, we were very fortunate. The positive side of being broken off from a record company for three years is that we were allowed to just sit and let it go. If this week, we wrote five songs and threw them away, it’s okay–we’ll try it again on Monday. We just let it go, and for three years, the record just embryonically became a breathing organism. I remember when we started seeing it take shape and we could feel the songs with common threads.

I just watched your new video for "Waiting Alone." The idea of the music video as an event has really grown over the past couple of years, was it important for you to be making this kind of bigger statement?

C: Yeah, it was official video back together, aside from the announcement. It was the first music video, and we wanted to do something big. Basically what happened is we were studio rats for years, and all of a sudden, the album was done and we didn’t know what to do with ourselves. We weren’t happy with the treatments that we had, so Jeremy and I came up with this concept of, "What if we drove from the West Coast to the East Coast and shot this Loverunner running to her love interest in Brooklyn, and Chad plays this evil character who tries to stop her and sends horrible weather and a mugger and whatnot to stop me?" It was crazy, it took between 24 and 28 days.

J: We’ve said 28, 26, 25. It’s somewhere in there. We don’t really remember.

C: It’s 24. We need to look on a calendar.

J: We shot 6,000 miles on the ground. We had two film guys who were with us shooting the whole thing. "Guys, we’ve got to get to Utah by dusk." So we had these incredible distance deadlines. We had Red Bull and a bottle of sleeping pills, and we’d take turns throwing each other down and up to get the driving sequence down. Carah had to wear the same outfit and be in full, camera-ready makeup for any time, it was like, "Look! There’s a shot!"

C: It was like, wake me up, "Carah, put your lipstick on," and I’d literally tell them, "This one’s going to have to be a shot from behind, because I look real tired right now." We roughed it, it was guerrilla style.

J: We planned some of the longer shots, but a great deal of the movie, we’d be driving and then, "Oh my God, look at that!" and just pull over.

C: The train and the helicopter shot on top of the mountain, those were all by accident.

 

So you got to see some places you hadn’t been before?

C: Yeah, lots of them. It’s the same for a lot of artists, when you’re on the road, you don’t get to experience the cities you’re in. So a lot of the cities we’d been in…

J: For like three hours.

C: The Utah natural arches, [Moab,] that was incredible.

J: We hiked for 45 minutes just to get to that arch in the desert, it was 100 degrees.

C: We had a lot of experiences like that, a lot of places in Colorado, where we got to stay a night and see. That’s where we did the [shot in the river]. Lots of cool places.

J: We didn’t get to stay that long, but it was way the hell different than pulling up in the dark to the back of a venue.

C: Oh, and the D.C. shots. That’s the first time I’ve ever been.

J: We’ve played D.C. a hundred times, but again, we roll into the venue, [play], get back in the truck, and we’re out of town.

C: There’s always a show the next day.

J: We got to see the Lincoln Memorial, it was beautiful.

C: It turned into a fun trip. We’re thinking about doing a commentary for the whole thing, Jeremy and I, because it’s so emotional. "Oh, that shot!" You want to pause it, it’s a second and a half, and be like, "That’s what happened on that day."

J: Some of the frames, [one-second shots], that one second sometimes took six to nine hours of work.

C: The horse-riding shot took an entire day. Not because I couldn’t get it, but you get there, you’re meeting these people and you have breakfast with them, they’re just nice country people who are letting us ride their horse.

J: This movie should have cost half a million dollars, and we did it for $10,000 because of favors.

C: We got really lucky.

 

It sounds like you really committed yourselves to this.

J: To be honest, when we left, we were like, "It’s going to take about nine days." No. Once we realized this was going to take three weeks, there was no turning back, we had to just go.

C: We went all the way to New York and then we had to drive all the way back.

J: Yeah, to get to the north part of America. Otherwise, it would just be the Grand Canyon, Texas. What about Colorado? You can’t go up and down, so we had to [make a loop].

C: We were exhausted by the time we came back.

J: We didn’t blow one tire, we didn’t break down one time, no one fell asleep at the wheel, except for me a couple of times. We bonded with the camera people. I’m sure you’ve taken road trips, in college for fun or going camping.

C: It’s a real bonding experience

J: This is like a month road trip. After a while, it felt like the road without the anxiety of playing a show every night, it was fun. I’d do it tomorrow. I’d do a three month run.

C: I’d do it if I didn’t have to wear that outfit, if I could just be in pajamas and didn’t have to be Link from Zelda.

 

What was the craziest thing you saw when you were filming?

J: What about the Jesus tomb? That freaked me out, I’ve never seen anything like it. It’s not in the video.

C: There were so many amazing shots.

