Luke Lalonde is slowly walking down a busy hallway. As he makes his way toward the glowing light at the end of the tunnel, he spots someone standing alone near the curtained exit, dressed in a burgundy suit with piercing blue eyes. It’s love at first sight.
This meet-cute in the music video for “Love Too Soon” is what kicks off a trilogy of music videos for Toronto band Born Ruffians’ new album, Uncle, Duke & the Chief (out today). The love interest Lalonde meets? Its name is Dorito.
Dorito is a dummy, created by July Talk singer Leah Fay, who co-directed the three music videos with her bandmate, Peter Dreimanis. This isn’t the first time Dreimanis has worked with Born Ruffians: he also helped shoot and produce the music video for the band's 2010 single “What to Say.”
Lalonde admits that, in the past, the band “struggled with visual campaigns and visual accompaniments to our music,” but an exception has always been his collaborative relationship with Dreimanis and director Jared Raab. “They always knock them out of the park,” Lalonde says. So, when the time came for Born Ruffians to work on the visual components to Uncle, Duke & the Chief, Lalonde returned to Dreimanis, asking for input and ideas.
“I think it is the Ruffians’ best record yet!” Dreimanis exclaims. “As I heard it for the first time, I remembered this project that Leah had done with her performance art collective, WIVES, where her and her collaborator Emma-Kate Guimond went to Joshua Tree and ended up making a life-sized dummy named Rod.”
Dreimanis has been wanting to use Fay’s dummies (she and Guimond created two more for a Pop Montreal installation) in a project for a long time now, but says “it never felt quite right for July Talk.” But when Dreimanis listened to Born Ruffians’ new music, he says, “My brain just exploded with ideas.”
As part of Fay’s project, Rod was buried in the California desert, so when the idea came up to use a similar dummy for these videos, Fay set off to make a new one using leather scraps, cotton batting, piping, wire, wooden dowels and a curly haired wig. “A fascination with dummy-making seems to run in my family,” Fay notes, adding that her mother entered a scarecrow competition when she was young, and her grandfather once made a dummy of his deceased mother.
Dorito stems from the name Rod, spelled backwards. As per Dreimanis’s explosion of ideas, Dorito and Lalonde would be the protagonists in the three videos, and it was important to Dreimanis and Fay that Lalonde’s co-star be inanimate. “It felt wrong to have his foil be as human as a partner, sibling or parent, because it would sort of pigeon-hole the relatable nature of their relationship and take away the opportunity to see them in a universal light,” Dreimanis explains. Having worked with Lalonde on the movie feature Sundowners, Dreimanis says he was confident in Lalonde’s ability to sell the emotion behind this love story on his own.
“When we had time for playing and experimenting, we got some beautiful stuff,” Fay adds. “There was a lot that we shot and didn’t use, but the few seconds that made the video are really moving.”
The tale in “Love too Soon” continues into “Forget Me,” which follows the development and eventual dissolution of Lalonde’s relationship with Dorito. And in the finale, “Miss You,” Lalonde looks back at that “someone I lost a long time ago,” as an older man. (He and his bandmates were heavily made up and wearing prosthetics.)
“The idea was just so exciting right away,” Lalonde says. Not only would he team up with Fay and Dreimanis, who he calls “some of the most talented, creative people,” but Lalonde also got to shoot in his hometown of Midland, Ont., which is something he’s been wanting to do for years. “Every time I’d go to Midland, I’d be location scouting in the back of my mind,” he reveals. “It was a lot of fun.” Surrounded by helpful family and friends, Fay says the environment on set was “always supportive and positive.”
While Dreimanis and Fay are both very committed to their band, Dreimanis does see this experience with Fay as “a new way to collaborate together, with a band that we admire and are lucky to call our friends.” It’s something that both are eager to do more of, whether that’s in film, music, TV or soundtracks. Dreimanis adds, "Hopefully we can do it again and develop new ways to create visual work together."
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