As a young musician trying to make it in New York City (or in any city for that matter), it always feels like a race to get to the top. Competing for this gig, auditioning for this spot – it’s a never-ending struggle. But at Mason Jar Music, the mantra is very much the opposite of the “every man for himself” mentality. At MJM, it’s all about putting together the brightest young talents, from filmmakers to orchestrators, and creating a collective that will produce outstanding work, and showcase everyone’s talents.
BY KRIS BOWERS
Graduates of the Clive Davis Department of Recorded Music at NYU, Jon Seale and Dan Knobler have always had a passion for producing records. Even prior to their graduation, Jon and Dan were already keeping themselves busy with a number of projects, ranging from records for bands to film scores, each involving a number of talented student composers, engineers, musicians and arrangers.
“We sort of had this idea that rather than all being a bunch of individual freelancers who can only take the gigs within our specific skillsets,” Dan explained, “if we amalgamated ourselves and put ourselves under one name and one reputation, we could probably end up getting more and larger profile work as a collective, rather than as individuals.”
So, just like any other new family looking to have room to grow, the guys began searching for a house to move into together. Finally settling down in Kensington, BK, nine guys that make up the core members of the team, moved into a house where they were able to set up a recording studio and film editing facilities.
Along with record production, engineering, arranging, music for picture, and live event filming, Mason Jar Music is creating a buzz for their unique take on the music video.
“Our main project that we’ve been working on for the past year is called Mason Jar Music Presents,” Jon explains, “and it’s just a way to synthesize all of the things we do: recording, producing, engineering, filming, arranging, editing, all that type of stuff.”
Watching an MJM Presents video is like having a backstage pass to a private concert. As you follow the artist into the space, you’re aurally surrounded with the musicians warming up for the performance. The narrative quality of the cinematography draws you in and creates a casual atmosphere as you get a behind the scenes look at the rehearsal and playful banter amongst the musicians. However, from the very moment the first note sounds, there’s nothing laid back about the quality of the performance. In the Josh Garrels video for example, you can almost see the deep-seated passion pouring from his mouth with every lyric, and the intense focus of the musicians as they execute the piece flawlessly.
“As far as realizing our own vision, that was our first successful video,” Jon says as he recalls working on the Josh Garrels piece. “That was the first time we felt like we had finally created what it is we set out to create, and realized exactly what we’re trying to do.”
Another aspect of the MJM Presents series that makes them so unique is their “found spaces” concept. “None of the episodes are done in studios or traditional performing spaces,” Jon explains.
“That’s the first time we haven’t mentioned that right off the bat,” Dan says humorously.
“So for example,” Jon continues, “we did one in an abandoned office building. We also did one in an old elementary school.”
“Yea, the school that had been shut down,” Dan recalls. “There were these abandoned classrooms with school chairs everywhere, and we could just create this really beautiful environment. We also just did one in an interior designer’s vintage furniture warehouse. That was really cool.”
As far as getting access and clearance to use these hidden gems…let’s just say the guys have their ways.
“Um…It’s complicated,” Dan says with a smirk.
“Yea, sometimes it’s a bit under the radar,” Jon says.
“I mean we’ve never broken into a space, but we’ve definitely gotten approval from someone that doesn’t necessarily have the ability to give us approval,” Dan explains.
Preparing for one of these videos is a process unique to each piece. The first step is deciding on an artist to reach out to, or having an artist come to them. The important thing is starting with a piece that has room for augmentation, and an artist that’s open to this collaborative experience. That way, one of the MJM composers can arrange something for a larger ensemble that will accompany the song, and allow it to fit right in like the last piece of a puzzle.
Even the space itself is chosen based on the lyrics of the song. “We try to find a space that really matches the aesthetics of the song, and the message and emotional content of it,” Dan says. “It’s really challenging and complicated, but I think it makes for even more powerful videos.”
“And were always looking to work with talented people,” Jon says. “So anyone can feel free to contact us. Whether they’re an orchestral player looking to work on one of the sessions, or an artist looking to have a video done, we’re always looking for more people to work with.”
Oh, and Dan’s girlfriend does the catering, so between the good food, good company, and amazing music, who could say no.
Right now, Mason Jar Music is in the middle of a big Kickstarter campaign in order to raise money to develop more episodes. Click HERE to help them reach their goal! Also, feel free to visit their website at, www.masonjarmusic.com