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Meet The “Jersey Devil,” In Dana Why’s New Music Video

New Jersey-based singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Dana Why takes us through a dynamic and gripping cinematic experience with his latest music video for "Jersey Devil."

Dana Why is just about ready to release his upcoming album, The Lyre. Dropping on January 20, 2023, the new record is said to track three life-changing moments experienced by the artist—a broken engagement, a move from Maine back home to New Jersey, and the start and end of the following relationship.

"I was unmotivated regarding anything except getting high and cranking out an obscene amount of demos," says Dana Why. Relatable. In all seriousness, if it weren't for "Three Types of Reading Ambiguity" from The Meadowlands, we wouldn't have the outrageously explorative, adventurous, and interesting new songs to feast our ears on. More specially, the album's lead single and music video, "Jersey Devil."

The single itself feels like three songs in one. It's an incredibly dynamic listening experience that takes you through Dana Why's introspective personal experiences while the inner "Jersey Devil" takes control to unleash some pent-up thoughts. The song's music video is undoubtedly one of the most skillfully edited and intriguing visual experiences we've seen from an independent act.

While kicking off in a backwoods Jersey home surrounded by nature, the shot sees nothing but Dana Why and his guitar, prompting a solemn and isolated sensation. It doesn't take long for the visuals to morph into this absolute fiery hellscape with crunching guitar breakdowns and eerie visuals that give you a thrill. The outro feels like the end of some mystery thriller that leaves you wanting much more.

It's not every day we come by such a gifted, eager, and resilient act like Dana Why, who's not afraid to push the boundaries and create a new lane. See what we're talking about with Dana Why's new single and music video for "Jersey Devil," available on all digital streaming platforms and YouTube.

Welcome to BuzzMusic, Dana Why. You've stopped us dead in our tracks with your single "Jersey Devil" and its music video. What inspired this wickedly dynamic song in the first place? It's hard to pinpoint the exact genesis of any given song off this record because it was such a mess of events leading up to it. My fiancé broke off our engagement, I was fired from my job in Portland, Maine, and forced to move back home to New Jersey due to the insufficient job market there, and I had a new relationship start and end, all within a year and a half period. Writing music is the only thing that keeps me grounded when I'm feeling completely out of control of every other aspect of my life, so I was just getting high and constantly writing during this time. I had a lot of pent-up anger, and this is one of the tracks where I tried to let it out. Was there a particular story or message you wanted to convey with the video? What are you aiming to get across to viewers? The song is about anger and depression, making you feel totally outside of yourself like you've lost what makes you you. I was a big fan of Danny Elfman's video for "Happy", so I got to thinking about how I could incorporate these "unreal" versions of my friends and me. Something that looked familiar but felt off. I also thought that AI made a lot of sense for this video thematically to really push this idea of unreality. The final piece of the video was about finding someplace to shoot that wasn't in my apartment living room, where most of the stylized lighting performance stuff was shot. Double Trouble State Park made perfect sense. It's a place close to home that I've been to dozens of times growing up, and it's also part of the Pine Barrens, which is a huge part of Jersey Devil folklore. Being stuck with yourself and your home, even claustrophobically so, is a feeling I get when I listen to the song, and I get a similar sense when I watch the video, so I feel pretty good about that. How long did it take to conceptualize, shoot, and edit - and how important is the visual experience to you in terms of connecting who you are as an artist overall?

