Evan DeLorenzo PO ‘17 is bouncing on the toes of his Nikes, clapping with his head bent low as the bass builds to a breaking point that sends several pairs of arms into the air and the drums rolling into rich hums. He’s in his performance wear; hair gelled back, a faded Taylor Swift sweatshirt and black skirt hanging off his frame, and a thin black-and-olive jacket over the top. He grins and nods his head vigorously as the song reaches its climax, briefly losing himself in a seemingly separate space as the instruments carry on the haunting, charged rhythm of “Dream Girl.”
It’s Wednesday evening, Nov. 18, and the usually quieter Motley Coffeehouse at Scripps College is filled from the foot of the stage to the grey curtain dividers in the backroom. Students sit in clusters on the floor and perch on the edges of armchairs; they line the brick walls and stand obscured by those in front of them, listening to the rich notes of DETAILS harness the air in the room.
Eight musicians—Peter Mellinger PO ’17 on violin, Adam Revello PO ’17 and Kevin Bengtsson HM ’18 on guitar, Jack Litle PO ’18 on drums, Evan Hamaguchi PO ’15 on saxophone, Tali Caspi SC ’18 on bass, and Alex Woods PO ’17 on piano—are bringing pieces of the My Teeth Shine project into full-bodied, organic sound.
My Teeth Shine, an album project headed by DeLorenzo and 50 other collaborators from across the 5Cs, was released on iTunes, Spotify, YouTube, Bandcamp, and Soundcloud November 5. With 15 tracks and accompanying visual or lyric music videos for each song, the album carries a varied mix of elements ranging in feel from ‘90s punk rock and trip hop to softer pop rock and slow jazz melodies.
“It’s somehow cohesive, even though every song is really different,” Caspi, who played bass and sang on a large number of tracks, said. “It’s artistic and out there and in your face. It’s not boring.”
This variety, which might be described as alternative rock, lends itself to the vast range of musicians who participated in the making of the album, as well as DeLorenzo’s vision for an accessible musical experience. In DeLorenzo’s words, My Teeth Shine is both a break up album and a reflection on acceptance in its different forms: “wanting it, rejecting, disavowing your need for it, finding connections and getting [acceptance] in different ways.” He was also influenced by bands such as Portishead, the Pixies, Frank Ocean, Daft Punk, Grimes, and Earl Sweatshirt.
“I wanted to create something that was going to be a place where you can kind of get it all but it’s not going to pull you in a bunch of different directions,” DeLorenzo said. “The fantasy for me is that it could be either,” he added. “That you could listen to it passively and be like ‘cool tones’ or that you could listen to it really critically.”
On the album cover, an unrecognizable DeLorenzo is wearing a multi-part reflective mask which he tells me is made up of tiny fragments of mirrors that he cut out and applied to a plaster cast with Superglue. While DeLorenzo said that he thinks the mask provides an intriguing image for the album cover, it also plays into the themes and emotional experience of My Teeth Shine.
“The idea of the mirrors is wanting to reflect what people want to see and what people are seeing back on them,” DeLorenzo said. “But then the fact that it’s conformed to the skin and to the curves of the face and the neck, it’s like a failure to completely be camouflaged. The person, the material self, is distorting reality and pushing it back in a way that is idiosyncratic and personal to the character.”
While the album began as an individually-powered project for DeLorenzo, it steadily evolved into a far-reaching, highly collaborative space. After recording a version of the album’s first track last December, DeLorenzo continued to write the initial frameworks for songs, seeking out the talents and perspectives of other musicians based off of what he envisioned or needed. From there, the project grew organically; sometimes through his involvement in Pomona’s jazz band, sometimes through word of mouth.
“By about three-quarters of the way through it was fully collaborative and I was going to people with ideas and I had figured out how to collaborate the way I want to collaborate in this project,” DeLorenzo said.
DeLorenzo’s musical career began at age four with lessons on the drums, which he says remain his instrument of choice. He played in jazz band throughout high school, and began playing piano during his senior year. In the past two years, he’s also started singing and picked up guitar and bass. Beyond his own interests in learning other instruments, this appetite for pushing boundaries with music is something DeLorenzo seeks to do in My Teeth Shine. The album carries with it a multitude of sounds that DeLorenzo sought to contrast , such as in the transition between the wistful and more intimate vocals of “Loved Letter” and guitar heavy “You, Tonight.”
“I want to challenge myself to write things that are drastically different,” DeLorenzo said. “A lot of the album is a reaction to the paranoia of everything I do sounding the same, and I think that pushes me in a good direction.”
Beyond creating a compelling, varied soundscape, DeLorenzo was also interested in creating film narratives to compliment the album’s tracks.
