In the music video for “Chandelier” by Uncle Larry, the Milwaukee-based band spins up one awesome hooping video. In fact a hooping video is the premise for the music video itself. Billy Judge Baldus, the creative genius behind Uncle Larry, explains, “A girl plans to make a video of herself hooping that turns out to be more then she ever bargained for when her friends and even the local authorities make an uninvited appearance.” And with so many of us having lived some version of this story, to varying degrees, and with Baldus himself not only hooping in the video but delivering some pretty awesome moves, it became clear to us here at Hooping.org that Chandelier isn’t any ordinary music video with hoopers in it. It’s a music video by hoopers.
See what we mean? That’s why we had to sit down and talk with Uncle Larry and company to get the inside hoop scoop about how this all came down.
Hooping.org: So Billy, let’s start off by having you tell us more about you and Uncle Larry.
Billy: Sure, I’m the singer, guitarist, songwriter, visual designer, illustrator and leader of Uncle Larry. I formed the band way back in 2001 with my art school friend Ben Leisch while we were attending the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design. As for band members, there have been a few line up changes since then. I am the only member from the start and as for the name “Uncle Larry”, it came from a T-shirt that I found that read “Uncle Larry” across the chest. About a year before the band formed someone asked me, while I was wearing the shirt, “Uncle Larry, is that a band?” I said “No, it’s a T-shirt”. Then about a year later when my friend and I were starting a band I thought wait a minute Uncle Larry is a band!
Hooping.org: Awesome! And you’re responsible for making this video.
Billy: Yes. I’m not only the producer and director of the “Chandelier” music video, I hoop in it as well!
Hooping.org: I know! You’re the dude hooper with the blue short shorts and sweat band, right?
Billy: Exactly! I have been hooping since 2006. I had never seen modern hooping until I met my wife Anna and she blew my mind. I didn’t know so much could be done with the hoop. I’ve always loved physical challenges too so I had to try it myself. I’ve always thought that Uncle Larry is more than just music too. A lot of effort, time and creativity is put into the songs and music and since I come from a visual arts and acting background, I also strive for the band to encompass the entire creative spectrum from visual arts, theatrics, video, dance and movement. Hooping fits well into the experience.
Anna: Billy is super ambitious, especially when it comes to Uncle Larry, and he also supports me in everything I do, hooping being one thing. When we first met back in 2004 I had been hooping for a couple of years and he started hooping with me. He’s actually an amazing dancer, so he rocked the hoop right away and is very innovative with it. He always invited me and my friends that hooped to go-go at his shows, and many times we incorporated skits that involved hoops and hooping. Naturally over time his audience and fans came to associate hooping with his shows too.
Hooping.org: And now the two of you teach hooping classes together too, right?
Anna: Yes! He started out as my assistant, but his presence was so loved and large it was impossible for him not to rise to co-teacher. If I end up having to teach a class without him the first question out of the students’ mouths is “Where’s Billy?”
Hooping.org: So Billy, tell us more about Chandelier and how this video all came together.
Billy: Chandelier is Uncle Larry’s third music video. The idea to have a music video featuring hooping has always been in my mind since hooping has already become a part of Uncle Larry. I have been featuring hoop dances at live Uncle Larry shows for a number of years and “Chandelier” has a bouncy dancey beat perfect for hooping. So when I decided to make a music video for the song, hooping fit perfectly. I’ve also seen a lot of video casts of people hooping so I thought it would be interesting to play off of this idea of a girl making a video cast of herself hooping. Although, I wanted the video to be more than just a hoop dance, so things start to get a little out of control when strange people start showing up. Then it gets really out of control when some pink S.W.A.T. team dudes bust through the walls.
Hooping.org: I know, right? Who are the S.W.A.T. team dudes?
Billy: My two bandmates at the time, Garrick Karpinski and Shane Wagner. They play the two S.W.A.T. dudes on the left and my brother Mike Baldus is the S.W.A.T. team dude on the right. While listening to the song I imagined that the outro solo part at the end represented a vortex opening up and transporting the viewer to another realm. So the hoop tunnel became the vortex that takes viewers to a tropical island inhabited by two dancing werewolves. This part of the video draws directly from imagery and themes of the song.
