By Ben Massey | 04/08/22
Canadian rock duo Cleopatrick have impressed me for a long time, and A FILM CALLED: BUMMER comes as no different. This is the most recent and likely final chapter from their debut album BUMMER. It was largely filmed at the Danforth Music Hall in Toronto, a bucket list for any Canadian band. And guess what? Cleopatrick played to a sold-out crowd. This is no easy feat. Even lead singer Luke Gruntz comments “I don’t think we are supposed to sell out venues like this.” I have no idea how he could think this. The blood, sweat and tears poured into this band have its proof in the pudding: a long-perfected sound, insightful lyrical content and a willingness to step outside the box.
The film includes Cleopatrick’s highlights at their Danforth Music Hall show, alongside various interludes where Luke and Ian discuss their connection to music and how they got to be that band that sells out bucket list venues.
The film cleverly begins at the end in the aftermath of a gig: cups on the floor, people standing around chatting to their friends, and all-around happy grins. Needless to say, this is the scene after every Cleopatrick show I've been to. During this intro, the score soundtrack created by Luke himself plays a similar role to the feeling of tinnitus after a show, or as we’d like to say, the white noise. Having been to two Cleopatrick shows myself, I can agree that they have captured the aftermath of their set beautifully.
As expected, the film leads back to the beginning of this chapter, placing us all back to our first experience with hearing BUMMER. Cleopatrick care a lot about this concept of beginning, something lost on many of us once we grow. But no matter how far and wide they go, there is always a natural path back to the beginning, like Cobourg itself. In this instance, I'm talking about Victoria Park, the opening single to their first album, and naturally a place in their hometown. During the entire song, we get shaky camerawork and no cuts. Personally, I love this edit. It fits perfectly into the narrative of a Cleopatrick set. Vintage colour grading consisting of plenty of blues and reds fits the colour theme that we associate with Cleopatrick, adding to the ambience of the movie and a feeling of nostalgia for a place many of us have never even heard of.
“True gratitude towards the past even if they've outgrown it”
By the end of Victoria Park, we reach our first interlude section. Within these voiceover sections we discover more about Luke and Ian’s connection to Cleopatrick and what it really means. They mention how they got their first instruments, establishing a timeline of where their deep love and passion for music stem from. Again, bringing us back to the beginning with them, leaving no one behind no matter how far they go. Ian then tells us of the limitations of owning a drum set in his small bedroom, only going to show how dedicated he was to learning and becoming the drummer he is today, and perhaps true gratitude towards the past even if they've outgrown it.
Despite the seriousness of A FILM CALLED: BUMMER by its nature as a docufilm, Cleopatrick put their classic jokey spin on things by creating a character called Peat, played by one of their cameramen – Ryan Brough. Peat wears a massive bobblehead and some BUMMER merch which must’ve been a sight to see in the middle of a pit. Peat is likely not the first or last fascinating outfit choice I’ll observe at a live show. But unlike the whimsy of Peat and other concert-goer fashion, Peat's role has continuity too, something 'serious' within all the fun of Cleopatrick. At the end of Good Grief, we catch a view of peat from the stage: of course, he’s in the pit taking selfies with fans mid-set whilst vibing out to the music. I can’t think of anything more ‘Cleopatrick’ than this!
I now want to take a look into the sound and mixing of this whole project, again done by Luke himself alongside Justin Chechile. For a live recording, the quality of the sound is impeccable. The mix really highlights the hard-hitting drums and gorgeous vocal performance, whilst taking some of the loudness away from the guitar work. I found this very surprising as Cleopatrick is usually very guitar and drum oriented, but I think that this mix effectively highlights other sounds and technical elements that may not usually be so apparent in their album mix. Ian’s performance on the drums was, as always, outstanding: something that you can expect at every Cleopatrick show. Whilst Luke really stuns with his vocal performance – something that I can tell he has worked on very hard, and it really shows.
The second last song they play is fan favourite hometown, a staple track that precedes BUMMER quite a bit but couldn't possibly go amiss in this film. This was the first big hit for the Canadian duo which always gets the crowd going at their shows. With this song, we get a contrast to the beginning, with more steady camerawork this time. This may be to show the viewers a different perspective from a gig, the perspective of Cleopatrick from the band's eyes; the perspective of Cleopatrick before life got crazier.
There is then a sudden cut during the middle of hometown, something that we don’t see elsewhere in the film. It leads onto the final interlude section where Luke and Ian talk about, you guessed it, their hometown, Cobourg. They mention what it’s like to live in Cobourg, and how you will always see somebody you know. This is something I can relate to coming from a small town myself. However, they talk about Coburg in a different light during this interlude. They almost reminisce and mention things they love about it, which heavily contrasts with the way they talk about it in their songs. In the song hometown itself, a lyric that hits home for me is “My hometown only makes me feel alone”: although, for all intents and purposes, it's called a hometown, it lacks the community feel of home.
Within the description of Victoria Park on GENIUS lyrics, Luke mentions that “In my eyes, it is a monument to a long-lost ambition, and for that reason, it inspires me.” This is a quote that I really love. They remain in this town and have written all of these songs about it not because they love Cobourg in the traditional sense, but because they want it to be the place that they are so reminiscent of as children. A place of prosperity. A place of fun and happiness. In my eyes, Cleopatrick really are doing this. Just this Friday, they are headlining a hometown show – the biggest rock show to ever hit Cobourg soil, as they try to rekindle the deep love they have for their town and put it on the map.
To sum up, A FILM CALLED: BUMMER is an outstanding watch. I would urge every single person to spend 25 minutes of their time watching it in all its artistry. From stunning visuals to beautiful sound engineering, it comes as a highlight in the community they have created from something that only makes them “feel alone.”
Find A FILM CALLED: BUMMER by Cleopatrick on YouTube now.
Edited by: Roxann Yus
Photographs by: Ben Massey
Still taken from: A FILM CALLED: BUMMER