“There was a really strong sense of creating a certain feeling within a song and maintaining it throughout the video,” Yasmin Adams PO ’17, who both acted in and worked on the creative visuals for the songs “Cry” and “Officer,” said. “We ended up going more in a direction of creating a setting for the song to live in and that would be the way for people to experience it.”
The videos were made with each individual song in mind, though DeLorenzo and other visual collaborators saw opportunities to maintain certain themes and characters. While the album stands on its own, Amy Griffins SC ’18, who acted, sang, and contributed to music videos, explained that “a lot of the tracks follow a certain storyline that is expressed more clearly in the music videos.”
Similar to his approach to musical collaboration, DeLorenzo often had a vision for music videos that shifted and solidified over the course of the project. While many of the videos were filmed across campuses, in Claremont and the greater L.A. area, others were filmed in locations far beyond the scope of the 5Cs; DeLorenzo captured the visuals for “Be a Body” when on a trip to Ireland with his parents, and filmed “Dream Girl” in Fox Lake, Ill. in actress Keely Shinners’ SC ‘18 bedroom and black 1993 Ford pickup truck at sunset.
A media studies major, DeLorenzo aspires to be a filmmaker in addition to his work in music. The walls above the desk in his room are lined with posters of some of his inspirations, reflecting a duality in his passions for music and film: Christian Bale’s dark eyes and suit in “American Psycho,” a side shot of Carey Mulligan in “Drive,” Lorde on the cover of Rolling Stone. A black guitar case slouches into the corner, and what he tells me is a “nearly broken” keyboard leans against the wall.
Though the music videos are among his first major undertakings in film, his attention to detail and eye for striking images create a watching experience that is equally intense and mesmerizing. “You, Tonight,” opens with a pair of bloody legs moving up and off the ground, as if being pulled; “How Do I Learn” features lipstick ingestion and slowly flowing, thick liquid pouring down rapper Asher Abrams’ PO ‘18 face; and in “Be a Body,” DeLorenzo filmed the immediate aftermath of a car crash he and his family experienced, capturing the flipped van on the side of the road and his parents’ injuries as part of the video’s exploration of an intimate relationship.
DeLorenzo says that the bigger-picture aspects of the album were the most challenging, but that he learned to “trust that it was headed in a cool direction.” This translated into dedication to the project as a flexible, ever-changing whole throughout its production, which was completed in less than a year.
Pieter Hoekstra PO ’17, who played saxophone and assisted in composing a number of tracks, lived with DeLorenzo during the summer and described how he saw the album affect the former’s greater lifestyle.
“I saw a lot of his investment and dedication to the project, which most of the time manifested in eating meals of nothing but peanut butter and bread so he could get back to work,” Hoekstra said. “That, and the fact that there were just constantly people I’d never seen in my life walking in, making music for like an hour in his room, and then leaving, often late at night, which was weird and awesome at the same time.”
DeLorenzo’s energy about the music and dedication to the album was, in many cases, what brought so many people into working on the album– much of which was recorded over the summer.
“I think because so many people were involved and excited about it that it came together really well and really fast,” Shinners said. “There was a great moment [at the launch party] when Evan said, ‘raise your hand if you were involved,’ and there were so many people that raised their hands.”
Many people who contributed to My Teeth Shine cited the collaborative process as fulfilling and unique, but also as a learning experience. As a director, DeLorenzo acknowledged that this project was an opportunity to grow as an artist; some tracks, such as “Officer” evolved and took on widely different forms during the production process. Still, he brought in some people who had little to no previous experience with film and encouraged musicians to push boundaries with their instruments of choice.
These connections between musicians, formed through DeLorenzo’s payments in Gatorade, late night filming, repeated recording sessions, and conversations about how to structure music videos, were present when DETAILS performed live and riffed off one another during two new songs performed on stage. Creative collaborators, actors, graphic designers, and other involved musicians stood in the crowd, along with 5C listeners who have become fast fans in the approximate two weeks since the album’s release. Many voices echoed DeLorenzo’s as he belted and swayed on stage, singing along to tracks such as “Days Between” and “My Teeth Shine.”
After the group’s performance at the Motley, DeLorenzo grinned as he reflected upon the experience of collaborating—both live and in the studio—with other artists and musicians.
“It felt amazing. The fact that we got to re-orchestrate,” DeLorenzo said. “It became clear really fast that everyone is so good and so good together that we’re able to do new things that push the ideas of the album further.”
DETAILS is slated to perform next at Dom’s Lounge Dec. 5.
The album is also available for download and purchase on iTunes, Spotify, and Soundcloud. You can listen to Details on YouTube at this link: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCzhj2gVS3xSj1oEQBxMiBOA