Talking to Neil Corcoran about his Majical Cloudz documentary A Lot of Humans

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Backed by a score composed by the band for the film, A Lot of Humans follows Majical Cloudz as they open for Lorde on her fall 2014 North American tour. Director Neil Corcoran, who had managed the band’s previous tours, eschewed the traditional fly-on-the-wall concert documentary format when he discovered that he could not film Lorde for the film on or offstage. Instead, his short (at thirteen minutes), idiosyncratic film distills the loneliness of the road from over 100 hours of footage by means of a few show clips, a few more interviews, and endless expanses of austere travel footage. The result is as intimate as it is aesthetic, a music video as much as it is documentary. IMPOSE spoke with Neil about taking on a new role for a small band on a big tour:

How did you befriend Devon and Matt?

Devon I’ve known since 2004 or so, we became friends mostly in high school drama classes, Matt was a friend of another friend Kyle, they were in the same program at Concordia and Matt would come to see Kyle play with Devon and Austin in their old band The Pop Winds.

Why did you step away from your tour manager position?

A combination of having the opportunity to almost exclusively film/document that I couldn’t resist, and Devon had recently met Tyler in a social context and he had lots of experience doing FOH and sound stuff, which means once Tyler learned about tour managing, he became an objectively better TM than me anyways since I don’t have the knowledge of sound stuff he does.

Was it your idea to film the tour or the band’s?

It was Devon’s idea as far as I can remember. He knew I enjoyed making videos in a more broad sense so I think he may have assembled the idea with me in mind?

What was your plans for A Lot of Humans before you heard that you couldn’t film Lorde?

I was just hoping to play up the contrast between the size of the 2 acts, and what could be learned from being a part of something far beyond our comfort zone. The 2nd part of that still exists, but I was going to film and interview Majical Cloudz more in the context of directly comparing our experience to what Lorde goes through. Here we are as tiny fish in the big professional ocean, how’s it going to go? I’m glad it didn’t happen that way in retrospect because, as I mention, it allowed me to exclusively focus on MC and not worry about how i’m portraying the headliner or have any sort of little brother tagging along feel to it.

What was your most rewarding moment on tour?

After the last show, Lorde’s production manager told us “thanks for not being rubbish” which was funny and pretty nice considering how serious he generally was. The next day was my birthday and I got to swim in the Pacific Ocean which was very rare for me, and it punctuated the whole experience in a very satisfying way.

A Lot of Humans is a tour film without any concert audio. How did that influence the film’s score?

That was a conscious choice agreed upon by Devon and myself. He had been making instrumental droning music on the side and we realized that it captured the sort of blurry dreamy quality I wanted the film to have better than their actual music.

Why did you begin and end A Lot of Humans with shots of travel?

The first shot is just the street in front of our apartment in Montreal, then Devon cutting his hair on the roof of the same building, but the travel shots just suggest the movement of never being in one place. When you’re on a tour, seeing road go by is as normal as eating and sleeping, you’re always in a sort of purgatory between places, and you start to feel most comfortable when in motion just because it’s the most familiar thing.

For a doc called A Lot of Humans, your film features lots of empty roads and stadiums. Was this a thematic decision or a practical one?

Yeah I thought that particular quote was funny considering how empty a lot of the footage generally is. I’d say it was both a thematic and practical decision. Practical because when you’re traveling a lot, unless you go looking for people or places with activity, there’s generally going to be a certain emptiness so I ended up with plenty of footage of that nature. Thematically the emptiness represents the loneliness of being so nomadic for so long, and how such a massive crowd can make you feel more alone as a performer than in a traditional small venue, because of how much harder it is to connect with people as individuals.

How closely related was your growth as a filmmaker to Majical Cloudz’s as musicians?

I’d say it was pretty closely related, we were both on a much larger scale, both having to figure things out on the fly in order to better suit the new circumstances we were in. There’s a quote from Tyler the TM in the film where he accurately describes how we “were all kind of scared together” so at least we had each other and could bond over all feeling equally inexperienced.

What’s your next project?

Nothing major, I’ve been making some short films and animations using stop-motion and digital collage techniques so I’ll probably produce a few music videos in that style if nothing else in the next little while.