The band's new songs, videos, and mini-documentaries highlight the space between people.
[Updated] “With this one, we’re not so focused on the album. We just wanted to focus back on songs.”
According to Grant Widmer of Generationals, the approach he and Ted Joyner adopted to the band’s currently untitled upcoming album is to record songs as songs first and release them when they’re done. They reveal this strategy in a series of mini-documentaries they released on YouTube that reveal the process and their belief that focusing on the songs outside of the context of the album will force the two of them to make each song better and less reliant on those around it to make sense.
So far, Generationals have stayed true to this strategy. They have released four songs including most recently “Mythical,” and the recent press release to announce it mentions only the songs that they’ve released so far and fall tour dates. Nothing about an album, though you assume one will come at some time. The documentaries certainly make it look like they underwent a period of concentrated creativity as they worked on what might be an album’s worth of songs, but perhaps they showed viewers bursts of disconnected energy that surrounded individual songs.
The documentaries and the “Mythical” and “Turning the Screw” videos taken together add a piece to the Generationals puzzle. JJ Gerber with Anthony Maiuri produced and directed the documentaries, and their results make Joyner and Widmer look to be alone, even when they’re with people. They even seem isolated from each other when they are sitting at their laptops. Gerber and Maiuri's shots studiously set them in architectural spaces that highlight the distance between Joyner and Widmer and others. If Gerber and Maiuri didn’t also shoot the videos, they might as well have since they are also handsomely shot and isolate the few people in them.
“Turning the Screw” shows us five young, beautiful friends hanging out at someone’s house when there’s no one else around, but the camera rarely lets us see five people. In fact, it rarely lets us see two. More commonly, it gets close to one person and follows an arm, a nod or a gesture to the person he or she is with. They’re often in lighting that partially obscures them or renders the people as incomplete images. In “Mythical,” Joyner is down the water where people are hanging out, but they’re not interacting with him and neither is the camera. It’s more interested in the water and boats docked nearby as sunset approaches, and it goes elsewhere to examine empty streets after the rain, and a parking garage at night.
Both videos are beautiful and, like Generationals’ music, simultaneously familiar and distinctive. The visual and musical vocabularies aren’t new, but what they say with them feels specific to the band. In “Turning the Screw,” the young people look like they live in their heads, and the logic behind “Mythical” appears to be similarly personal and interior. In the documentaries as in Generationals songs, you hear a lot but get the feeling that there’s a lot they aren’t saying.
Updated July 31, 2019, 6:46 a.m.
This piece has been revised to clean up some ratty writing. The ideas haven't changed but some sentences have.