Q&A: Michael Faulkner, director of ‘Dope Body: The End,’ talks about the band’s music, capturing the final performances, more

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A still from “Dope Body: The End.”

During its eight-year run, the scuzzy noise rock band Dope Body was never the first name on the tongues of national music journalists delving into the Baltimore scene. That didn’t stop them from, over the course of six albums, earning a loyal following both at home and elsewhere in the country with an abrasive sound and a sweaty, physical live show.

In 2016, they called it quits, playing two final shows at the Metro Gallery and the DIY space Floristree. This Wednesday, we will get the definitive document of the latter in the movie “Dope Body: The End,” a concert film that eschews interviews, commentary and any behind-the-scenes looks and stays homed in on singer Andrew Laumann, guitarist Zachary Utz, bassist John Jones and drummer David Jacober as they deliver a raw farewell performance.

Director Michael Faulkner, whose credits include the documentary “Shu-De!” on local beatboxer Shodekeh, says the black-and-white, anamorphic footage matches the gritty qualities of the band’s music and stage presence. “We felt like it ended up resembling a 16 mm film, like a ’70s Iggy and the Stooges concert,” he said. I met up with Faulkner earlier this week to talk about what drew him to Dope Body’s music, how he and his film crew captured the group’s final performances, the movie’s premiere at the Parkway Theatre and more.

Baltimore Fishbowl: When did you decide this was something that you wanted to document, this final show, and why?

Michael Faulkner: I had been a fan of Dope Body for a long time and been really excited about their music. And I had been approaching them about going on tour with them or different things, but the timing never really worked out.

And then during the Maryland Film Festival when “Shu-De!” was playing, I went to sit in on another screening of some shorts, and I happened to sit down next to Andrew Laumann, the frontman of Dope Body, and he said to me they were breaking up and playing their last two shows. And I was like, OK, can I please film those? And he was cool with it and the band was cool with it.

They had two shows back to back, and we filmed the Metro Gallery show and the Floristree show. But in the edit we decided just to go with the Floristree show and just do start to finish, real time. It’s unabridged basically.

BFB: What was it about their music that you wanted capture, that was so appealing to you?

MF: I think the music by itself is awesome. For me, it’s sort of this very energetic, raw cacophony of noise that ends up kind of creating a random rhythm that I can really get into.

But the powerful thing is that the live performance is an experience. And so when I heard they were doing their last show, in a way I just wanted to document, for the sake of preservation, this experience, because I think they’re really unique and that the experience of the live show is the complete Dope Body experience. Like I said, the music by itself is fantastic. But there’s just something really powerful about going to the show.

BFB: What was your setup, how many people did you have there shooting?

MF: We chose to put three camera operators operating Red cinema cameras on stage left, stage right and in the center. What we wanted to do was get, basically, an audience perspective of the show. We don’t mind if we see the cameras in the footage, but we didn’t really want them onstage with the band. We let the environment shape us.

We did at the time also have backup. We had a fourth camera kind of roving. And we had a camera stationary in the ceiling, not looking directly down but off in the back getting a wide shot of everything just in case something went wrong. Because we didn’t want to miss any minutes of the concert.

But the editor Trey Hudson–he was also one of the camera operators–as he was editing, he was like, Look, let’s not include any of those other cameras. When we tried cutting to the big wide shot, it kind of takes you out of the experience, so we wanted to stay with this kind of POV.

And that’s what we’re really excited about with the film, is this idea that you kind of feel like you’re at a concert. My original vision for the film was–I love that it’s playing at the Parkway, don’t get me wrong, that’s a great way to premiere, but I would love to see it played at like the Ottobar where people are just hanging out with friends drinking or whatever. Just play that and play it loud.

BFB: You talked about wanting to go on tour with them–that didn’t materialize. Doing that would have involved interviews, presumably. This film does not have any. Is there any reason for that?

MF: I’m not anti-interview at all. For this, I kind of was, because I just really wanted it to be like you’re going to a concert. We did have some interviews and they’re good. The guys are interesting, they have interesting things to say. So it was kind of a tough choice, but every time we tried to cut out to the interview, it’s like you lose the momentum of the concert. And the concert is sort of a whole meal in and of itself, in that Andrew stops and talks. It’s a journey, and I just thought, You know what, let’s just do that.