Hooping.org: Anna, what did you think of all of this when the video started coming together?
Anna: I saw the story boards and became really excited for this video. When it came time to choreograph it we put an email out to our hoop friends.
Hooping.org: So who are the other hoopers in the video?
Anna: Barb Ignatiev and Rachel Ignatiev are both in it – and you probably know them from the late great T-shirt company HoopPretty. Barb is actually our sister-in-law as well. Kristi Tarantino is in the video too. She started attending our classes in 2008. She’s an elementary school teacher and her classroom is decorated in hoops. Her students adore her and she also teaches hooping here in Milwaukee.
Hooping.org: So you’ve got the band members, your brother, your sister in law, her sister. Sounds like you already knew each other really well.
Anna: Totally. Having worked on previous shows together it didn’t take very long to put the choreography together. We all love to create, choreograph and perform. For Chandelier, we mimicked what we normally do when we get together to hoop, except for the pink S.W.A.T. team part.
Hooping.org: What was the process like?
Anna: We arrived around noon and fourteen hours later, sometime after midnight, it was a wrap. We only had five chances to capture the footage just right too, being that the walls were broken away every time the pink S.W.A.T. team exploded through them – and Uncle Larry could only afford five sets of walls.
Hooping.org: Those darn S.W.A.T. team members! Always ruining a perfectly good hooping party.
Anna: It was always frightening when the S.W.A.T. team came through the walls, even though we knew when it was going to happen! It was a fun kind of scary though, the kind of fun-scary you’d pay for.
Billy: The pre-production for this video was intense since I decided to shoot the video in one take. We had to practice a lot to get the whole sequence down and a set had to be constructed on a sound stage. It was serious stuff, I had to build walls, install a door and even paint it. I also illustrated and built the werewolf puppets. In all we probably worked 80 hours in 6 days to get that built.
Hooping.org: So who else made this music video happen?
Billy: There was a combined cast and crew of about 16 people. We needed people to operate puppets, lights, fans and setup break away walls. The post-production was really easy since it was shot in one take. Just a couple edits at the beginning and the end, a few color adjustments and wham. That was the upside of doing a one take shoot. Usually the post-production is the part that takes the longest. A common question about the video is “How did you get the camera to go down the hoop tunnel?” Well, that was done with some fancy footwork by my friend Tate Bunker, the Director of Photography.
Anna: Tate is first and foremost our friend. It was weird to see him in his element as a director. He teaches with the film department at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. He was serious and kind of mean in contrast to his normally laid-back, playful self. I kind of liked seeing him in that light.
Hooping.org: What inspired the song itself?
Billy: Chandeliers, Buddy Holly, werewolves, true love and the idea that people aren’t always as they appear. I was working on two different songs. One used a new wavy chord progression, and the other had a 1950’s Buddy Holly doo wop sound. Since I was playing the songs back to back I discovered that they sounded good together. The two songs became one. When it came to the lyrical melody the word chandelier happened to be in my mind along with thoughts of werewolves. I think I had been reading about lycanthropy on wikipedia. It is the term for the condition of being a werewolf or at least thinking you’re a werewolf. And I have always been a fan of chandeliers. I really like the old ornate gold ones with all the organic curves. So I imagined how these two ideas would relate. I came up with an observation of two seemingly wealthy people, because they own chandeliers who also happen to be werewolves. The song hints at the idea that anyone can be different than they appear. In the end the two werewolves find each other and fall in love. It’s a story book ending.
Hooping.org: So what’s next for Uncle Larry?
Billy: We’ve played around 23 shows this year including Summerfest, another concert cruise, and one show that had Chorizo dancing around one of the Milwaukee Brewers racing sausages! At the end of October Uncle Larry will be recording new material that is expected to be released early next year. The future goals include releasing a couple music videos in the works and a regional tour around the midwest.
Hooping.org We wish Uncle Larry the best of luck! And Anna, what do you think of Chandelier when you watch it?
Anna: I’m so happy Billy did what he did. His focus was to create a fun video for Uncle Larry, but in essence, he captured a section of our lives.