Guantanamo Baywatch has made a name for itself playing surf-inspired garage-punk, but on its recently-released fourth album the Portland trio of bassist Chevelle Wiseman, guitarist/vocalist Jason Powell, and drummer Chris Scott take a leave from the ocean to journey deep into the desert.
Taking inspiration from Powell’s recent move to Arizona, Desert Center is another step forward in the band’s fusion of 60s punk with infectious pop, and raging psychedelic surf instrumentals befitting of any classic beach party movie.
Album single “Video,” was one of the final tracks to make it onto the album. “We were sleeping in the studio while we were recording so we could spend the evenings and mornings just locked up practicing and writing new stuff. This song was written last second the night before we recorded it,” says Wiseman.
At the heart of the track is Wiseman’s driving bass riff, which provides the backdrop for Powell’s humorous, “confessional” lyrics about about being captured on video taking part in questionable activities. “The bass line syncs up with the drums in a really awesome way. At first when we started playing it live I was pretty stressed about this one because if I get off even a tiny bit it messes everything up, but I just keep my eyes on Chris and it’s actually super fun to play live,” she says.
If it seems natural that the band would choose to make a video for a song called “Video,” that’s because it is, but they had more reasons than the name alone. “I think to us it was a really clear choice for a first single and video,” Wiseman says. “The song is pretty different from all other songs we’ve ever written and I think it really stands out. We tried some of the new stuff out at SXSW this year and were surprised to see the crowd immediately getting really into this one, which really helped us decide to make our first video for it. Plus it’s all about making music videos ourselves so why not just go ahead and do this one?”
Keeping in line with the album’s desert motif, for the video shoot Guantanamo Baywatch rented a generator, camera equipment, and headed to the desert outside of Phoenix. Filming and lighting was handled by Shelby O’Neal, who captured the band playing their song surrounded by cacti and nearly knee-deep in a lake.
Despite challenges such as 115 degree heat, actually getting stuck by cacti, an encounter with a rattlesnake, and runaway beer (“We drank a buncha tequila and fell in the water a lot. I totally forgot that my beer would float away! A second after I put it in the water I dove after it. Haha, oops!,” Wiseman says) they maintained same level of high-energy, quirkiness, and chaos of any of their live shows.
Watch “Video” now. Desert Center is out now on Suicide Squeeze.