From zero idea to finished product, I think it was around 2, *maybe* 3 weeks total. The ideation is always the part I stress the most. Not because I can't think of any good ideas but because I typically can't think of any good ideas that are free to produce. We had no budget, so we had to be creative. Before this, I'd never used Blender, so just creating the 3D models of my friends' heads was a huge undertaking in itself. I had to manually map the 7-10 images they each sent me to a head model and then figure out how to use a separate app to capture my facial motion while performing the song so I could upload that to each of the models. Then I had to figure out how to use Stable Diffusion, the AI application that I used to create the surreal animations in the video. I was on Youtube constantly figuring out how to use these things I was totally unfamiliar with. But that's how it goes when you don't have the money to shoot some big production. Instead, I'll just punish myself on my computer, which can hardly even handle the workload because at least that's free. The Double Trouble stuff was all done in a day. I was so fortunate to have my best friend and drummer Biff Swenson and his uber-talented partner Melissa McLaughlin help shoot that day, or else I'm not sure how it would've gotten finished. We got super lucky with the weather and had all of the lovely fall colors the Northeast is known for, which looked great on camera. We just walked through the park and set up wherever we thought it looked nice, and it worked out. The edit was a gigantic fucking pain, the details of which I won't bore you with, but my editing setup was really struggling to keep up with all the layers I had going on. I like to take a kind of collaging approach when it comes to editing, and that's typically where I discover the video I'm trying to make. I just get high and mess around until the rhythm starts to feel right. As far as the visual experience, it's incredibly important to me and how I present my music. The photos, the album art, the videos... it's a whole world you're building when you make an album. I want it to feel like one cohesive vision. Filmmaking is the art form that contains all other art forms, and I went to school for film, so outside of making an actual movie that no normal person can afford, creating these visual worlds for albums is the closest I can get to scratch that itch. We'd also love to know how your upcoming album, The Lyre, compares to previous releases? It feels like a big moment to us. We're excited about it!

I honestly feel like I can split my musical career into two distinct halves -- before The Lyre and after The Lyre. The years before were just me fucking around with no real direction. I loved recording, so I recorded. It really wasn't anything more than that. I self-recorded and released 4 LPs as Static Sex, which was a solid foundation to build upon when I was ready to take things more seriously. In late 2015, I heard the only song ever released from the ill-fated Meadowlands follow-up from Jersey greats The Wrens. It is no hyperbole to say that Three Types of Reading Ambiguity totally rewired my musical production brain. The textures and layers on that song are more creative and interesting than most bands' entire careers. By this point, I had all the musical ideas that would become The Lyre demoed in Voice Memos, and this song gave me direction regarding how I wanted to approach tracking and mixing. The Lyre also marks the first time I wasn't just doing an approximation of singing. I've always had a pretty decent ear for melody, but being uncomfortable with my voice always had me burying my vocals and mostly using "good enough" takes instead of actual good ones. For The Lyre, I took it really seriously. I wanted the vocals to sound just as good as I thought the music did, so I was doing warmups, drinking tea, no cold water, the whole nine. I knew I'd be fine-tuning the vocals in the mix later on, but I didn't let myself move on from a section until I knew I got the best take I was capable of. I didn't want to just be trying to do shitty-takes work, and I wanted to polish great ones. This part of recording was the hardest but also the most rewarding. The Lyre is the biggest album I've made yet at fifteen songs and an hour and eleven minutes of music. I know people's attention spans are shit these days, mine included, so it's not exactly a small ask, but considering it was originally a thirty-track album, I'll count it as a win. I poured everything I had into this record over a six-year span, and it's a level up for me in pretty much every conceivable way. One I'm hoping people will sit with once they realize after a single or two that it's got a lot to give.

What would you like to say to brand new listeners discovering you for the first time with this album? First off, I'd say thank you. A lot of people like to stick with what they know, and the deluge of stuff coming out constantly is so fucking overwhelming, so I'm incredibly grateful for those who take the time to dive into something unfamiliar. The Lyre is the sort of record that rewards intentional listening and taking it in as a whole. If you'd like the true "director's cut" experience, I recommend getting high, throwing on a good pair of headphones, and letting it take you where it will. If you like what you hear, I hope you'll tell a friend and follow along for whatever's next. Writing and recording is a process of experimenting and finding what excites me and what I can do that I haven't done before, so if you're the type of listener like me who's got a high bar and is always looking for something new to check out, I hope to deliver on that. I already have my next two albums written and half recorded, and I'm super excited to start building out those worlds.


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