Better Than Something: Jay Reatard: A Chat with Directors Alex Hammond & Ian Markiewicz
Directors Alex Hammond and Ian Markiewicz got a lot more than they bargained for when Matador Records and Jay Reatard -- the nom de punk of Memphis songwriter Jay Lindsey-- approached them about filming a short electronic press kit for his album 2009 album Watch Me Fall. Originally intended as a short, sort-of-commercial promoting the garage rocker, it became something more as Lindsey revealed more than the duo expected.
"He liked the idea of people coming from outside to document what he was doing," says Hammond. "He wanted to get to the truth. He said, 'Show people who don't like my music.' He didn't want it to be a fluff piece. I think we were both very surprised with what we got. We thought it was just going to be this little portrait."
"You don't feel compelled to go beyond a standard five-seven minute EPK," says Markiewicz. "This was something more. For whatever reason, Jay poured out so much."
Things became even more complicated when Linsdey died of complications "cocaine toxicity" in early 2010. The film morphed into an exploration of Lindsey's career, roots, and his relationships. The film screens Saturday, March 10, at FilmBar, and features live performances by The Wongs and Destruction Unit, both featuring Lindsey's friend and former bandmate Ryan "Elvis Wong" Rousseau.
The film features archival footage dating back to Lindsey's days in the late '90s.
"There's a lot of footage out there of Jay even from the early days," Markiewicz says. "The thing is there's so much more than what we ended up fitting into the film. We used a lot, but there's so much more out there. There's mountains of footage when you get down to it."
Lindsey's prolific persona often left little time for fidelity, and true to his spirit, the film doesn't present his work in a polished light, at least not all the time. "When we were shooting with him in Memphis, he said 'A lot of people think of me as a lo-fi guy,' but he stressed that he didn't want to be seen as only that."
"We made sure you say the evolution -- from grungy VHS to these polished music videos shot on HD," Hammond says. "You see that whole scope in his career. We picked things we thought helped tell the story."