I don’t want to make this post about me, but some of you may know that I’m moving away from Charlottesville soon, and I’m going to have to get all sappy for a second. Working on this post about the new Sharkopath video has made me realize that there are two major things I’m going to miss the most about the arts scene here: the number of creative people making incredible music and art here, and the support given to them by their friends and the community. The following video for Sharkopath’s new single, “Glenn,” encapsulates these ideas: the band had an idea for it, and a group of people worked together until it came to fruition.
Charlottesville’s Sharkopath consists of Mac Mathews (guitar/lead vocals), Dave Stone (guitar), Rowan Hildreth (drums), and Matthew Gatto (bass). They have been together as a group for three years, but have just recently been able to release their first self-titled album and this video. The band has a crunchy, loud, heavy post-hardcore sound, but that complex sound is balanced in their best tracks with a pop sensibility or with intriguing song structures.
The video tells a coming-of-age story about a boy who follows his older sister to a house party, and sees a band called the Sharkettes. The Sharkettes are essentially the female alter-egos of the real band Sharkopath, and they are the ones who perform the song in the video. I like the video’s ability to represent that universal experience of discovering music for the first time, as well as its playful approach to the idea of gender in music. I met up with two members of Sharkopath, Mac Mathews and Matthew Gatto, at the video’s release party to talk about the process of making the video, and the band’s plans for the future.
NG: Your song “Glenn” is one of the singles from your self-titled album that you released recently. How was the recording process for the album, and how did it finally come together?
Mac Mathews: Sharkopath basically started in one of those Petri dishes that was left alone for a culture to grow on its own for a long time. We’ve been in a band for three years, and we played very rarely, but we practice religiously. We had plenty of time to work on a weird sound that made all of us very happy.
Matthew Gatto: We recorded [the album] over a year ago and we had some issues the first time we tried tracking it, it was some major weather, I believe. And we had originally intended to record it all analog, but unfortunately a tape machine failure prevented us from doing that.
NG: How did these setbacks affect your plans for making videos and letting people know about your new music?
MM: We actually decided to make this video instead of getting the album pressed on vinyl at this point in time. We got our album together, and we had enough meager band funds to push it in one direction or the other, but we wanted to work on the video to keep the creativity rolling, because that’s a creative process unto its own.
NG:You worked with a production company called Lurid Pictures, who have also made two videos with Eternal Summers. How was working with them, and how did you find them?
MG: They [Alex Kent and Wade Vanover] are two guys that we knew from Harrisonburg. Our bands played together at one point or another, and I knew that they were starting up a production company. I do a lot of film and video production on my own time, and so I have a deep appreciation for production in general. I started seeing some of the work they were doing, like the Eternal Summers videos, and I thought it would be great to hook up with them, and try to get a video shot of one of our singles. And they’re just rad dudes, and very professional.
MM: We filmed the video during a big house party, and they managed to keep everyone on task throughout the whole night while the party raged on. I can’t believe we got through the whole shot list, but we got everything we needed.
NG: So the video’s about, in some part, a kid having his first experience going to a show, and finding a band that he really likes. Is there any personal connection to the video for either of you?
MM: The song is called “Glenn.” I actually wrote it from the perspective of this character Glen from the show Mad Men, and in the earlier seasons of the show, he develops a crush on Betty Draper. When I watched that, I thought about being young and being completely overwhelmed by those kinds of feelings. When I was writing the lyrics, I decided it was going to be more like when I was young, watching Blondie videos and being into Roxette and other female-fronted acts. That combined the idea of that weird, creepy, little boy having a crush on a grown lady, with my own experience really looking up to a lot of girls who kicked ass and played great rock and roll. The lyrics all pertain to that, and the video almost wrote itself once we started thinking about it.
MG: This whole process was really interesting, to see how far you can go with just an idea. We were literally sitting in my living room one day talking about an idea for a video, and this idea stuck. We all knew right away… we wanted four of our girl friends to play the roles of the Sharkettes. We just knew these four girls, Bonnie [Adams], Alicia [Walsh-Noel], Claibourne [Reppert], and Cat [St. Ours], we knew that they were tight as friends. We knew they would mesh well together and have really good chemistry.
NG: I was showing the video to my roommates, and I had to explain that that’s not the band, the real band is Sharkopath and they’re all dudes.
MM: It’s probably confusing.
MG: We joke about how the Sharkettes’ stardom has far surpassed what Sharkopath will ever be in terms of popularity.
