Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris
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In a rare Guest DJ duo, husband and wife directorial team Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris team up to talk music. They directed dozens of music videos before making their feature film debut with “Little Miss Sunshine” and tell us about the songs that have defined their life together. Their latest film is “Ruby Sparks”.
For More: http://www.foxsearchlight.com/rubysparks/
“See How We Are"
1. X - See How We Are
2. Daniel Johnston - I Live My Broken Dreams (live)
3. Billy Bragg - Way Over Yonder In The minor Key
4. Arcade Fire - Intervention
5. Buckaroo - Attention
DW: This is Dan Wilcox from KCRW and I have the pleasure of sitting here with husband and wife director duo Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris. Their feature film directorial debut was the critically-acclaimed “Little Miss Sunshine” and now they're back with Ruby Sparks, which I had the pleasure of working on as music supervisor. Today we're going to be talking about the songs that have inspired them over the years as part of KCRW's Guest DJ Project. Welcome Jonathan and Valerie.
VF: Thank you!
JD: Hey Dan.
DW: What have you got for us here folks?
JD: Well, we dug deep into the Dayton-Faris vaults.
VF: I know everybody says this, but this is really a hard assignment. You know, to limit it to five. So we just figured we would pick songs that were particularly meaningful to us as a couple and that kind of a little bit trace our history working together and being in a relationship together.
JD: This first track comes from The Cutting Edge which was a documentary T.V. show that we did in the early ‘80s. We filmed bands performing live and one of our favorite sessions was with the band X and they had just had a line up change. Dave Alvin was in the band and he was only in the band for a very short time, but we happened to be filming on a day when he was new to the group and they had just written this song called "See How We Are".
They set up and it was just John Doe singing with Dave accompanying him on guitar and the song was so new that I think John flubs the lyrics because he's still working them out. There are two recordings, there's the album version which is great recording, but if you're interested in hearing our version it's on You Tube.
VF: And I think John Doe has one of our favorite voices ever. We love the band X. They were actually one of the first bands we ever filmed on The Cutting Edge and, you know, he just, you really feel it coming straight from his heart.
Song: X – “See How We Are”
DW: Okay we just heard X with the song “See How We Are” and what's next for us?
VF: Well, part of The Cutting Edge, what we did was, we'd go from city to city and we did a couple cities and filmed local bands from those cities. So one of the cities we went to was Austin, Texas and this was in about 1986 and one of the bands that we met there Glass Eye introduced us to this artist Daniel Johnston. He gave us a little tape called “Hi, How Are You?” and we loved it and we decided to film him playing live in a club. And I think it was the first time really he was being seen by a TV audience.
Song: Daniel Johnston – “I Live My Broken Dreams”
JD: It was really one of the most exciting performances we ever filmed. The recording is rough, but there is so much feeling in it and I don’t know if the song ever appeared on any of his records, but it's a heartbreaking song and it's something that if you like him at all you should find.
VF: Both of these songs, “See How We Are” and in the Daniel Johnston song, it's both the writing and then the voice. You know the voice of the artist and how much they're communicating their life, their experience and there is nothing like that when you hear a singer/songwriter you know just kind of spilling their heart out.
DW: This is the song “I Live My Broken Dreams”, it's a version taken from The Cutting Edge here on KCRW.com
DW: Okay we just heard a song from Daniel Johnston, that was “I Live My Broken Dreams”, it's a version taken from the MTV program The Cutting Edge. I'm sitting here with Jonathan Daytona and Valerie Faris. And what's next?
JD: Well, there was a recording done by Wilco and Billy Bragg where they took old…
VF: Woody Guthrie lyrics. His daughter, I guess, had all these lyrics that he never set to music and so she approached Billy Bragg and asked him to write the music for them and I guess he approached Wilco and they ended up creating two albums worth of these Woody Guthrie songs and they're all so beautiful. But I think the one that is probably my favorite and, to me, it's like an antidepressant. I can listen to this song and it just, it immediately makes me happy, and it's “Way Over Yonder in the Minor Key”.
Song: “Way Over Yonder in the Minor Key”
VF: It's like Billy Bragg is channeling Woody Guthrie. I think he has such a beautiful voice and it just comes from such a deep place and then Wilco, you know, just what they bring to these songs. So I think what I love about it is that its talking about the voice, I mean it's even true in the screenplays that we are attracted to, that there's a writing style or a voice in them. I think we feel the same about songwriters; it's not just the writing, but then when they get to sing it. You know so you're hearing it just performed in a way that's so soulful -- but the writing is a big part of it, so that's what we love about Billy Bragg, Wilco, and Woody Guthrie. It's this incredible convergence that really captures the heart and soul of Woody Guthrie.
DW: Okay we just heard from Wilco and Billy Bragg and Woody Guthrie on the song “Way Over Yonder in a Minor Key”. What's next in the trick bag today?
JD: Well, we always make a playlist as we start to make a film and it's a way for us to connect to the themes and the feeling that we are chasing after.
VF: This song, Arcade Fire’s "Intervention", was one of the songs that we listened to over and over as we were working on The Abstinence Teacher, a Tom Perrotta novel that we were adapting. When we listened to that song it was like we could feel the whole movie, it sort of captured this feeling that we felt the movie was tapping into and the content of the lyrics is part of it, but it's more the feeling of the song.
JD: It's kind of rare when one song alone creates the feeling that we want for the entire film but, in this song, we kind of imagined the feeling at the beginning of the movie and really the whole arc of the story as it just gets bigger and bigger with so much feeling and every instrument from the mandolin to the women in the choir singing…
VF: And the organ
JD: …and the organ. It's just, it's epic.
Song: Arcade Fire – “Intervention”
DW: Do you guys need to do that when you're sort of envisioning a movie? Do you almost need music to kind of give it a handle some how?
JD: Exactly. When we find a song and we both agree that's it, that's what we're going for, then we know that we're seeing the same film and then we can pass it on to everyone we're working with and they can hopefully connect and know that there's a certain goal that we have.
VF: And it's not like we'd ever use the song in the finished movie, but it's such a great way to communicate without words. It always starts with the two of us, if we agree on the feeling and a song and then it's like our road map, it's our non-verbal road map of what the movie is.
DW: So we just heard the song “Intervention” from Arcade Fire, and Val and John what's the last song that you have for us today?
JD: Well this last track kind of caught us by surprise. You know, we work at our house and we'll spend all day talking in our living room. We have three kids and over the years our kids have studied music, piano and guitar, and our oldest child Augusta started to sing recently and we would hear her downstairs singing through the stairwell and one day it just struck us that, my god ,she has this beautiful voice and she's writing songs that we love and the fact that she's our daughter, you know…
VF: Has nothing to do with it. You know actually it is funny and it's a very personal song and at the risk of being, um…
DW: blatant nepotism.
VF: Yeah blatant nepotism, she has a band now and she recorded an EP or 7-inch that they're going to release and we really love the song. It’s the kind of song that if we heard it and we didn’t know who it was, we'd say that's a great song. And it also kind of hearkened back to the kind of songs and the kind of bands that we filmed in The Cutting Edge days and, I don’t know, it just kind of felt like a really nice full circle for us.
DW: Alright let's check it out the band is called Buckaroo and the song is “Attention”.
Song: Buckaroo – “Attention”
DW: Okay that was the band Buckaroo with the song “Attention” as chosen by our guest today on Guest DJ Project Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris. Thank you so much for coming down here on KCRW.com
VF: Thanks Dan.
JD: Thank you so much it was really fun.
DW: For a complete track listing and to find these songs online go to KCRW.com/guestdjproject and subscribe to the podcast on itunes.