Yes In My Backyard: Bishop Allen’s Justin Rice on His Band’s New Video for “True or False”


Yes In My Backyard is a semiweekly column showcasing MP3s from new and emerging local talent.

Brooklyn pop savants Bishop Allen have been staying busy since the release of their second Dead Oceans album, Grrr…, in March–a natural move for a band who once self-released an EP every month for a year. Their second video, “True Or False,” is like a peppier version of Kevin Kerslake’s video for Nirvana’s “In Bloom,” though Bishop Allen is interested in the innocent and fun of ’60s variety shows rather than their insidiousness. Matching the video’s giddy energy is the song itself, built off of the rhythm from Shirley Ellis’s “The Clapping Song” and imbued with new-fangled ramshackle urban-folkie pop. With little more than an incredibly sparse set at their disposal, director Randy Bell and choreographer Andrea Delmonico make the focal point of the video an insane routine by a crew of dancing girls in fringe-y dresses. The video–shot on a small budget, and employing a cast of friends (and friends of friends)–is another great example of Brooklyn artists doing a lot with little.

Bishop Allen frontman Justin Rice on “True Or False”

What is “True Or False” about?

It’s a love song from one ragged, beat-up old timer to another.

Tell me about making the video.

We saw all these old clips on YouTube of ’60s prime-time TV dance shows. Hollywood A Go-Go. Hullabaloo. They seem to have thrived from 1965 to 1966. Post-stuffiness, pre-disillusion. We wanted to make a video that looked like them. We shot the video at the Tank, which is a performing arts space in Manhattan. The director, Randy Bell works there. It was crowded, and everyone was clomping around on makeshift stages. It was burning up in there. Between takes, everyone would pant and fan themselves and chat and laugh.

How much time was spent on just hair?

Hours. All done by a friend of ours, Rose Renda and Keila Sone, out of good will. The dancers started getting there at around five in the morning.

Tell me about seeing Andrea’s chorography for the first time…

I went to a rehearsal two days before the shoot. Andrea would call out moves in time, like “touch your toe, other toe, and finger, finger, finger and sit.” I was floored watching the routine. It was so much.

Watching the video now, is there anything anachronistic in it that you notice?

Something that doesn’t belong in 1965? The alto horn.

What’s the most memorable NYC show you’ve played?

I played a show at Pianos right after getting out of the clink. I swear: it wasn’t my fault. I beat the rap. But not before playing a great show.

What’s your favorite place to eat in Brooklyn?

Eat in Greenpoint. I wish I was there right now.

Bishop Allen plays Union Hall on November 20 and the Bell House on November 21.

Download:: [audio-1]
Download:: Bishop Allen, “The Ancient Commonsense Of Things”