J: Like the Alamo, that’s not in there. There just wasn’t room, and the shot was either this or that, and there were shots that the editors and Carah and I really wanted to be in it.

C: The scene where I’m running and I kick the stuff up, it’s Stonehenge, but it’s fake, it’s Foamhenge.

J: Some weird lady–no offense to her, an amazing artist, but a very unique, eclectic mind to think of this–to the spec recreated Stonehenge out of styrofoam and even painted it. It’s in the middle of a field, it doesn’t cost any money. You drive up a gravel road, and on this hill is a styrofoam Stonehenge. With a wizard, just a stone wizard.

C: And the homeless man in Nashville that I threw the dollar to, that was just an experience. He was so nice and so happy to help us. Some of the craziest stuff was when we were storm chasing, we were trying to get a tornado on film. We got stuck in some really, really gnarly lightning fields, crazy hail storms where I was running through huge hail. It was really dangerous. So that was pretty gnarly.

 

Did you get to go to the Parthenon replica when you were in Nashville?

C: Nashville was one of the stops where we went to New York and then we came back, and when we came back, we were really pressed for time. The offices here were pressuring us to already be editing it. Our director, between driving shifts, was like, "I need to get back and start editing all of this film that we’re getting." The way back was kind of stressed, and all of the cities that we hit then were like, "Get into the city, film the shot, let’s go." And that was kind of boring, but that was one of the cities where we had to go really quick, I’d love to [go back].

 

Do you have any plans to release outtake footage as well?

C: Absolutely, there’s like 40GB of footage.

J: Every shot we did, I was behind the camera guy with my phone, so we made the time for either Carah or myself or the directors, either before the shot or after the shot, to stop and say, "Okay, we’re in Omaha, Nebraska, there’s a hailstorm, and we’re going to have Carah run down this muddy road to try to capture a different angle of her running by this barbed wire fence." And we did that all day long. So whenever we have time, we’ll be able to cut this with a Q&A and make a full feature documentary showing how we did this. It would be an hour long, at least. We came home with four hours of video to cut into one music video.

 

If you weren’t bonded before, you definitely are now. What does it feel like to be making this comeback, all together again?

C: Well, fingers crossed that it’s a good comeback. It feels amazing, we’re just at the part where we’re starting to see things get exciting with the album done. Now we’ve got a video out, and we haven’t been able to read any reaction to it at all. And that’s how we remember We Are Pilots being, too, we didn’t really experience what was happening because we were facilitating it, we were keeping it moving. It’s exciting, we’ll see what the end of this year and next year brings. We’re definitely proud of the album and we’re excited for what people think of it.

 

How do you think this album reflects how you’ve grown since you started out?

C: We wrote it from a very honest place, and I think we’re very proud of that. It’s sort of no-holds-barred with some of the lyrics. Some of them are a little too honest, but you have to do that.

J: Especially now because, not that we did before, but you can’t lie and hide behind your hair anymore because of the viral power of the internet. If you’re portraying yourself as this, all somebody has to do is Google and find out that your that, and this become irrelevant.

C: You have to be real.

J: If this is who you are, then put it on the table and let everyone see it and own it. And then people will respect you. Maybe you’re not the coolest kid on the block, but because you did that, people go, "I like him, he’s real. I like her, she’s real." In fact, a lot of the songs on this record are six or seven minutes long, and normally we’d be like, "Oh, we have to cut that down to 3:40," but we just let it go and let it be what it was.

C: This one, we want to stand behind forever. We knew it was done when we all felt that. "Whether they like it or not, this is us." This is the album where we’re ready to say, "This is album three, Shiny Toy Guns."

 

Carah, when you were living in Sweden, did you pick up any influences from the pop environment there?

C: Oh my gosh, did I ever. I was so influenced and still am by the incredible Swedish bands. There’s something in the water over there, even the pop songwriters that come from there who were influenced by ABBA and all of those bands. I love the Cardigans, Weeping Willows, all of those bands are so influential to me now and very influential to Versant.

J: There’s a melancholy sort of rhythm to the choices and notes that the singers do in Sweden, and you can hear it and literally go, "That artist has to be Swedish, or a Scandinavian wrote that song for that artist." There’s a sound, and they go places that you wouldn’t ordinarily think you would go, and it’s easy on the ears.

 

Anything else you’re into right now that you want to shout out?

C: We love Beach House. I mean, who doesn’t? Everyone I’ve talked to has been like, "Yeah, I love Beach House, too." It’s almost boring.

J: The new Twin Shadow’s full-length just dropped. I had "Five Seconds" forever, but actually I can’t buy it because my card doesn’t work on my iTunes account, but I can’t wait. There’s a lot of new music out there that’s badass, Knife Party is awesome.

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