“Are you familiar with my other music videos?” the director asks.
Coming from actor-comedian Eric Wareheim, he of notorious Tim & Eric Awesome Show fame, it’s a loaded question. Being familiar with his work instantly evokes techicolor palettes, bizarro casting, outrageous costumes, high satire, and quite probably some ample jiggling booty (we’re looking at you, Major Lazer). That familiarity also brings a certain kind of expectation. So with Wareheim applying his high-voltage sensibility to Beach House’s dreamy track “Wishes”, it’s difficult to know what to expect.
Known for a layered, dream-pop sound, and the lush embrace of singer Victoria Legrand’s vocals, Beach House’s music seems more like a sonic gift from a bygone era. An odd match for Wareheim’s particular brand of humor. The result of their collaboration, however, is kind of perfect. Where Beach House’s previous videos share narratives that draw you in either through fantasy or intense reality, a shiny lens-flare glow, and captivating characters, “Wishes” ticks off all those boxes, with an additional layer of Wareheim.
The video opens with a football coach taking to the field during a game’s halftime. Rather than given a rousing speech, the coach, here played by actor Ray Wise (of Twin Peaks fame), grabs the mic and starts belting out Beach House’s dreamy tune. In the background, on-field characters--including cheerleaders, acrobatic water boys, and dudes resembling a cross between jousters, court jesters, and ball boys--jump and dance about. The scene is at once cinematic and glossy, while bearing the signature of Wareheim’s color, costume, and casting choices.
Wareheim, who became friends with the band through mutual admiration, says the idea for the video came from a conversation with singer Legrand. “Victoria had a couple of simple ideas. She was like, 'I really like Ray Wise, I like the idea of it happening during a half-time show.' She had a vision of a horse,” says the director on the phone, on the eve of shooting a guest spot on The Office. “I told her I usually don’t take any creative notes at all but the images were so powerful that I wrote a treatment around that. Everything is skewed to this other dimension that I like to live in. It’s very bright with interesting colors, and I used the same costume designers that I worked with on my last movie.” And, of course, he makes a cameo in the piece as well.
An avid fan of Wise, who was in Tim & Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie, Wareheim was also eager to create a charismatic character around the actor. “He’s one of my favorite actors to work with,” he says. The personae he created verges on deity, worshipped by those who call football their religion. “He’s more than a coach, he’s almost like a god to these people, which he is to me as an actor,” he says. After some fireworks that send the fans over the edge to a near apoplectic state, coach Wise is carried off to a white stallion for a triumphant finish.
The whole this is beautiful and bizarre. “It has a bit of comedy to it, but it’s also a serious thing, which is kind of wacky and out there. It’s pretty different than anything I’ve ever done,” Wareheim says, noting the cinematic quality (you seriously have to watch it in 1080p) is a departure for him.
So how did the famously original director handle taking direction himself? “I loved it. I was always on board with the ideas, which is very rare. Beach House does a lot of very cool visual things. I really just jelled with the idea and went with it--it was a very loose idea. And I think the band appreciated it--they knew what they were getting into. They’re real artists and they understand the idea of creative freedom and they just trusted me.”