PHOTO COURTESY OF DADDY.
A musician’s artistic process is often a straightforward one; the lyrics, melodies, and instrumentation form the songs, the songs form the record, and a few lingering ideas on the record’s key songs may later form its music videos. For Daddy, James Franco and Tim O’Keefe’s conceptual, multifaceted band, those elements arose nearly all at once.
What started as a sequence of poems, written by Franco and inspired by the music and themes of the Smiths, turned into a musical project with the help of multi-instrumentalist (and fellow Rhode Island School of Design MFA classmate) Tim O’Keefe. In essence, old songs inspired new poems, and those poems inspired new songs. The result was Let Me Get What I Want, the duo’s debut record, which was released in March, and its complementary film, which premieres exclusively below.
“What I like about working with James on Daddy is that we’re thinking of the songs we make as a visual medium as well as a sonic one,” O’Keefe explains. “That creative process is quite different from making music and then deciding what you want to create for a potential music video afterwards. It’s more of an integrated creative process that’s quite fulfilling.”
The Let Me Get What I Want record and film harmonize to tell a story of high school heartbreak and hesitation through characters Tom, Erica, and Sterling, who are modeled after students Franco attended high school with. Franco says that concepts in the Smiths’ lyrics inspired the youthful narrative that Let Me Get What I Want articulates. “The dual feelings of irony and sincerity that their music contains, and the focus on youth, that was my way in. And then I thought the mythologizing of teen romance and tragedy, and especially a love triangle, was what the music spoke to,” Franco explains.
Let Me Get What I Want‘s visuals certainly echo the notion of everyday teenage tragedy. The film has no beginning or end, and can be viewed as a full-length, hour-long film, or as ten individual chapters, each introduced by a piece of Franco’s artwork. This distorted storyline reflects the uncertainty and ambivalence of adolescence. Muddled snapshots of teenage suburban life—late-night drives and house parties, a girl crying in a bathroom stall, an outcast art student observing jocks from afar—float in and out of sight as though plucked from a real high schooler’s daydream. This authenticity comes from the filmmakers; the footage was shot by students studying under Franco’s mother (who teaches at Palo Alto High School, Franco’s alma mater).
“When James first told me he wanted all the videos to be shot by high school students, I was a little concerned about what the quality might be like,” recalls O’Keefe. “Then I got the drive with all the raw footage on it, and it was shot really well.” Franco, too, was satisfied with the material. “I loved the innocence, and genuine feeling in the images,” he says. “I’m interested in mythologizing youth. It’s one of the most interesting periods of life.”