Yesterday afternoon, inside DIY venue The Gateway, Brooklyn’s alternative, dark, acid rock band, Heliotropes, made a music video for their latest single, “Wherever You Live.” Over the course of four hours, the track spilled out of powerful speakers on loop, while lead vocalist Jessica Numsuwankijkul, drummer Gregg Giuffré, lead guitar Ricci Swift, bassist Richard Thomas—and guest saxophonist John “Hot Juan” Stanesco—silently pretended to perform it. The set was an 80s prom, more or less, except the band was way better than real 80s prom, because it was Heliotropes. Plus, alcohol, in the form of red liquid vodka punch and cold Budweiser cans, was drunk in the open rather than behind closed doors and sport coat flaps.
Brooklyn-based Young Heart Productions brought all of the scenes from actual prom to life that you always dreamed of: awkward slow dancing, rejection, bullying, serious making out—many times—all done with conviction, and convincingly; for fake entertainment, it was very real. And I do mean that because beyond the fact that it was enjoyable to recreate 80s prom scenes without the crushing stiltedness of teenage emotion, Heliotropes themselves turned out to be notably gifted at mimicking their own music with stunning accuracy. As the hugely catchy 1950s-esque rock track blasted on playback—bolstered by Numsuwankijkul’s silky lead vocals—Giuffré behind the drum kit mirrored every tiny tap with astonishing precision, Thomas’ every little bass pick was perfect, and Swift on lead guitar initiated each strum with true-to-life nonchalance. The combined product was so expertly fake that I forgot it wasn’t really happening.
On stage front and center, Numsuwankijkul mouthed lyrics looking comfortable and dynamic. “It’s actually hard to perform—I would say I’m not a natural performer,” Numsuwankijkul told me after one take that was a roaring, seamless success, so I did not believe her at all. “It’s especially annoying to think about what I look like on stage—otherwise I’m just on stage like this,” she said, mimicking a dead-face and a lifeless presence. Just to repeat, I had a hard time imagining that, for her, this was a struggle.
But the video’s main attraction, ultimately, was Hot Juan on sax. His fake solos were out of this world. His back arched as his fingers ran up and down his instrument, and a big fan, held by a prop man, blew his long golden locks.
“It’s difficult having to go back to months ago in a recording studio and remember everything I did,” Hot Juan told me, sipping a cool Bud after one of many fake solos, in which girls’ hands stretched to touch his person as he pretended to kill them with his notes. “However, not actually having to sound good frees me up to do some uninhibited dance moves—that’s refreshing.”
It sure was. Check out more scenes fro Heliotropes making of, “Wherever You Live,” on video, below. And make sure to look for the real deal in the near future.
Photos by Jane Bruce.