ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED ON MARCH 13, 2021
By Steve Newton
If you happened to be anywhere near drummer-journalist Adrian Mack’s property on Salt Spring Island last September 3, you might have heard a decidedly raucous noise ringing through the Douglas firs. Mack’s garage-rock quartet Saltspringunderground was running through a rowdy original called “City of Glass”.
And Island life was gettin’ loud.
If you weren’t within earshot, you can thank the folks from Mix Tape Rodeo for capturing the sights and sounds for all to enjoy on YouTube and whatnot. The MTR team–composed of Tyler McLeod (camera), Amber Webber (sound), Yvonne Hachkoski (photography and lighting), and Juliana Moore (writing)–has been capturing B.C. artists on video for almost a year now.
And as McLeod explains on the line from his East Van co-op, sometimes they just do whatever it takes.
“Chris [Arnett] was singing through a keyboard amplifier,” he says of the Saltspringunderground shoot. “We had two mikes, so we decided to try to mike the kick drum and the bass guitar. So there were crazily distorted vocals comin’ out of the amp, and whatever guitar sounds we got were ambient. But it turned out pretty good!
“That was the first amplified band that we did,” adds McLeod, “so we just went in there ready to blow it, but everybody’s energy was high. When we did that shoot it opened us up to the idea that doing something bigger doesn’t have to be technical and super difficult.”
McLeod says the main idea behind Mix Tape Rodeo videos is to do them as easily as possible. He films live performances mostly in one take so he doesn’t have to edit anything, and also shoots some Super 8. He’s no prima donna when it comes to pumping out his art.
“I develop that stuff in my bathroom so I have a quick turnaround,” he says. “It’s quick and dirty, and we like the look. It’s really just unmatchable in the way that it’s hand-processed and DIY and it’s very cool that way. It has an extra element of uniqueness.”
Armed with the most basic of gear, which McLeod had accumulated over the years, Mix Tape Rodeo has shot videos for over a dozen local artists. And without charging them a single cent.
“We’re just a group of music lovers and friends and artists,” he says, “and we know that there’s amazing artists in the city. And I just love filming music and being part of something, so that’s how it all came about. I wanted to do something that was a little different and didn’t involve money.”
McLeod–who describes himself as “just a guy with a camera”–has known musician Webber since they were kids. Over the years he watched her musical career “go wild” with popular local bands like Black Mountain and Lightning Dust. Hachkoski is an artist and photographer who works at Emily Carr University; Moore he describes as “a really good writer, and superfriend”.
Mix Tape Rodeo took on its first project when McLeod was approached by Webber to shoot a video for Lightning Dust’s “100 Degrees”. That’s where he got the idea to shoot live music in a living-room type of situation with minimal gear, with Hachkoski joining in to take photos.
“It was so easy and so fun,” he says. “We were like, ‘This is it, we’re doin’ this.’ ”
And they did do it–until the pandemic started raging to the point when, last October, they had to stop filming due to safety concerns.
“It’s a pretty intimate little series that we’re shooting,” McLeod explains, “and we don’t want to be a part of the whole COVID problem. Mix Tape Rodeo is all about no stress, it’s a social kinda thing where it’s not really justifiable to get together to expose people to being sick. It’s not a job for us, so we collectively agreed to hold off until we could be able to do it again.”
The last video the foursome created was for a song called “Catlin” by Ashley Shadow, aka Ashley Webber, Amber’s twin sister. McLeod reckons that it’s the clip he’s most proud of so far.
“It just felt super-fulfilling,” he says. “I had this vision to shoot a video with her, and it took several months to come to fruition, but I was so happy with it. It was like my initial goal was reached.
“But every single one of the shoots have been magical,” he adds, “because my heart and soul is put into each one. It’s all about the experience and the memory, right, and every single time it has just been so amazing.”
When asked to name the one artist he’d most like to film a video for, if he could pick anyone in the world, McLeod doesn’t place any international superstar on his wish-list.
“That’s a tough question,” he replies. “But I think my loyalty just remains with my favorite local artist, John Wakeham, because he is an underrated, amazing outlaw country singer-songwriter, and he is like the one person that I would want to see get success. He doesn’t promote himself, so I would love to shoot him more and more. I want to promote Johnny.”
As far as better-known recording artists go, McLeod reveals that the Mix Tape Rodeo crew harbours a “secret goal” to film and hang out with children’s entertainer Fred Penner. He wouldn’t mind shooting grizzled country legend Willie Nelson, either.
“He’s like my spirit animal,” he points out.