Mess Around

Album: Tell Me I'm Pretty (2015)
  • The first single from Tell Me I'm Pretty, this is about a girl who knows what she wants and how to get it. The track was produced by Black Keys guitarist Dan Auerbach, who also contributes some guitar work.
  • The genesis of the song was a riff that guitarist Brad Shultz came up with, inspired by the late Memphis, Tennessee axeman, Jay Reatard.

    Vocalist Matthew Shultz recalled to Consequence of Sound: "Brad was listening to a lot of Jay Reatard at the time and was inspired by the riffs that Jay was so incredible at writing. We had already recorded a majority of the record and took small breaks from the studio with Dan [Auerbach] and went and demoed some new tracks. 'Mess Around' almost didn't make the record - Brad was unconvinced that it fit. And I overheard him playing the riff and got really excited, and then convinced Brad to pursue it as a song."
  • When writing the song, Matthew Shultz was inspired by Outkast. He explained: "A couple years ago I saw OutKast doing their festival circuit. Andre 3000's delivery and his sense of melody was inspiring to me. I was wondering if there was a way to create an alternative song with a similar kind of energy, marrying that with a Byrds or a Creedence Clearwater Revival stylistic color."

    "We recorded it in one day and brought it into the studio," he added. "Dan got very excited about it - he actually did the solo that's on that track. It just happened really fast."
  • The song is accompanied by a music video which was created using footage from the 1902 film A Trip to the Moon and other movies by French pioneering filmmaker Georges Méliès. Matthew Shultz recalled to "I had watched one of Georges Méliès films, Trip to the Moon, on Netflix. It had been restored and I just loved it. Initially I was thinking of maybe just hand-tinting photographs of the band like that and then started gearing my thoughts towards a possible music video. At that point I didn't know much about the movie or how it had been coloured, so I started doing research thinking we could shoot a video in high-contrast black and white and then tint it."

    "What I found out was that all that hand-tinting was done at the turn of the 19th century at these tinting houses where 200 artists would be on the floor with each being assigned a different colour, so kind of like an assembly line. So I was blown away but also disappointed because it would be impossible to replicate that today."

    "Shortly after, I chatted with some French friends who told me that Georges Méliès films were now public domain and all you had to do was reach out to the organization that was looking after his films. So we did and they were very happy about our interest and encouraged us to use as many of his films as possible. So that's how it came together."
  • Another video to take inspiration from Georges Méliès' legendary 14-minute silent film was Smashing Pumpkins clip for "Tonight, Tonight." The visual, which won six MTV Music Video Awards, was filmed in the style of an early 20th century silent film using theater-style backdrops and primitive special effects.
  • The girl on the album cover is named Rachel and was recruited by the band's team, after they sought just the right person to personify the emotions that the title conjures up.

    "When I looked at her, she was immediately beautiful to the eye but also there was some sense that she'd lived some real life in a way that I could relate to," Matthew Shultz said. "She was this girl who was very beautiful but she had this kind of 'touched' look to her. It was like an interesting thing. I felt really bad about it because during the photo shoot I was there and I was very cold and non-responsive because I didn't want her to try to give us something that she thought we wanted or—I wanted to capture something that was real and I knew that was going to happen between shots or when she started breaking down because she wasn't being directed. She seemed to be a very wonderful person—and I felt bad to do that to her but I wanted to capture something that was real."

    Photographer Ira Chernova recalled that during the photo session, they had to create an atmosphere to almost break Rachel's spirit. "We had to put her on roof under pouring rain to get her looking sad," she said. "It worked perfect for the final results!"


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