Interview: Save Face Discusses Upcoming Visual Album

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I had the pleasure of speaking with Tyler Povanda of Save Face about their upcoming album, Merci, on Epitaph Records, and the creative process that went behind adapting it’s narrative to a sonic medium, and then further to a visual representation in the form of a visual album. I’ve known Tyler for a few years now, from playing garages with SF to having him produce cassettes for me, and if there’s one thing I can say about Tyler Povanda that is entirely subjective, it’s this: he creates beautiful art. We discussed the origin of the Merci project, and how it adapted to become what it is now.

Tell me about the original vision of this narrative for the Merci project. What’s the bare bones of this plot that you’ve crafted?

I won’t go into the super fine details, but you’ll be able to find a detailed written overview after the record is released. I wanna let anyone who’s reading right now know that the following contains content that may be troubling for some to read, specifically for those sensitive to drug-use and death, none of this is explicitly mentioned in the language on the record or shown in the music videos, but it’s apart of the original narrative so I feel it’s important to talk about!

With that said, it’s a story centered around two main characters, one of which is a struggling addict named Kaleb living with their last living relative just outside Paris, France. After finishing rehab, Kaleb is eager to move out on their own and unfortunately relapses. They meet Blake (our other main character) during a drug-induced panic attack. Long story short, Blake and Kaleb become friends, fall in love, and Blake finally provides the support system that Kaleb needs to fully rehabilitate. Just one day shy of three years pass by, when Kaleb feels a desperate need to use. It doesn’t subside, and they begin to panic – they have to confront the possibility of destroying not only their own life (again), but even more importantly, the life of the person that they love the very most. Kaleb decides to leave due a complete lack of confidence in their own ability to overcome their addiction, and an absolute refusal to bring down Blake with them. A series of events ensue which result in both of them ending up in unresponsive states in the same hospital room, where they die together.

The intent of the songs was not so much to explicitly tell the story, but rather to explore the greater themes behind the narrative itself, particularly the ideas of perspective, objectivity in the concept of “good and bad” (or lack thereof), and unintended consequences.

We talked about the evolution of the narrative from the idea to the written word, to the music, and even further to the accompanying visuals, as a sort of inverted pyramid that builds on each subsequent part. How does each new step create a new interpretation of the story?

I wrote the first couple of songs right around the time that our last EP, Folly, came out. I didn’t have the story written, but I had some words and melodies that just came from things I was feeling. In an effort to sort through the feelings/experiences that I wanted to write about, I thought about writing characters. This approach felt comforting to me, as it didn’t have to be “me” that I was writing about, but I could put the parts of myself that I wanted to into these characters, and then exaggerate them to a larger than life degree to really be dramatic with the things I wanted to get across in the songs. As writing went on, the songs informed the narrative, the narrative informed the songs; they kind of just kept building upon and nurturing each other. By the end of it, I had watched this story play out in my head so many times that I felt strongly compelled to incorporate visual elements, and literally attempting to tell an adaptation of the story just seemed, while ambitious, an obvious decision.

I’d also love to hear about the process behind filming a 14-part cohesive story via music videos. Did you have to translate your original story to fit visually, or was it more a whole new imagining of it?

The collection of videos is a non-direct adaptation of the narrative behind the record. There’s a lot of things I didn’t feel were appropriate/would translate very well to the music videos, and on top of that, there were opportunities that I saw to bring things to the table with the visuals that the songs and story couldn’t; at least not as effectively. The “new imagining” parts came in when we made a lot of creative decisions to introduce new things to the adaptation to serve metaphor for some of the stuff that happens in the plot of the narrative, and for the themes that we wanted to illustrate/comment on the most.

How did you go about location, casting, etc.? Any particular Easter Eggs for the old fans, or any interesting on-set stories?

Most of it was predominantly shot at an art studio space that some of us in Save Face and some members of A Will Away have started to utilize, but we also shot some in our drummer Chris’s basement, my parent’s porch, outside of my old apartment, at Matt’s (A Will Away) house and more. Our lead actress Avery is also actually Henderson’s (of The Alternative) sister! We had a lot of help from friends, but there was really no crew or outside team that came and made this possible, everything really came from the band and I putting our heads together and chasing a vision. There are seriously too many stories I could go into, I don’t want to spoil anything that’s coming in the videos. We did A LOT of practical effects on top of the VFX in the videos, and figuring out a lot of those practical effects was a very clumsy and funny process for us.

What effect do you feel that sharing this story will have on people? What’s the goal with this project, other than to put out some seriously dope content?

I mean, for any artistic project that I’m involved in, the goal in creating it is purely personal. I like making things; I like making/performing things with my band. The enjoyment that I get from making something is all I really need to do it. In terms of what the goals were with sharing this with people, I just want people to feel something. My favorite thing in the world is experiencing art regardless of its form and feeling something. I just hope this can be one of those things for someone, regardless of what they’re feeling and to what degree they’re feeling it.

Anything else you’d like to add about the release?

We’re streaming the record in full via Bandcamp on Wednesday July 11th. It’ll be “Name-Your-Price” and all of the money we receive will be donated to The Trevor Project, with every donation being matched by our label Epitaph Records. All of the videos will be live and streaming on the Epitaph YouTube account in a video playlist on Friday July 13th, hope you check it out!

Preorder Merci now via Epitaph Records

Luciano Ferrara // @LucianoRFerrara

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