In a way that really appeals to me, just the idea that you don’t necessarily always have to have commentary. And it’s just more of a visceral experience.

BFB: This was a little more than two years ago. What happened in between then and now in terms of putting it together?

MF: [laughs] I kind of hear in the question a little bit like, How come it took so long?

BFB: [laughs] I didn’t want it to so sound that way, but I am a little curious. 

MF: Originally we were shooting for a year from the concert. But one of the struggles of independent filmmaking is how do you prioritize and put the time in, because it takes lots of time, and nobody’s paying you. You just go with the flow and then a space opens up and you’re like, You know what, we should really get that done.

We did try to get it done in time for the Maryland Film Festival. And we thought, Well, maybe it’ll be like a late night thing people could do. The programmers were interested in that, but they ultimately thought it would be a better summer movie. So we did not include it in the festival, and we planned from that time to make it later.

BFB: It’s a passion project, as much as anything.

MF: It’s absolutely a passion project. I think the timing is actually good. Because I think one year was going to be good in terms of like, Oh this is the anniversary of when they broke up. But in a way, I think two years is better because people, maybe they’re a little bit more hungry to hear that music or see that experience.

Drummer David Jacober in “Dope Body: The End.”

BFB: For people who may not be familiar with the band, what do you feel like this presents about Dope Body?

MF: I think it’s very representative of a live show of Dope Body, obviously. I do think it’s special in that there’s a lot of emotion–every time they play a song, it’s like dead, like that’s it.

We don’t get into it–like I said, there’s no behind the scenes–but the behind the scenes of getting to make this was Andrew had said, basically, I’m moving, I’m doing this and you guys can continue the band without me if you want to, but I’m going to switch up. That’s the gist I got. And they were like, We don’t want to keep the band going without you.

He was like, And we’re never getting back together, there’s no reunions, this is it. Super dramatic. And I think the guys were pretty upset about that. I mean, you’ve got eight years of time, maybe got like over 60 songs. So I think every time they play a song, there’s this sense of, it’s going extinct. It’s like sort of like watching the band break up right in front of you as they’re playing the music.

And the fans, too. There are certain hardcore fans in there. Some people I think may have been–I didn’t do a lot of interviews with fans, so I don’t know, but I think there were some fans there that just were like, What am I gonna do without this outlet?

BFB: Did you guys walk away unscathed, the camera operators? You guys were right in the mix.

MF: It was brutal, it was brutal. I got a huge black eye. At the Metro Gallery, I was operating a camera too, and yeah, the mosh–nothing personal, but someone’s shoulder slammed into the lens of my camera and banged me really hard. Biggest black eye I’ve ever had.

And then, on the night of the Floristree, not to be outdone, one of our camera operators got slammed really hard, to the point where he had this like cross burnt on his eye where the camera hit. And I was like, How did you keep going? Because he was bleeding. And he was like, I just thought I was sweating. [laughs].

There were some fans that were bloodied. Everybody else basically just got some bumps and bruises.

It’s a raucous little group. But there’s a certain collaboration about that mosh pit, everybody knows what they’re doing to some degree. It’s not vicious, it’s just raucous. And I kind of like that. It’s crazy joyful, to me. I mean, some might be expressing a lot of angst, but at the same time, it is joyful to watch them get it out, get a chance to express themselves.

People were exhausted. By the end of the concert, they don’t have anything left, either.

BFB: What are your plans with this beyond the premiere? 

I welcome any venue who wants to play it in the background. It doesn’t have to be, come sit down, watch it. I would love for it to be a live experience. But also, there’s a lot of fans around Europe, around the world, who would love to catch a Dope Body concert movie. So we’re going to look for self-distribution through iTunes, Amazon, something like that. We’ll figure it out and make it available.

And after the premiere we’ll take one or two songs from the movie and release them free online to give shorter chunks, so somebody can enjoy something, and hopefully garner interest.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

“Dope Body: The End” premieres at the Parkway Theatre at 7 p.m. on Aug. 29. A Q&A with Faulkner will follow the screening.

Brandon Weigel

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