"Joe Stakun is in-demand; the 21-year-old film student’s resume includes interning for Ridley Scott, interviewing BMX superstar Mat Hoffman and working as a production assistant for Maroon 5. Now he can add directing a Modest Mouse video to his lengthy credentials. Stakun won the opportunity for a taste of mainstream recognition in April 2007 when Modest Mouse invited fans to submit videos for their single "We've Got Everything" as part of a contest; the winner would have his or her video played on mtvU," Temple News/Lifestyle scribe Jimmy Viola wrote within a 2007-published piece. Joe Stakun has since edited TV shows like Dream Corp. LLC, Check It Out! with Steve Brule, The Birthday Boys, Comedy Central's Another Period, and Hot Package, as well as directing duties on MUTHA and I Love My Bicycle: The Story of FBM Bikes. Stakun has additionally directed various Butterfinger, Wendy's Dairy Queen, Little Caesars, and Harold & Kumar commercials broadcast on [adult swim], as well as two short films: Phones and Enter Through The Stall Door. He has directed music videos for Modest Mouse, Future Islands, Ultramantis Black, AJJ (formerly Andrew Jackson Jihad), The Bird & The Bee, Japanther, and has recently become Pissed Jeans' go-to film-maker—having directed their last four music videos: "Bathroom laughter," "Boring Girls" from Sub Pop's 2014 Shallow re-issue, "Romanticize Me," and their latest, "The Bar Is Low" from WHY LOVE NOW? I recently decided to submit a CONTACT request form on Joe Stakun's personal website, to my surprise, he wrote back promptly, and now, you see the glorious interview below, which largely focuses on Stakun's cannon of work with Pissed Jeans. Please feel free to sit back, put on a copy of Pissed Jeans' WHY LOVE NOW?, and enjoy my conversation with the self-described "Music Video // Commercial Director // Television Editor, Joe "I've never heard of me either" Stakun" down below the fold! Pissed Jeans, on the other hand, have announced a massive continent-spanning... 2-date WHY LOVE NOW? Record Release Show! Tour: FRI. March 10th at Boot & Saddle, Philadelphia, PA (SOLD OUT) and SAT. March 11th at PhilaMOCA, Philadelphia, PA. Oi!
Matt "The Witzard" Horowitz
Founder & Editor-In-Chief
I. How did you first come to get involved with Pissed Jeans? Were you a friend or fan of the band's before becoming their frequent music video director?
I'm from the Philadelphia area and lived in the city for a few years, so I was familiar with their name around town, but I wasn't familiar with their music until after moving to Los Angeles. At some point, I just sent Matt Korvette an email saying I would love to make a music video for them and luckily, he was into it. Our first video was for the song "Bathroom Laughter" and we've been collaborating on every video since, which has been awesome.
II. How did you first hear about Pissed Jeans and how might you best describe their unique style of music for a new-found "Jeaner" (Pissed Jeans fan)?
The song/video for "False Jesii Part 2" was the song that really caught my interest. It was so hard and playful, at the same time, which I totally loved.
III. Were you initially approached to direct "The Bar Is Low" or did Pissed Jeans present you with options from their WHY LOVE NOW? record and let you pick? How does the music video selection and making process generally start?
This was the first video with Pissed Jeans I didn't write. Matt [Korvette] had a great concept for the video and knew he wanted [it to be] the video for "The Bar Is Low." The best part about this video for me was being able to finally have the band members be the main focus. They are all hilarious and amazing performers, so it was always a little ironic I made three videos without them on screen so much. That was really due to [there] being a country in between us. The process of song selection and concept is different every time, though. I've had artists send me four songs and have me write to whichever speaks to me and sometimes, the single is already chosen.
IV. Have you heard the entire WHY LOVE NOW? full-length and if so, how do you feel it stacks up against Pissed Jeans' previous albums?
I have heard to the new album. The subject matter and humor of Pissed Jeans lends itself to aging well. I think the new album is great!
V. How did you go about recruiting real gym rats to "work out" alongside Matt Korvette, Sean McGuinness, Brad Fry & Randy Huth throughout "The Bar Is Low?"
