An Annotated Guide to Fred Thomas' "Good Times Are Gone Again" Video
In Pitchfork's review of Fred Thomas' new song and video, "Good Times Are Gone Again," Contributing Editor Jayson Greene notes the tune is "a little less agonizingly specific than Thomas’ usual fare."
That's true of the song's lyrics, but if you know Ann Arbor, the music video is filled with scenes that are very specific.
The promo clip is for Thomas' new album, Aftering, which comes out September 14 on Polyvinyl Records. The video features Thomas interacting with friends and strangers -- who immediately fall ill as if he passed on an instant plague, echoing the song's lyrics: "Bad things are happening now / Sharp days are wrapping around us."
It's the song of the bummer summer.
Ann Arbor is featured throughout the video: Thomas spends time walking alone through Buhr Park and strumming his guitar behind the long-running punk joint Far House; and he spreads his illness at Encore Records, The Hosting art space, Lab Cafe, a recording studio in Ellsworth Commerce Park, his bandmate Chuck Sipperley's home, and his own apartment where his wife, spoken-word artist Emily Roll, starts foaming toothpaste at the mouth.
"We kicked around a few different ideas about what we wanted the video to look like," Thomas said, "but ultimately the vibe of the song was that feeling when things quickly go from feeling fine to feeling out of control and panicked, bad. The idea was that I would be the embodiment of that feeling and the people I came into contact with would react to extremely."
"In a way, this video started early this year," said video director Jeffrey Freer. "I ran into Fred at a show at Electric Eye Cafe and we were chatting about projects we were working on. I told him that I had just started a band [called ZZVAVA] with Nick Zomparelli, Anna Parker, and Jordan Collingridge. Fred told me that he had a record coming out and needed a music video made for a track off the album."
Freer has been creating various video projects and posting them on his YouTube page for the past 10 years and Thomas liked what he saw.
"I was very excited when he asked me," Freer said, "because I've been a fan of Fred's various musical projects. Fred had worked with Nick already, producing a solo E.P. under the name NO DATA, and had mentioned that he was kinda waiting for Nick to get a band together. He proposed an 'artist trade,' if you will: I make a music video and he records and produces ZZVAVA's record," which is currently being mixed.
The "Good Times Are Gone Again" promo came together several months later when Freer got an email from Polyvinyl saying it needed the video turned in within 10 days.
"The first day of shooting was good, but I was a little worried that I didn't get enough footage," Freer said. "Those worries were totally squashed by the second day of shooting. That day was very fluid, we moved from location to location with ease. Everyone was so responsive, kind, and ready to participate. Fred is amazing to work with, very understanding, creative, and ready to be in the moment. Sometimes the pressure of a deadline can really motivate you to just try things, let things flow.
Buhr Park gets a lot of screen time in the video as Thomas walks the park's paved path alone, no guitar, singing the chilling words directly to the camera or staring at it with deadpan depression. Daytime in a park isn't normally full of evil vibes, but Thomas chose Buhr for a specific reason.
"I used to live across the street from Buhr Park at the Sunnyside trailer park and sometimes we'd walk around the park," Thomas said. "Emily once said she didn't like the park because it felt a little eerie and like she was walking around a John Carpenter movie. That's exactly what we were going for with the video."
Below is an annotated and time-stamped list of Ann Arbor locations and artist appearances in the video, plus the lyrics. Open the video in a separate page and follow along:
♦ 0:00 - Artist Anya Klapischak, who runs the artist-space house The Hosting, is shown walking her dog, Moya, around N. State Street, almost to the hospital area.
♦ 0:22 - Musician Chuck Sipperley's Old West Side home
♦ 0:33 - Backyard of the Far House punk abode near Packard and Stone School Road.
♦ 0:35 - Interior of musician Darrin James' studio in Ellsworth Commerce Park. Thomas is shown recording the band Tall Boy, which is working on its debut album.
♦ 0:40 - At The Hosting on N. State Street. Thomas is playing guitar here with Anna Baghina, who plays in his live band and also has her own group, Soviet Girls.
♦ 0:46 - Far House
♦ 0:48 - The Hosting
♦ 0:52 - Pink bedroom at The Hosting. The drawings on the wall are of inspirational women, including jazz artist Alice Coltrane and soul singer Betty Davis.
♦ 0:58 - Buhr Park
♦ 1:01 - Far House
♦ 1:09 - Pink bedroom at The Hosting
♦ 1:13 - Buhr Park
♦ 1:18 - Thomas' Lower Burns Park apartment with his wife, Emily Roll.
♦ 1:34 - Buhr Park
♦ 1:38 - Far House
♦ 1:48 - Lab Cafe on E. Liberty Road.
♦ 1:59 - Buhr Park
♦ 2:04 - Encore Records on E. Liberty Road. Thomas bumps into the musician Evan Haywood. Thomas is holding a copy of Joni Mitchell's The Hissing of Summer Lawns album -- very intentionally since "Good Times Are Gone Again," like the title track to Mitchell's LP, expresses the menace and sadness hiding behind something that seems idyllic. Also shown are Encore owners Jim Dwyer and Bill McLelland, with the latter's belly laugh morphing into a semi-comedic face of fear.
♦ 2:18 - Buhr Park
♦ 2:28 - Exterior of Ellsworth Commerce Park. Thomas shakes hands with drummer Nick Zomparelli of the bands ZZVava, Wild Savages, and more.
♦ 2:38 - Buhr Park
♦ 2:46 - Pink bedroom at The Hosting
♦ 2:51 - Buhr Park
Suddenly we’re in a different place
Good times are gone again
This year nobody’s talking about
How incredible their summer’s been
Bad things are happening now
Sharp days are wrapping around us
All of this could be so beautiful
It wouldn’t take a lot
You still think you’re the only one
Who had to fight for what they’ve got
Old words come out of your mouth
Bad things are happening now
Bad things are happening now
Christopher Porter is a library technician and the editor of Pulp.