Intimate ANDREW BIRD: FEVER YEAR music documentary shows his creative process
When director Xan Aranda set out to make a documentary about the very private musician, Andrew Bird, she knew she had to tackle the documentary in a way that was different than the usual music documentary.
“I’m making a film about a multi instrumentalist who plays with multi instrumentalists and he is also reluctant to talk about the statistics of his life, thoughts and feelings, that kind of stuff,” Aranda said. “I knew I had to make something more process driven and take the plunge into the fact that people would complain about the fact that, ‘Oh, I don’t learn anything knew about him.’ And it’s like, ‘Well, if you want stats you can go to Wikipedia, they’re all there.’ And if you want mood and a sense of place and something even more rare, which is spending 80 minutes with somebody who is incredibly private, than this is the way to do it.”
In the end, Aranda struck a balance creating, “Andrew Bird: Fever Year,” a documentary that has been praised at Noise Pop Film Festival 2012, SENE Film, Music, & Arts Festival 2012 and Documentary Edge Film Festival 2012, among others.
“Andrew Bird: Fever Year” will play at 5 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 7 at the Gem Theatre, Kannapolis as part of this year’s Modern Film Fest line up. Tickets are $4 each. For more information visit www.modernfilmfest.net
Since 1997, Andrew Bird has released nine studio albums and performed sold-out concerts at the Sydney Opera House, Radio City Music Hall, Carnegie Hall, as well as other iconic venues and festivals worldwide.
His 2008 album, “Noble Beast,” was lauded by critics and fans internationally, including, “Rolling Stone Magazine,” National Public Radio, “Mojo,” “Paste,” “Artforum,” “The Guardian,” Pitchfork and others. Bird also spoke at the TED Conference in 2010 and will release his next album in 2012.
“This film needs to be an introduction for new people and also something that’s completely built within it for existing fans, because of where he’s at in his life,” Aranda said. “I think when you make a film you really need to look at what’s already out in the world and kind of access what viewership might be.”
“Andrew Bird: Fever Year” is a blending of concert footage, interviews and just standing back and observing Bird work, creating new music. Just a part of the movie includes concert footage from the 165th and final show of his 2009 tour.
“He wanted to make the film, but then at different stages he’d be reluctant,” Aranda said. “Also, I have an enormous respect for his process and the way he works so there would be days were I would just feel really afraid or nervous that we were going to interrupt something really important.”
Plus, Aranda had to film around Bird’s health, as he constantly fought a fever, never quite getting over his illness, hence the name, “Fever Year.” Filmed during culminating months of the acclaimed singer-songwriter’s most rigorous year of touring, Andrew Bird crosses the December finish line in his hometown of Chicago – feverish and on crutches from an onstage injury.
“Andrew was in the middle of an insane touring year – the apex of over a decade of hard work,” Aranda said. “He’d been suffering from perpetual fever, a common topic of our late night post-show phone calls from wherever he was in the world.”
Fortunately, Aranda and Bird had already developed a friendship, meeting about 10 years ago at a venue in Chicago. Over the years the two collaborated on three projects, including two music videos and a live show projection. This feature film is their fourth collaboration together.
“He and I have such a short hand between us that at the time we made the film we had to make sure that we didn’t do an interview were we were finishing each others sentences. I know what his story is,” she said. “We share a lot of sensibilities and I know his entire life story, so I had to challenge myself to say, ‘What would you tell a new person sitting at this table about what’s going on here?’”
But that connection was what allowed Bird to work with Aranda to create, “Fever Year,” and work past Bird’s private nature.
“What is a tiny bit for us is tons for him,” she said. “So encouraging him to always trust me and take us to the edge of his comfort, it was a lot.”
In the end, Aranda has created an intimate documentary that may not reveal a lot of details about Bird’s life, but shows how he thinks, how creates, how his process develops and forms a new sound.
“I don’t think it’s a mystery that Andrew asked me to make it and was reluctant to have it made the way it was. I think he knew I would push him for access,” she said. “I think at some point any subject in a film has to let got and let the director direct and that’s tough for someone who has steered his own career and his own media for the past 10 years.”