Our producer Scott Ross handled the casting and found some amazing athletes, who were pumped on the project. The bonus on top of casting great athletes was that they were all really funny.
VI. How involved (or uninvolved) were you within the writing and recording processes of Pissed Jeans' WHY LOVE NOW? along with co-producers Lydia Lunch & Arthur Rizk?
I wasn't involved at all in the recording process, but that would have been very fun. I would love to hear how an album would turn out if, I made Matt [Korvette] record vocals wearing Groucho Marx glasses.
VII. Would you mind briefly detailing some of the celebrity cameos (or even just note-worthy people) within your four Pissed Jeans videos: "Bathroom Laughter," "Romanticize Me," "Boring Girls," and now, "The Bar Is Low?"
When making music videos, my biggest goal is to have fun and work with people I respect and love being around. The upside to making music videos on a small budget is being able to work with people who genuinely want to make something awesome and have fun while doing it. We've been lucky to have all of the videos filled with extremely talented people in front of and behind the camera. I love working with Clay Tatum, who's a character in both the "Bathroom Laughter" video and "Boring Girls." Mark Proksch [Nate from The Office] and Shelby Fero are also comedy geniuses, so it was amazing working with them. We had a ton of fun working with figure skater Braden Overett in the "Romanticize Me" video; he was insanely talented athletically and as an actor. Also, my friend Laura Simpson played the dream girl character in the "Boring Girls" video and she is the best.
VIII. What are some of the major similarities and differences between filming a music video with Pissed Jeans and a band like Modest Mouse or Future Islands?
"The Bar Is Low" video, in particular, took a lot of planning before hand to make sure we had the space and ability to shoot every joke we needed. That gym was covered in mirrors; they were everywhere. So, the DP Drew Saracco and I spent a few hours over the course of a few days carefully planning everything, so we wouldn't see any of the crew in the mirrors. However, the edit was pretty straight forward. The videos with Modest Mouse and Future Islands were both animation-heavy, so they took much longer in the post[-production] process.
IX. I recently re-watched "Bathroom Laughter" and "Romanticize Me" in preparation for this very interview; were both of the aforementioned videos filmed in one continuous take?
No, "Bathroom Laughter" was broken up into many sections. Although, the end section of the video was all shot in one take. We only had one crash [pad] for the ladder, one tray of coffees to spill, and one shelf of glass to break. There were so many moving parts and we knew we'd only have one take to get it right and luckily, everything worked out perfectly. "Romanticize Me" was also broken up into sections. Although, we did shoot a couple full song takes with our skater Braden [Overett]. He was so good at improvising on the ice, we just rolled on him doing his thing and inter-cut some of that stuff in to the video.
X. How long does your typical music video process take from start to finish (earliest conception to final release)?
It really depends; sometimes, a video has a really quick turn-around and other times, you get a a couple months. I always enjoy extra time in the post[-production] process to see what else can be added or polished.
XI. Do you have any as-yet unreleased music videos, short films, etc. that you would one day, like to see released and what's the likelihood of that ever realistically happening?
I've set all my videos free, at the moment. [Definitely] have some fun concepts and ideas written down that I look forward to making in the future!
XII. What do you have planned next? Any additional videos filmed with Pissed Jeans or any other particularly note-worthy projects?
No new Pissed Jeans videos in-the-works, but I'll make every video, if they keep asking. Other than that, hoping to direct a few comedy projects for TV this year. Also, writing and directing a short I've been working on.
Pissed Jeans' merciless fifth album, WHY LOVE NOW? is currently available from Sub Pop's Mega-Mart in a wide array of formats: vinyl LP, CD, cassette, and digital. Limited tickets are still available for Pissed Jeans' Saturday, March 11th PhilaMOCA Record Release Show! with Mannequin Pussy & Prowler; however, Boot & Saddle the night prior (Friday, March 10th) with M Ax Noi Mach & Body Spray is completely sold out... I managed to score a couple tickets, though! Thanks again to Joe Stakun for taking part in this very interview here at The Witzard!