A lot of art is a joke. Or it starts out as a joke, anyway. For Safe Boating Is No Accident, exploring humor together is often the first step the band takes before collaborating artistically.
"Most of the creative process in the beginning is centered around us telling each other jokes; it comes from those 'Wouldn't it be funny if...' kinds of conversations," says bassist Neil McCormick.
Safe Boating Is No Accident's new video, "No Convenience," was inspired by one of those "Wouldn't it be funny if..." ideas: a take on the true-crime-documentary genre, but with a humorous twist. Vocalist and guitarist Leighton Peterson's interest in the series Making a Murderer and the surrealist comedy Too Many Cooks served as the main inspirations.
In the music video, Peterson plays a character who exhibits bizarre behavior and is eventually removed from Earth by non-human forces. The tone of the scripted footage is serious at first, easing into an alternate reality involving abduction, murder and laser beams that shoot from the eyes of on-camera "experts" in the fictional case. (Watch the video, which Westword is premiering, below.)
"We went for the more garbage-news-style aesthetic," says McCormick. "I remember watching, like, 20/20 or something when I was a kid, and it was one of the storylines with two murderers who were Nietzsche fans. It was presented as, 'That's what turns you into a killer.' I had no idea who Nietzsche was, and after I looked [him] up, I thought, 'He sounds pretty cool!' It had the opposite effect."
Peterson doesn't actually appear in the mini-mockumentary — childhood photos, courtroom drawings and live-concert footage from Safe Boating Is No Accident's set playing with Guided by Voices at Summit Music Hall last spring fill in the storyline.
Keeping Peterson out of the video was done by design; as the filmmaker of the band, he needed to be available behind the camera.
Along with the performances by McCormick and bandmembers Aaron McCloskey, Mike Ditto and Scott Aller, Dave Fender from Colorado Public Radio's Open Air appears in the faux-reality melodrama. Fender is a longtime supporter of the Colorado music scene and someone the band admires; McCormick says the on-air personality has a "charismatic face" and serious acting chops. Comedian Mara Wiles makes a cameo as "Bloodsplatter Analyst."
Together for close to a decade, Safe Boating Is No Accident has always been great at blurring the line between severity and satire. Peterson's voice has a sardonic (but far from snarky or mean) quality, perfect for delivering songs with titles like "My Baby's on a Government Watch List" and "Tyler Dudren Has a Facebook Page."
Safe Boating Is No Accident's dark humor comes across well in its live act.
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The video comes in advance of the band's Human Sacrifice EP-release party, Friday, December 23, at the hi-dive, with fellow locals Male Blonding and Lee Avenue (another project of McCormick's). Proceeds from the show will go to the Fire Relief Fund for Victims of Ghostship Oakland Fire, and the hi-dive is cutting the venue fee in half to help out with costs.
In early 2015, Peterson's house burned down and he lost his entire material life. He says he was lucky to get out alive along with his roommate and his dog, but he knows what it feels like to lose everything.
"It happened [to me] in the winter. It pains me to think about Oakland and other DIY spaces like ours in Denver where people are losing everything or being kicked out into the cold," says Peterson. "It's really, really heavy. I was lucky — I had a community of people around me that helped me out."