MM: I thought it was pretty cool that we got to make the video and be part of the creative process, but we didn’t have to be the ones up there playing our instruments and doing all of that. I’m not saying I wouldn’t ever do something like that, but it was really cool to sit back and watch someone else play our song. The girls, they should be a band. They have a great camaraderie, and they party harder than we do, they live more of a rock and roll lifestyle than we do, quite possibly.
MG: We both served as producers in the sense of assembling the cast and crew, and keeping everything in line. It’s a tough job. As far as our pre-production, it’s amazing the dedication that went into it. The minute we had the idea that we wanted [the girls] to play the role of the Sharkettes, right away they were like, “Yep! Let us know when and where, and we’ll be there.” They spent several weeks before the production of the video coming into our practice space and we would play the song for them, and we’d put the instruments on them, and we’d watch.
NG: Did the Sharkettes actually learn to play the song, then?
MG: They learned our mannerisms, our gestures. We wanted to make it look like it was natural and they felt comfortable with it, with the instruments on. Alicia, who played the role of the bassist in the Sharkettes, she became so obsessed with trying to look and play the part that she insisted I teach her how to play the song on bass. And that was impressive, that they would show up for practices multiple times, they would even go in the space on their own time and make sure they were in sync with each other. I think it certainly paid off, and it’s reflected in the quality of them acting in the video.
MM: And Bonnie isn’t faking it on the drums. She’s wailing on them. She was very impressive behind the kit.
NG: People will just watch and be like, “that’s not what they look like!” Is the whole band in the video?
MM: (pointing to Matt Gatto) He’s not!
MG: But there’s a part in the video in which my old metal band [Cosmonaut’s Ruin] makes a cameo [in the intro to the video].
NG: The video for “Glenn” reminds me of the Hibernator Gigs Left & Right video, with a big party of supporters around the band appearing in it. Videos like these, in a way, seem like a love letter to Charlottesville and the people in it. Did you feel that way when you were making it?
MG: Our ultimate goal throughout it all was to throw a party and to have a bunch of our friends together. We wanted it to be fun for everyone, and that’s exactly what it was. From hanging with the Sharkettes leading up to the production to the actual shoot, which was partially shot in our apartment, it was basically a big-ass party. It was an excuse to have all of our friends together, and to do something within our scene. To have it go off without a hitch, that was the best part of this experience.
NG: There’s a sense of support here, a desire to make everyone’s artistic projects come out well. You can tell that from the video, that everyone’s into the idea.
MM: The sense of community was very fulfilling because the song was the first one we’d ever written, and we had no idea if we were ever going to play a show or anything. And then to have that seed grow into a big garden of fun experiences, lots of shows, a tour, this video where we have a band mythology involving a fake band…
MG: The underlying this with all this is, it’s just incredible how far you can get with what starts simply as an idea, and watching that come to fruition with something like the video, it’s incredibly rewarding afterwards. If you have dedicated people, and people interested in being a part of it, and want to help out in any way they can, that sense of community absolutely shows through. Everybody’s working toward the same goal. They want to have a good time, but they want to contribute to something greater than them.
NG: Does Sharkopath have any plans for more shows or videos from this album in the near future?
MM: We have two other videos in the works that will be released soon, and we also have an EP/single for a different song on the album. All that will be coming out in the fall, so we have some more stuff on deck to keep the momentum rolling.
MG: We wanted to go from nothing to a lot of media.
MM: Justin Bieber levels of crazy.
MG: Making up for lost time, so to speak. We wanted to hit ‘em hard with three music videos, the album’s done, and we had a very successful tour last month with [Charlottesville metal band] Corsair. We might do a second iteration of that in November. We called the previous tour Shred South, and we were thinking about doing something in November called “Noodle North.”
NG: It’s good to see that you’re getting this music out there so more people can hear it.
MG: It’s tough because it took so long for the album to be released. We never had a proper record release show… I feel like we’re hitting it hard trying to write new material.
MM: We recorded a lot of them over three years, you know. We recorded a lot of them for posterity. Our writing process is very collaborative, and once we’ve got something, it’s unlike anything either of us would have written on our own, therefore we want to document it.
MG: That’s how I’ve come to cope with the fact that it took so long to come out. It has its place in time as what we were doing at that moment. It definitely got a fire under my ass to want to record more material.
MM: Write sicker riffs!
MG: We were inspired by Corsair, as you can imagine.
MM: Harmonize everything!
NG: And heavier and louder is always better.