EX REYES SHARES “KEEPING U IN LINE” VIDEO VIA SPIN
VIDEO SET IN NYC AND STARS SWING DANCE LEGEND SONNY ALLEN
DO NOTHING EP OUT NOW ON MEMPHIS INDUSTRIES
Ex Reyes have just shared their new video for Do Something EP highlight “Keeping U In Line.” A song about reluctance in love and the little strains that time and aging impose, director Asli Baykal (Karen O, Princess Nokia) and Mikey Freedom Hart created a portrait of former swing dance champion, musician, and sassy septuagenarian Sonny Allen.
Sonny embodies–with a sly wit and an unwavering confidence–the magic of the era of Frankie Mannin and Savion Glover, the Copacabana and the Savoy Ballroom. His stories talk of “gliding along the dancefloor” and how Nile Rogers was one of his employees early on. This portrait is inspired by the classic story of Fosse’s decadence in All That Jazz.
The video opens and closes with Sonny dancing on the corner next to Grand Central Station, a location he’s watched change over 60 years of living in New York City. As he dodges the Ubers and Hybrid cars of 2016 in the opening, we hear him say “I been around a long time…I can dance, at least I’m still walkin’…I enjoy myself. I didn’t make a whole lot of money but I had a whole lot of fun.”
It was premiered by via SPIN, who said “director Asli Baykal paints a charming portrait of former swing dance champion Sonny Allen. The clip finds Allen dressed to the nines, reminiscent for a simpler times of big bands, the Charleston, and ballroom competitions, while encapsulating the cosmic modernity and lingering nostalgia of Ex Reyes’ hypnotic song.”
Mikey Freedom Hart (Ex Reyes): “I wanted this video to tell a clear story of someone whose story doesn’t often get told, and, in doing that, leave behind an emotion that might not be so clear. Sonny is a warm, funny, voluble guy who’s happy to tell you his story: a life lived in showbiz, on the dancefloors of the storied Harlem swing clubs, coiffed hair and glittery suits. I have a past as a New Orleans jazz musician, and I’ve played many a swing dance, so there was this surprising synchronicity: that Sonny’s story is about him still embodying the glitz and glam of his heyday, while at the same time carrying with it an artifact of my own past.”
ABOUT EX REYES AND THE D0 NOTHING EP
Ex Reyes is the psych-soul brainchild of prolific Louisiana native performer/producer, Mikey Freedom Hart. “Keeping U In Line” is taken from his EP Do Something (out now via Memphis Industries).
The EP was produced by Hart and Mitchell Yoshida (Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros) and includes contributions from Natalie Bergman (Wild Belle), Ian Chang, (Son Lux), West African guitar revivalist Kyekyeku, Ghanaian percussion group Hewale Sounds and Doe Paoro.
Over the course of his career, Hart has worked closely with a multitude of influential artists including Albert Hammond Jr, Bleachers, Sia, Mike D, Santigold, Sinkane, Adam Green and more. “Along the path, I was always chipping away at the sound of Ex Reyes,” says Hart, “I set out to make a record as varied, weird, joyful, and honest as the experiences and people who inspired it. I tried to allow any influence in if it wanted in.”
The Ex Reyes sound comes from the subtle sophistication of the Beach Boys, the weirdness of psychedelic era Temptations, the sonic experimentation of Phil Spector and Delia Derbyshire, the free freneticism of dancehall, and the superb oddity of synthesizer soaked dollar records, distilled into songs about real stuff.
Ex Reyes’ Do Something —mixed by Daniel Schlett (DIIV, Modest Mouse, Ghostface Killah)—was recorded and produced in a variety of locations around the globe. Based on musical community and the spark of collaboration, it’s the result of many hours spent both with talented friends in unlikely places and alone in even less likely places.
Vocals were tracked in countless hotel rooms, green rooms, tour buses, vans, and a 30hour ferry ride from the UK to Spain (when avoiding a French transit strike mid tour with Bleachers). Elsewhere, percussion and guitars were recorded in a shed in Ghana and backup strings were laid down at NYC’s famed Magic Shop studio—just days after David Bowie finished Blackstar there. Samples from a Greenpoint basement jam session—tracked by Jake Aron (Chairlift, Grizzly Bear, tUnEyArDs)—are outlined by pianos captured with iPhone voice memo at LA’s Record Plant. Then a horn section recorded in a woodshop at the Brooklyn Navy Yard and a Hammond B3, belonging to Yoshida’s grandmother, that was taped in her garage in LA. “Everything was put on the same palette, then warped, chopped, reorganized and sculpted by wherever I happened to be; with whatever band I happened to be with,” explains Hart.
Classically trained in piano since age three, Hart picked up his sense for music and harmony in church. By the age of 14, he was playing his first paid gigs at roadside juke joints in his native Louisiana. Two years later he moved to NYC in pursuit of an energetic musical community and began busking in parks and subways across the city, eventually joining forces with a ninepiece swing band giving daily performances at Washington Square Park. After several years playing on the streets of New York, New Orleans and around Europe, Hart relocated to West Africa to help a friend build a music archiving studio. Once there he immersed himself in the local music scene.
“I’ve always been in love with the highlife guitar style, and, after proving that I meant it, had the opportunity to live at the house of 80-going-on-immortal Palm-wine guitar master, Koo Nimo—he’s a legend in Ghana,” explains Hart. “He made me learn to sing the songs in Twi and know what they meant. We woke up at 4:00 a.m. everyday and he’d show me something new; every evening he had me perform the songs for the women of his house.”
In addition to nightly serenades at Nimo’s compound, Hart also became a novelty performer of sorts in a Ghanaian wedding band—playing alongside Afrobeat virtuoso, Ebo Taylor. “They’d call for ‘Obruni Abrantie,’ (the ‘white gentleman’) and I’d appear in the cloth and shred guitar.”
Hart tried to settle back into daily life in New Orleans after leaving Africa, but before long he was back in NYC and working as a pianist for Brooklyn mainstay, Manhattan Inn. “Those were the early days of the Inn,” says Hart, “when Brooke and Rolyn (founders of Glasslands) ran the place. It was filled to the brim with the ‘Brooklyn Music Scene’ of the time. I found myself playing New Orleans piano as a background to the dinner conversations of TV on the Radio, Dirty Projectors, Grizzly Bear, Yeasayer—many of whom are musicians I’ve come to meet and be friends with over the past few years. I remember Tunde one day tipping me $15.00 and saying, ‘I don’t know how you can just sit there and play,’ and I felt like, I’m hungover, but I guess I’m glad there’s always this…”