I sat down with Stephen to find out first hand what sparked his interest and how he plans on going about making videos in the future. His first video featuring Riley James and the Band Men can be found on Vimeo.
Kelsey Mclure: I am interested in why you started making videos, You are a photographer first correct?
Stephen Seward: Yes.
So when did you make the switch into video? Is it just a hobby?
I am a photographer that does portraits and weddings and I kind of wanted a project that was personal that I could separate from my business that was different that could kind of fuel my creative passion, I guess you could say. So that is what enabled me to do that.
The video that you submitted to us was Riley James, do you know the musicians before the shoot?
I knew the bass player Aaron and I have some others lined up now thru him since doing that video.
Can you say who you have lined up?
John Henry and the Engine.
Yeah, I am very excited about that.
What kind of equipment do you use?
I shoot with the [Nikon D300S], it’s actually a still camera that does video. It’s a little bit different than traditional video cameras; it gives a much more cinematic look without having to use tens to hundred thousand dollar cameras.
That’s one of the things I noticed. Do you do a lot of extra editing work to get the cinematic look as well?
My goal with the videos is instead of a traditional music video, to do something that is more of an artist statement. I want people to watch the videos and feel like they have learned something about the band. I want it to be kind of raw and real. I have always been driven towards live music as opposed to studio-recorded stuff so I think that I kind of want to reflect that kind of thing in my videos.
And I think you definitely do, just judging from that one video. My favorite part was at the end when they crashed around. To see these guys that were almost quiet in the video then at the end here they are just having fun. Do you have a basic concept for the videos? Well, I guess you kind of went over that by saying it’s a personal project.
Yeah and I kind of want….I think St. Louis in the last couple of years has really exploded as an independent music city. I think a lot of it has to do with that there are so many more venues now. Maybe it was kind of always there, but it just seems like there is so much more new stuff coming through St. Louis now. I just wanted to be a part of it in someway. I kind of want to represent St. Louis music through the videos. And I am also hoping to do some of them out and around St. Louis.
I agree, I think so and especially in the last 5 years but maybe like you I just wasn’t apt to it or aware but I think St. Louis has really picked up. There are just so many great venues.
Yeah, like the Old Rock House.
And Off Broadway, the Firebird. St. Louis is a great stop on the east/west journey.
Yeah, you think of Austin or Seattle as the big music spots for that type of stuff but St. Louis is going to be like that too.
I think we’ll come around. So are the bands you are wanting to shoot based on the kind of music you enjoy?
I don’t want to limit it to just bands that I like, but definitely local bands that can hit the logistics of being able to do that type of video. So I guess there are some limitations but I definitely don’t want to limit it to one kind of genre.
I think sometimes and especially with personal projects people can get kind of get stuck into a corner because it's so interest based.
Maybe some at first because the project has been with people I know personally but hopefully it will grow to be different types.
Do you have a goal for how many videos you want to put out?
This year my goal was one a month and hopefully I can do that this year. And then I will kind of just go from there. It’s hard with the bands and their schedule finding a time that fits with my schedule and that kind of stuff.
What have you discovered about music or your own photography with this project?
I need to think about that one. (Pause) I think I have always been drawn to shooting people in their natural environment. Like with the Riley James video. That's where they practice all the time, and I think people are much more comfortable, and you see a side of them when you are taking pictures or video with them like that, which is why hopefully you get to learn something about them that you wouldn’t if you just saw them in concert.
Oh, on the cameras you said that you were using still photography cameras, what camera do you use?
Nikon D300S, really in the last couple of years, still camera companies have figured out that you can do video and make it look amazing. Like SNL uses them for their digital shorts and a lot of TV Shows, documentary type shows use them now.
What do you use for editing?
I actually have a friend, his name is Taylor Webb and he’s handling the editing for me. I tried to edit the first video myself, but I learned pretty quickly that it helps to separate yourself from the editing process. So that’s why he came on.
So he just took over editing completely?
Yeah, I just let it go.
That’s interesting. One of my questions was actually what you had in mind going in to the shoot. Did you have a fully worked-out project or did you just go and shoot to see what you could come up with?
Really the only thing I had in mind was to shoot them just hanging out, like they would at a normal practice. So that’s what I told Taylor, the guy who edits, to do with the editing.
So have you been involved or worked with KDHX in the past?
You are just taking an interest then?
Yeah. I thought this would be a good way to help get the videos out there and to really get the word out so maybe other who may be interested to find out about it.
Do you just use Vimeo or can we find the videos elsewhere on the web?
Just how to write a personal essay Vimeo for now. The band uploaded it to their YouTube as well.
Well, we are looking forward to getting more videos from you. This is just the kind of thing we like, we’re all about St. Louis music and especially people that are personally motivated to go out and take on the work themselves.
Yeah, next Saturday I will be doing the John Henry shoot and I am really excited about it.