Kristen Grayewski, associate editor at the Wexner Center, tells us about her experience as an extra in (Next@Wex Fest headliner) Belle and Sebastian’s music video for the song “The Party Line.”
I’ve been a Belle and Sebastian fan since the late 90s when The Boy with the Arab Strap CD arrived by Columbia House 12-for-a-penny mail order, I slipped it in the Discman, and it felt like finally someone had made music for the bookish and soft-spoken. They were one of the first bands my now-husband and I discussed when we met—how he had listened to their live John Peel session on cassette staring out bus windows, how I was one of many suburban youngsters for whom “Get Me Away From Here I’m Dying” meant a little too much.
So when, on the weekend of our seventh wedding anniversary, we were planning a trip to Toronto and I heard Belle and Sebastian were looking for extras for a music video shooting then and there, I had no choice but to volunteer us.
We arrived to the set a little too early, looked a little too keen. But before long we were one of dozens, lingering around the gummy candy on the craft service table, doing ankle rolls to limber up, talking about why we were there in the name of Belle and Sebastian. Another extra—a lanky Canadian man who told me his day job involved collecting hazardous waste and that he was a B&S fan from way back—talked about how, when he saw them live, he propped up Stuart Murdoch as he leaned into the crowd during “Lord Anthony,” his favorite. We extras had been informed the band weren’t going to be in attendance at the shoot, knew we weren’t getting paid, but we were so happy to take orders, eat free snacks, and [cue the assistant director, shouting into a megaphone] “dance like you’re having the times of your lives! Dance like this is it!”
And we did—to the same song for 10 hours. (And, yes, we still have a lingering Pavlovian boogie response, even seven months later, whenever the synth beats of “The Party Line” cue up.) That day we were asked to dress in outfits reminiscent of the Northern Soul scene of the 1970s, and when I lamented to our new Canadian friend that I didn’t know many Northern Soul–specific dance moves, he looked me in the eyes and said, “the song will tell you how to dance to it.” We stomped, we slid our feet, orbited our hips, and (as in the three seconds we are visible on screen, around 1:09) we earnestly shook our shoulders. “Like you’re having the times of your lives!,” we were reminded. Thankfully we didn’t need to be professional actors to pull that off.
If you need reminding of why Belle and Sebastian’s Next@Wex Fest performance on Sunday, June 14 is a can’t-miss, Kristen offers a few of her favorites:
“You’re Just a Baby” from their debut album and still sounding so fresh, this one has handclaps (admittedly my weakness), organ, and winning Stevie Jackson backing vocals. (In fact, I found it hard to choose between the first four songs from Tigermilk here. Listen to them all!)
This version of “Mayfly” and “Me and the Major” (from 2:15) performed with the Barton Hill children’s choir at the Austin City Limits Festival. (Caution: may cause acute, joy-induced weeping.)
“The Blues Are Still Blue” from The Life Pursuit, the album that turned up the T. Rex swagger even in this song about laundry.
“Take Your Carriage Clock and Shove It,” a real favorite slow burner B-side orchestrated with the loveliest of string hooks and a slide guitar.
“Nobody’s Empire,” an immediate classic from their latest album and prime example of Stuart Murdoch’s magical way with a narrative.
Make your own Belle and Sebastian memories—get your tickets to the Next@Wex Fest with Belle and Sebastian, Jungle, and Son Lux here.