Directing duo MILTON talk their new documentary, and how they created it in just two days.
Deep in the underbelly of Brooklyn, New York, a lo-fi documentary from the minds of MILTON and Alamo Pictures, captures a punk counterculture brewing behind closed doors. Shot over two days in a pre-COVID world, Always Fast Hardly Accurate follows a day-in-the-life of the female punk band, Flasyd. Evocative, defiant and sacrilegious, the film immerses us in a subculture which feels both reminiscent and revitalising.
Together, Ben and Sal form MILTON; a directing duo whose namesake takes inspiration from a seagull they befriended in a South-Eastern seaside caravan park. The pair sat down with Wonderland to discuss punk, politics and the importance of creativity in the throes of global upheaval.
Check out the interview below…
First things first, how did you guys come across this story and why did it spark your interest? BEN: Initially, we were meant to fly to Austin to film a band at SXSW festival and were planning to pass through New York on route. We’d been in contact with Flasyd, so when SXSW was cancelled, we decided to stick around NY for a bit longer to film the punk scene there. SAL: Originally Ben knew Syd, the lead singer of Flasyd, so we thought, ‘let’s go to NY, and see what we find’. Once we were there, we were plunged into this vibrant scene. We were introduced to their friends and the other bands, and a couple of days of very little sleep later, we knew we had something special.
The conversations in the film have an air of comfort and intimacy, how did you gain the trust of Flasyd and the other bands in such a short space of time? B: It took a while for us to win their trust at the start. When we first met them, we didn’t put a camera on them for the first day and a half- just to make them feel comfortable with us. And then we basically just had a party with them. S: They’re very open people and they’re intense. They’ll either like you or not at all, and luckily, they liked us. Once they trusted us and got to know us, we were allowed access to their close circle pretty immediately. B: They also love to collaborate. They’re all in each other’s bands, it’s quite an incestuous world; so, they were excited to work with us and express their creativity through a new medium.
The whole film felt quite nostalgic, you must’ve been quite shocked to accidentally stumble upon a thriving punk subculture. S: That was the predominant thing that took us aback; how thriving the scene was. They’re all just good friends collaborating musically, and we felt lucky to gain access to such a tight-knit community. B: It was such a surprise, and we didn’t really know what to expect. There’s nothing really similar in London either. We came across this character, Jonathan Toubin – The Godfather of Brooklyn, who has a lot to do with the roots of this scene. He’s producing quite a few of their albums and has a venue where a lot of them play. He himself is a crazy story too.
What’s his story? B: He was DJ’ing somewhere in Portland and was napping in his hotel room, when a taxi driver was struck with a diabetic seizure and drove through the window of his room. The taxi landed on top of him and he survived. He’s still as chipper as ever. S: I think that experience kind-of kickstarted his philanthropic way of being. Everyone needs a space to foster talent, and he’s provided that with his venue, TV EYE, and producing. I guess his near-death experience can be somewhat thought of as catalysing this scene.
How did your initial interest in gender and representation within the music industry inspire the idea to follow Flasyd? And how did your time with them shift your perceptions of gender, representation and fluidity? B: We always thought women in punk music are underrepresented, and traditionally this genre has always been depicted as masculine. The more we spoke to Flasyd on the subject, the more we understood how gender is viewed as both a hindrance and a site of creative expression. We came to realise how fluid the idea of gender is within this scene. For instance, Nazar, the only male member of Flasyd, is referred to as being the most feminine member of the band. Like any scene, there can be some tension and competition, but Flasyd really emphasised the importance of encouraging more women to get on stage. From our time in New York we believe the conception of this genre as male-orientated is changing, and it’s a much-welcomed change.
What new meaning do you think the film takes on in the midst of a pandemic when the live music industry seems to be under threat? B: I hope it reminds people how important live music is, which is an industry in a huge amount of danger right now. S: We wanted the film to be evocative. I think it’s the perfect time to release it, especially now with the lockdown here in the UK. Music is an extremely important part of life and culture, and for the time being, streaming gigs from our bedrooms is the closest thing we have to replicate that experience. It was a very bittersweet editing process for us, because we were editing it over the first lockdown. It’s weird looking back over all this footage from our bedrooms. There’s such a huge contrast between going mental at a gig, to only being able to leave the house for one exercise a day. B: It’s sad.
What do you see as the future of punk in a post-trump era? S: We can only speculate as we’re not the musicians, but I think there is always going to be something to protest. The world will never be perfect.
Tell us how the MILTON duo began and what we should expect to see next. B: We started directing together about a year ago. We were in the pub in London (The Army and Navy) for the weekly Friday Karaoke, watching the old-timers serenading their loved ones; and as always, we were the youngest there by 30 years. Somebody’s Elvis impression must have inspired us as we began planning an idea for our first project right there, which would become, From Here on Out. S: We’re planning to make Always Fast Hardly Accurate the first of a trilogy of punk films. We have one planned for Mexico City, and one which we just got funding for set in Japan. B: From Here on Out is our first feature, following Hardwicke Circus, a young six-piece touring rock band from Carlisle, England, as they attempt to escape their small-town roots. It should be coming out early next year.