Videosongs: A Medium By Jack Conte

Posted in Art Music, Folk, Indie, Live Music by jurbanik on August 1, 2010

Everyone knows the cliché that ‘a picture is worth a thousand words.’ Considering most YouTube videos are uploaded at 24-30 fps, and each of the videos I’ll be posting here are over 120 seconds, this post is going to be a minimum of 20,000,000 words – that is one LONG post. Yes, that’s right, this is going to be a video post. Why, you ask? Jack Conte.

What is so special about this scruffy man, you ask? Well, beyond being a very talented musician, he is the mind behind the VideoSong – something that I believe has the potential to develop into its own new (and niche, of course) genre of media. Whereas music videos today are all about unique filming, a clever story, bizarre imagery, or any number of other things that serve to cloud and distract from the music (or at the very most, complement it), the VideoSong is a medium that is all about honesty and transparency. In the words of Conte:

A VideoSong is a new medium with 2 rules:
1. What you see is what you hear (no lip-syncing for instruments or voice).
2. If you hear it, at some point you see it (no hidden sounds).

I imagine some of you may at this point be thinking the concept seems boring – a man at a piano or a live recording. But this isn’t the point of the VideoSong. Instead, Conte and his contemporaries craft complex instrumental tracks and harmonized vocal layers, videotaping the recording of each separately. Dubbing and effects are synchronized with clips showing their visual equivalent. These are not live performances missing the nuances of the studio, but the studio recordings themselves with diptych-style videos. Time is even left for small, clever segments synchronized with the lyrics or showing goofy antics that occur during the recording. But, enough introduction – let’s get to it.

Jack Conte

You’ve already been introduced to the pioneer of the VideoSong, Jack Conte. In fact, many of you probably heard his voice long before knowing it was him – he supplied the voice for the teenage boy in The Sims 2. Besides this, the Bay Area native is a very talented multi-instrumentalist. He plays drums, guitar, piano, glockenspiel, accordion, and everything in between proficiently. I can’t place what his voice sounds like: sometimes he sounds like a smoothed out Thom Yorke shifted up a few steps, whereas other times he sounds as though he would fit in a pop punk band. Beyond this, the man is responsible for some wonderfully creative video editing – he gives the perception of 3d by alternating between several angles, and manipulates lighting almost as brilliantly as he uses effects in his production.



Another Jack Conte project, Pomplamoose (a play on the french word for grapefruit, pamplemousse) is the collaborative effort of Conte and Nataly Dawn, Conte’s girlfriend. The couple lives in the Bay Area and performs their videosongs in the same setting as Jack Conte’s solo stuff. Here, Nataly takes over on bass and provides some beautiful vocals. Jack layers up to 12 vocal layers, and Nataly’s versatile voice is capable of anything from cute and poppy to indie to completely retro. One of the most striking things about Pomplamoose’s videos are Nataly’s wild green eyes – she stares wide-eyed into the camera in a way that is almost awkward, but certainly endearing. Pomplamoose has become somewhat of a youtube phenomenon, with over 30 million views of their videos. However, most of these views come from their (awesome) covers… which you should definitely check out if you get the chance. But because of this, I have decided to include some of their original VideoSongs.


My Terrible Friend

My Terrible Friend continues the trend of adding in a new element to the formula. This time the new addition is Lauren O’Connell. Jack is absent, but Nataly continues her role with bass, claps, and vocals (and adds in keys) and the impressive Lauren provides guitar/banjo, harmonica, vocals, percussion, and video editing. While it might seem as if Lauren has simply replaced Jack, the sound has completely changed. My Terrible Friend has more of a folk sound, with Nataly’s classic voice primarily providing choral backup to Lauren’s far rougher voice – it seems to mix a little bit of an Irish folk twinge with just pure Midwestern goodness. The arrangements are very mature sounding – far less cutesy than those adopted by Pomplamoose. Correspondingly, the lyrics are a lot darker, saying ‘and when I decide to kill you// I’ll do it with my hands.’


Bonus round: State Shirt

State Shirt is the moniker of Ethan Tufts. He has a more atmospheric sound than any of the aforementioned projects, but proves that VideoSongs are catching on with other artists – YouTube certainly has the power to make the medium spread. This song in specific (‘Frostbite’) has a very rough and powerful sound, building from a soft piano whisper to a visceral scream. Ethan offers almost all of his music up in an open source format for remixing and mashing up. Tufts is also an active participant in a very cool community called SongFight, where internet musicians enter in ~biweekly songwriting contests and are voted on. Definitely check it out.

C-c-c-combo Breaker: LOUISGENEVIEVE

Louis Cole and Genevieve Artadi pair up to make for one hipster combo. The artsy and quirky production they make out of recording VideoSongs is interesting to say the least. Genevieve obviously has a good voice, but seems not to use it to its full extent for the videos they record in favor of just sounding different. Despite being LA based, the pair would definitely fit in in Williamsburg or the Mission District. Seemingly just to be ironic, they have covered Coldplay, Britney Spears, and Justin Bieber. Yes, Justin Bieber. In this video, Genevieve is more focused on placing a magnifying glass in front of her made up eyes or her mouth than singing with a melody. Louis’ Anglerfish head is pretty damn cool though.


One Response

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. […] already know, I’m a huge fan of Jack Conte – check out my post on his innovative VideoSongs. Apparently Ben Folds is a fan of what Jack and Nataly do too! Anyways, lets get to the […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: