Patrick Cederberg, Greg Francis, Matthew Hornick, and Walter Woodman may call themselves “shy kids,” but their creative works are bold and memorable. On one hand, the four Canadians comprise a pop-rock band with clever lyrics and infectious hooks. On the other, they’re a group of filmmakers that has created content for brands like VICE, MTV, and Snapchat, and they also directed the eye-catching music video for “Dreams Tonite” by Canadian indie rockers Alvvays. Their most recent project, which combines both of their passions, is the visual album in a state. By pairing striking shots with gorgeous music, the album tells the story of the band’s journeys through different states of being while traveling around the United States.
Recently, we had the chance to catch up with the members of shy kids via Skype. During our chat, we discussed traveling, filmmaking, songwriting, and the relationship between the three. Read on to learn their thoughts about everything from South Dakota to dabbing to The Price Is Right.
TYF: First of all, let’s talk about your new album. It’s called in a state. You’ve got a nice little pun there because in addition to talking about your mental states, it’s about trying to realize your dreams in the United States. On that note, what’s the most interesting state that each of you have visited?
Walter Woodman: Paranoia! (Laughs) I would have to stay the state that surprised me the most, or whatever… I mean, New York’s obviously very nice and beautiful and cool with lots of cookie dough shops, but I think the most interesting [state], the one that I was the most shocked that it was very cool, was Nebraska. We were shooting a documentary for our university and going to the most haunted house in America. It was very spooky. And Nebraska kind of felt like this vestige of liberalism or something amidst the honky-tonk Midwest. And there was this really cool candy shop.
Patrick Cederberg: Hollywood Candy […] It was in Omaha, specifically.
Woodman: Yeah, Omaha. We were just driving and driving for days, and finally it felt like we had reached civilization. And this girl had a knife at the shop. That was pretty cool. And she was like, “Hey, do you wanna come stay at my house?” after she showed us her knife. I don’t know if that’s the best [state], but it was definitely interesting. There was good food.
Cederberg: I think for me… We went to South Dakota for a film festival in Aberdeen. Didn’t know what to expect. We drove down there and had no idea what we’d be walking into, but it was one of the best three- or four-day stretches we’ve ever had. [They] just welcomed us with open arms, took us shooting… It was crazy. New York and California, you kind of get what you expect when you’re walking into those places.
Matthew Hornick: For me, it was probably South Dakota also. Just because LA and New York, which is where I’ve spent the most time… They just seem kind of like Toronto. Still the same kind of people, for the most part. Aberdeen, South Dakota—there’s a different mentality there. They talk differently; they have different attitudes.
Greg Francis: For me, it would probably be… I think this is the first place I ever went to in the U.S., too. It would be Nashville, Tennessee for me. I just love that city. I love the music scene there. You walk down the Downtown Strip there and every single bar has incredible musicians playing. The Southern food, the Southern comfort and charm you get from all the people there… They’re so sweet. They just welcome you with open arms. I like that. I like that vibe I’ve been there a couple times now, and it’s always one of my favorite places.
Woodman: What vegetarian Southern food is there?
Francis: I wasn’t vegetarian the first time I went there, so I ate a lot of fried chicken. Now it’s just corn and collared greens.
Woodman: I’m gonna change my answer, sorry.
TYF: That’s okay. What’s your new answer?
Woodman: Utah. ‘Cause that was the weirdest… I’ve never been to somewhere that had that many white people. Aside from maybe our end of this interview. It was so freaky. I’ve never been to anywhere that was so Mormon and so freaky. And I got to drive. One of the only times I’ve ever driven in my life was on the salt flats. I liked that.
TYF: Something cool about the album is that it’s not just audio; there’s a visual component as well. The songs all tie in with the videos to make a very cohesive production. Did you write the songs in the order that they’re presented in the film, or did you write them all first and then shuffle them around later when you were planning it out?
Cederberg: The second, ‘cause “New York” was written when we were just finishing up our last album and the seeds [of in a state] were being planted. The opening song was right near the end. I think the concept for the album always kind of remained the same, once we had seen the states that it was going to be a journey through.
Francis: But it started as an EP, and then it became an album, and there were a few other tracks that were gonna be on it till the last second. It was constantly evolving, really.
Hornick: As the songs developed, we figured out the order as we were writing them and finishing them up. They kind of all happened at different times.
TYF: Did you write all the lyrics first and then come up with the visuals later, or did any of the visuals just come to you while you were working on the songs?
Woodman: I think just the way that we are, because we make films as well… When you talk about sounds, it’s a very tough thing to talk about. It’s like, “Oh, that sounds very gushy,” or “that sounds very wet,” or “very creepy.” I think that the next logical step is to describe what kind of “creepy” that is. Sometimes you write the lyric and then you go, “Oh, that reminds me of this.” Or, I remember for “feel like a failure,” all the lyrics were kind of done and then we just kept talking about [how] it sounded like some clown or something. It sounded like a clown’s bad day. What’s a bigger failure than a clown? They’re trying to be funny, and they’re not funny. Their job is very sad.
Hornick: They’re very vulnerable all the time.
Woodman: I just don’t understand who finds clowns funny. It’s like, their one job is to be humorous, and I’ve never thought them to be humorous. Anyways, they just sort of happen together.
TYF: Does each of you have a favorite shot or sequence from the film? One that was the most fun to make, or that you’re the most happy with?
Woodman: I have a couple highlights. I think walking into the water at the end of “I was in L.A.” is very memorable because I nearly died. I walked in, and I was really concerned because we would only have one shot because it was going to be really wet. The sun was going down. We would only have one chance. So I wanted to make sure I kept walking into it. And I saw the wave break in front of me, and I was like, “That’s not gonna be that bad.” But then a big kahuna one came in front of it. And I was like, “Oh this will be great, I’ve just gotta get under it.” And then I got under the wave and it sucked me out really far into the ocean. And I started to swim back, but I was in a full suit so I couldn’t swim very well. And I was gonna start screaming, like, “Greg! Greg! Help!”
Francis: I was like, Should I come to get you?
Woodman: That was very funny. I liked that one a lot. I liked the dancing with Michael Jackson. That one was a fun one because he was just so into it. I felt like he thought he was in This Is It. That was really crazy. I also liked a lot of the shots in New York. There’s one that was specifically outside of an H&M against a white wall, and I fought to do that shot and no one wanted to do it, and I think that one’s the best. And all of “feel like a failure,” when Matt’s in the studio. That was great ‘cause that was right around my birthday, and I couldn’t think of a better birthday present than torturing Matt.
Hornick: Yeah, the studio shot of “feel like a failure” when the orange wall gets pulled back and he’s in a dark room and then walks forward and sits on a chair… I feel like that was probably one of our best cinematic moments. Probably in shy kids video-making history. (Laughs) From a cinematic standpoint, it’s one of my favorite shots.
Francis: Near the end of “The Middle,” when everything starts getting kind of psychotic… I really, really love that. The dab starts appearing…
Cederberg: “JFK > > > LAX,” that little interlude where we’re playing on the street… I love it because it’s just this moment amongst all these hype things. It’s a real-life little thing that we did there. It was all one shot and four or five takes, and a cop pulled up and stopped traffic for us. We were all expecting him to be like, “Gahh!” but then he gets out of the car and walks up and he’s like, “You guys need me to hold this bus? I’ll hold this bus.”
Woodman: We were all thinking we were gonna get arrested. He was like, “No, no, no. I can do that. I’m a cop.” It also reminds me of Band on the Run, that shot. It looks like the Band on the Run cover. You’ve seen it all, clearly, so what did you think? What was your favorite?
TYF: I really liked the end of “The Middle,” as well. When it’s the same shots over and over again at the carnival.
Woodman: Yeah, that girl dabbing was another good one… I remember Greg being like, “Ugh, dabbing? Is that what she’s really doing? I thought she was sneezing!”
Francis: That tells you how stupid I am.
TYF: Do you have any favorite lyrics from the EP?
Cederberg: I have a line that clicked with me almost immediately after I first heard it, and it has two layers to it.
Hornick: The pig one?
Cederberg: No, no, no. It’s in “New York.” “If I had a Sharpie, just something to mark it/market.” I just thought of it as marking the art for so long, and then I saw the other layer.
Hornick: Dude, I did not think of that. Like, “market,” to sell.
Francis: That’s like [the lyric from “I was in New York,”] “me and the strokes.”
Cederberg: Listening to The Strokes while also looking at the strokes.
Woodman: I love The Strokes. Julian Casablancas, if you’re reading this, I think you’re an absolute legend. It was simply “the strokes,” as in the strokes of a painting, but I kind of like that you could have The Strokes in your headphones, as well. I would say my favorite would be, “Simplicity doesn’t mean that we’re stupid.” I always liked that. Like when we were talking about Omaha or South Dakota… I think a lot of times people look at that as Trump country and think most people [in those places] are dumb, but they must look at us city folk and be like, “You guys are dumb. Look at the things you care about, your ripped jeans or whatever.” I think simplicity doesn’t mean you’re stupid.
Francis: Another good one… The whole breakdown of “LA” was pretty good. Pretty dang great. (To Hornick) You got one?
Hornick: I like “Kill a pig with no debate” because it has two meanings in the context of “The Middle.” On the one hand, it’s talking about how people who farm don’t contemplate the morality of killing an animal. It’s like, there’s no debate about it. They’re just gonna eat it or whatever. And also the layer of a police officer killing… On the other side, there’s certain political groups that advocate killing cops, on the opposite end of the spectrum from people who live in the middle of America.
TYF: “I was in LA” has a particularly fun video component. In the film, you show auditions to be the main character; were these real auditions or were the people actors?
Woodman: That’s a weird way of phrasing that.
Woodman: It was real auditions with real actors. One of the actors was my mom. She didn’t get the part. But we actually cast real people. And they were kind of startled because we would do the auditions and it would be like, “Yeah, you got the part! Wanna be in the video?” And they were like, “Sure! When does it shoot?” and we’d be like, “We just did!” They were a little confused. So that was super good. But yeah, those auditions were very funny to watch. It didn’t matter if anyone was bad or good.
Cederberg: They were all just going for it.
TYF: The guy who ended up getting the part—was that someone you knew already or a stranger?
Woodman: In the video? Like, who’s the star of the video?
TYF: Of the “I was in LA” segment, yeah.
Woodman: That was me!
TYF: (Laughs) Whoa! I didn’t realize that.
Woodman: It must’ve been the glasses.
TYF: The glasses threw me off. That’s pretty cool.
Hornick: When he puts on the glasses, he turns into someone different.
Woodman: Each of the videos stars a different one of us. He (points to Hornick) was the clown, he (points to Cederberg) was the New York guy… Greg was…
Francis: I was behind the camera the whole time.
Woodman: Greg was the sunset. The chicken.
TYF: What was the most memorable location that each of you visited for filming?
Woodman: The Price Is Right. Going on The Price Is Right was pretty memorable. I went to The Price Is Right by myself and I was so certain I was going to get picked for The Price Is Right. And I love The Price Is Right. I think it’s the best game show. Drew Carey, if you’re reading this, I love you. I swear to God, if we [go back to LA]—and I think we will get to tour LA for this tour—I think I know how to get on. I swear to God I know how to get on this time. The way that you get on game shows is you just kind of act… If you call into a radio station, what they’ll often do, ‘cause my dad worked for a radio station, is they’ll call in and be like “Sorry, you’re caller number 98, we’re looking for caller number 99.” And if you go like, “Oh! Damn! Aw, man! That sucks!,” if you act super animated, then you’ll act animated when you win, so they’ll go, “Actually, we’re just kidding! You’re caller 99!” So they look for people who are most animated. So in line, not only was I wearing that insane suit; I was like, (enthusiastically) “Hi! Oh! So happy to be here!” I was at 150 percent. And this lady was in front of me, and it seemed like she had been there before, and she was just like (snaps fingers jauntily) dancing the whole time. And I was high-fiving her and like, “You should be my mom!” She was a totally different race than me. And she was like, “I am your mama, baby!” And then she turned to me and she went, “The person with the clipboard. That’s the one you want to perform for. She’s the one who picks.” And I was like, “Oh, damn. This lady’s serious.” So I went through the auditions—you have to audition or whatever—and I was so certain I had nailed it. She got called up and she was like, “Me and you are gonna get called up, we’re gonna go to Alaska or wherever when we win the trip.” And she got called up. And I was like, “If she got called up, I’m definitely getting called up.” And on the show, they call up different people and then they didn’t call me up. But next time I’ll get on.
TYF: Next time. You have a plan. How about the rest of you?
Cederberg: The fairground for me was probably my favorite place to go. I was only there for one day of shooting, but it was a Saturday night in Markham, so after 7pm, all the high school kids filled the place and it became this haven of things I don’t understand and behavior I don’t appreciate. There was a MuchMusic video dance going on. You guys do not have MuchMusic in America, but it was like our MTV, I guess, back in the day.
Woodman: They would claim, a “VJ’s coming to town!” A VJ being, like, the host. The third DJ would work Sunday nights at 12, and you’d be like, “Jay! I know Jay! Everybody knows Jay!” Disneyland, too, was really cool because [the employees] came up to us. They were like, “So, uh, what are you guys filming here?” We were like, “Uh, our friend! It’s his bachelor party, but he couldn’t come!” or whatever.
Francis: We were all in the most ridiculous outfits, so we didn’t want it to be too suspect. And we kept getting recognized, too, in LA.
Woodman: Oh, that’s another great location! We went to a Los Angeles Dodgers game. That was our first night. We landed in LA, and our first thing to do was the Dodgers game. And my whole goal was to get on the Jumbotron. I wanted to use footage of me on the Jumbotron. And halfway through the game… Nothing at all. It was the sixth inning and we were like, “Oh my God.” Every time there was a break, I was in my seat, and the people all around us were like, “Come on! Put him on! Get him on the Jumbotron!” And finally, I got on the Jumbotron. I was just like, “Yeah!” And from that point on, I got on the Jumbotron, I swear to God, like, 12 times, probably. And every time they were going crazy, and it got to the point where everyone would jump up when I got on the Jumbotron. But the craziest part was, the entire rest of the week in LA, people would come up to me and be like, “Hey, were you at the Dodgers game?” And I was like, “Yeah,” and they were like, “Suit Guy!”
Francis: You coined the term “Suit Guy.”
Woodman: Yeah. We went to the Ripley’s Believe It Or Not! wax museum, and the girl behind the thing was like, “Are you Suit Guy?” I was like, “Yeah, what the fuck?”
Francis: Well, she barely remembered you. She actually remembered our friend who was with us.
Woodman: Your friend was eating so many turkey legs! Disney sells these Caveman-style turkey sticks. Fred Flintstone drumsticks of turkey. And he was eating these turkey legs.
Francis: He had three legs. It could put you in a coma.
Woodman: They were 12 dollars each, these turkey legs. She was like, “I don’t really remember you, but yeah, your friend was just gnawing away on those turkey legs.” We were like, “Yeah.”
TYF: You thank Judge Judy in the credits; is there a reason for that?
Woodman: Um, we’re currently still going through the legal process, but we’d just really like to thank her for her legal guidance throughout the whole thing. She’s a nice woman, spectacular.
Cederberg: Really, really nice.
TYF: If each of you were to choose an item on the album cover to represent you, which one would it be?
Hornick: I’d go with the Hawaiian shirt, for sure.
Woodman: Well, if we’re talking about literally who you are, you would be the camera, but if we’re talking about our spirit clothing, you would be the Hawaiian shirt. You love the beach. Every time I come into your place, it’s very warm. I’d say the sad clown. The postcard of the sad clown.
Cederberg: I feel like a rubber chicken a lot of the time.
Francis: I think I’d be the camera. I’d probably be the camera.
Woodman: Fuck off!
Francis: What else would I be?
Woodman: You’re like, loose change.
TYF: You guys also recently directed the music video for “Dreams Tonite” by Alvvays. What was the creative process for that like?
Woodman: We did that in tandem with our friends called Zapruder Film. Initially, Alvvays had come to those guys and said, “Hey, this style where you guys put yourselves into vintage footage that you’re so good at—can you do that for us? We wanna do it with this old Expo ’67 footage.” And they were like, “Oh, we don’t know if we have enough time,” ‘cause they were doing this show for Vice called Nirvanna The Band The Show—awesome show. And they asked us if we had the time to do it, and we were like, “Yeah, totally!” It was really cool. We had to find the footage, make an edit of the footage to the music, and think, “Okay, we’re trying to put the band in here here and here,” and once we knew where we were gonna put the band in, we found a way to match the shots so that we had the same focal length, the same kind of lighting, so that it looked like they were truly in the scene.
Francis: Then there was the project of actually matching it, copying it in. It took a while. But the results are great.
Cederberg: [When] editing music videos, usually songs drive you crazy by the end of the process, but this one was… I still listen to that song all the time. It’s such a good tune.
TYF: So it was found footage combined with footage that you shot?
Francis: All of the footage is technically from Expo ’67 except when we shot green screen of all the band people and put them into the footage.
TYF: That’s awesome. What are your all-time favorite films?
(The band murmurs, pondering how to narrow down their lists for the purpose of answering this question.)
Woodman: Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, A Team, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Hoop Dreams, Fargo…
Francis: I’d put 2001: A Space Odyssey, Seven Samurai… I love There Will Be Blood…
Hornick: Spinal Tap, Punch-Drunk Love…
Cederberg: Forrest Gump!
Francis: Princess Mononoke.
Woodman: Toy Story! Toy Story 2!
Francis: Pretty much all the early Pixar films. Wall-E. Oh my God, the first time I saw Wall-E… What’s your favorite film?
TYF: Hmm. My all-time favorite film… I really like the 2013 version of The Great Gatsby, but this year, I also liked Get Out and Baby Driver. The Outsiders is another one of my favorites.
Woodman: The Tom Cruise one? Ponyboy and shit?
Cederberg: I like Moulin Rouge! a lot. And La La Land. That was good.
Woodman: You don’t like fucking Grease?
Francis: I don’t like fucking Grease.
Woodman: (singing) “We go together like bamalamalama shing-a-ling-a-ling di dong.”
TYF: Do you have any advice for either aspiring musicians and filmmakers?
Hornick: Take any opportunity that is given to you.
Francis: Always say yes to some extent, but you’ve gotta know when something not’s right. But the experience you can get from a weird odd job can lead to your big breaks. You’ve just gotta take on everything as long as you can.
Hornick: Meet lots of people that are in the same world.
Cederberg: That’s what film school is good for. The big takeaway was like, getting to meet, being surrounded by, people of the same mindset. It’s so beneficial. You’re pushing each other to do stuff, and doing stuff is the only way to get better. And if you have a lot of work behind you, you stand above the rest.
Woodman: Yeah. And no one really cares about what grades you got, but they do care about how many views you got, and they do care about if you can show that you’ve made two things or three things. And I think that a lot of people, when they get to film school, they get overwhelmed with the work and they forget to make movies, and I think that [making movies] is a good thing. Same thing with bands [and making music]. This record very much drove us crazy because of how long it took, how big it was. We had to get all these instruments and horns and strings, and it’s like, sometimes you just wanna bang something out. So I feel like [for our next project], we’re gonna try to bang stuff out a little faster. But I think it’s good to work really hard and think really hard on certain things, but it’s also good to just shoot a movie on your iPhone with your friends. That might be the one that people latch onto. Or it might be the one that you plan for ten years. You know, Boyhood. But you don’t know which it’s going to be, so just keep doing.
TYF: Very good advice. Finally, is there anything else that you guys would like to say to the readers before we go?
Cederberg: Hope everything’s going well.
Woodman: Yeah. You know, it may seem bleak out there. It may seem bad. But just know this… Oprah.
Cederberg: Just Oprah.
Woodman: Just know: Oprah. Listen to our album in a state. It comes out February 23rd.
Hornick: Like and subscribe. Follow us on Instagram, Twitter…
Woodman: Yeah. We’re gonna be coming to a city near you, so come and watch us live. Our live show’s gonna combine film and music, and we’re gonna be playing probably all of in a state when you see us live. And we’re gonna play some new songs and some old favorites too, so that’ll be very cool.