INTERVIEW: Actor/Musician LUKAS HAAS Talks New Single, Directing & More
Photo Credit - Kenny Woods
Can you talk to us more about your latest single “She’s In My Head”?
I wrote “She’s In mMy Head” after having hung out with a friend of mine who was obsessing over this girl. I was trying to talk to him but he was too distracted to even have a conversation, and it made me think “Hey I know that feeling.” It’s an intense feeling when you first meet someone and you’re going down that rabbit hole on your phone, checking them out. Intense feelings are usually a good place to start when it comes to writing a song, so I sat down with a pen and pad, and the song just kind of popped out.
Did any event in particular inspire you to write this song? How was the recording and writing process?
I had this little piano loop that I had recorded on my phone and messed with in a dj app (the opening piano riff). It sounded kind of cool and old school, so I just started there and built the song around it. Instead of writing off of a loop, I just started from the beginning and wrote each part as I came to it. It’s the first song that I wrote and produced completely by myself. It’s also the first time I ever used Ableton. There was a lot of freedom in it; no rules, just playing around and trying things out until it started to work.
What was it like to take the helm of the video for the single?
Once I had recorded the song I had a strong feeling that there could be a really interesting video to go with it, but I couldn’t figure out what it was. I met with a couple of directors who had great ideas, but they were mostly visual. Because the song tells a story and takes you on a little journey, I felt there must be some way to tell the story in a cool way, but again I just couldn’t put my finger on it. Then one day a friend of mine sent me a screen recording, I had never seen that before so I asked her to show me how to do it. At that point I still didn’t put two and two together, but a few weeks later I was looking through Instagram, and I was zooming in and out of photos, and it just hit me that I could tell the story and show the exact experience that I’m talking about in the song. Once I had that realization I was on a mission to get it made. I went to my friend Ariel Vromen, a really great director, and told him the idea; he loved it and told me he would help me. So the next few nights we hashed out the treatment… it was such a fertile idea; coming up with all the little moments ended up being relatively easy. All I had to do was be truthful to the concept. One part that I got stuck on was how to show me meeting the girl. Initially I shot a boomerang and explained it in the DM, but it just didn’t make me feel invested enough. My mom is a screenwriter, so I explained the idea to her and she immediately said, “What if you’re holding the phone, video taping something and she bumps into it and picks up the phone for you”. That was such a great idea because it brings you right into the story without having to explain it (it still gets explained in the DM, but you already have a sense of what happened, so the DM just gives it more definition). Watching her story and following the tags to a guy was the bulk of my initial idea, but after that I wasn’t sure where it should go. Ariel had the idea that I should get mad and start smashing up the studio out of frustration. That was great, because after I filmed that sequence and watched it for the first time, it made me think “calm down” so I just went straight to the calm app. It was almost an afterthought, but it just worked perfectly. When it came to the end, for a while we were trying to figure out what she might say back, but once the whole video had come together it became clear that the typing bubbles should come up and go away… we’ve all had that experience. And it’s a nice little cliffhanger.
Was that always the case or was this a case of fate?
My experience as an actor definitely gave me the tools to make the video. In fact I can’t even separate the two. Understanding motivation and how to tell a story are almost innate to me because that’s been the focus of my life since I was a little kid.
How would you say your background on acting actually help you with this, your first directing gig?
In terms of being experimental… All I really wanted to do was to get out of my comfort zone. For many years I would write songs on acoustic guitar or piano, and I kept ending up with songs that felt like a less exciting rehash of music that I loved growing up. I was always trying to emulate the Beatles or mo-town or bob marley, but ultimately my music wasn’t as good as any of theirs, and it basically made me bored at the end of the day. I thought about what my heros were doing at the time, and they certainly weren’t re-hashing. They were experimenting and being creative and forging their own path. So that was my goal with this record: to really express myself freely and without any preconceived ideas of what the music should sound like… to break out of the past and start making music that feels exciting to me right now.
One can easily fall into pompous and become overly pretentious when going for an experimental approach – how did you go on balancing the offbeat with the rather more, say, mainstream? What made you want to go for a much experimental approach with this record?
I don’t have a formula when it comes to balancing experimental with mainstream… I love for a song to take me on a journey. I like hills and valleys and surprises in music. I love good melodies and substantial bass lines (Motown, Marley, and Paul!). Those are the things I focus on and the rest just seems to fall into place. I just rely on my sensibilities. To me, being experimental is the same as being creative… no rules; just exploring and making something that sounds good to me.
How’s your new EP coming along?
The EP is finished… I’m working on some ideas for videos now. My plan is to put a song out every month or two. The truth is, I don’t even see it as a bundle of songs, although, I grew up listening to and appreciating full records, that period is gone now. Albums are almost more of a publicity tool at this point, so to me it makes more sense to make each song into its own little event. When you listen to a full record you pay attention to each song, but the way the audience listens now, they generally just pick a song or two that has the most plays. In a weird way, by putting out one song at a time maybe it gives people a chance to listen to each one individually, the way they used to when they listened to a whole album. That may be a bit of a stretch, but it’s a new time period and there aren’t any rules anymore. In a way it gives you a lot of freedom. If I have a group of songs that feel like they go together then I’ll put it out as an album, but for now I’m just going one at a time.
What other aspect of today’s society and political climate will you get to explore moving on?
When I write I tend to focus on personal things… so if that touches on the social climate that’s great. I’ve tried to write political songs before, but they generally end up sounding preachy, so I always end up going back to writing about my own personal experiences.
Any plans to hit the road?
At some point I’d like to do a tour, but I want to put out enough songs first so that I have enough material to play live.
What else is happening next in Lukas Haas’ world?
The “She’s In My Head” video was accepted by Mammoth Film Festival (www.mammothfilmfestival.com) in completion in the short film category. That’s exciting, because to me, the video is actually a silent film. The narrative is apparent with or without the song, but put them together and it’s a complete experience. It’s actually just a very modern, silent short film. Other than that, I have a film called “A Violent Heart” coming out at the Tribeca film festival, which I’m excited about. And besides that I’m just working on making more songs and more videos!
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