Pop-punk band Real Friends just dropped a seasonally appropriate music video for their aggressively optimistic track “Mess” — the latest single off of their second studio album, The Home Inside My Head.
Directed by Kyle Thrash and set in the late 1990s, the video captures one Halloween in the suburbs. The teens here get up to the usual mischief and shenanigans, chucking toilet paper over power lines while the younger kids collect free candy in their princess and pirate costumes. Meanwhile, a brother and sister part ways and wind up having a miserable night. I was there for all of it with my camera (scroll below), as MTV News headed to the Pennsylvania set in September.
Once there, I joined the guys of Real Friends — Dan Lambton, Kyle Fasel, Dave Knox, Brian Blake, and Eric Haines — for the first day of shooting the music video. Warning: Pumpkins were harmed during the making of this video.
12 p.m. We arrived in Media, Pennsylvania, a small town 30 minutes south of Philadelphia, around noon. The GPS said we had reached our destination but we were actually at someone’s house on a cul-de-sac, no cameras or equipment in sight. But then assistant director Justin Scutieri came out of the house to greet us, indicating that our GPS had in fact been working properly. We followed Justin, who explained that we would spend the first part of the day shooting with the main characters inside the house.
4:30 p.m. An hour after the members of Real Friends arrived on set, we hopped in a van to drive to a remote location where the video extras were waiting. More than a hundred extras, comprised of local kids and hardcore fans, were dressed in Halloween costumes (as the casting call had advised) and waiting in a DMV parking lot. The extras had no clue the band was going to visit them.
5 p.m. The band arrived and played an exclusive acoustic set in the parking lot. Fans got to make song requests and ask them questions. When Real Friends finally revealed we were shooting the video for the track “Mess,” a bunch of joyous gasps and “oh my god”s came from the crowd.
5:30 p.m. After the parking lot jam sesh, they talked with the extras and took group photos in an orderly meet-and-greet fashion. They even enjoyed some vegan cookies from a fan who came all the way from Toronto to be in the video. As if getting to be in the music video wasn’t cool enough, the mini-concert and meet and greet offered a unique and once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for Real Friends fans to get to casually hang out with the band.
6:30 p.m. After mingling with the fans and extras, the band headed back to the residential cul-de-sac, which had been completely transformed while we were gone. The team had decked it out in Halloween-themed decor and a large white orb was hanging overhead. Nope, it wasn’t a prop. The moon-like structure was actually a powerful light that would be used during the nighttime scenes.
7:30 p.m. The production team began to set up in the middle of the cul-de-sac for the “live” scene. The band prepped their instruments as if they were about to play a show.
8 p.m. Fake spiderwebs were draped over the drum kit, gourds were placed by the amps, and fake rats were hung from the mic stands.
8:30 p.m. The band got into their costumes — a skeleton (Dan), a cowboy (Dave), a pirate (Kyle), a vampire (Eric), and a mummy (Brian.)
9 p.m. The extras and fans were brought to the set for the live scene. They all looked amazing and perfectly adhered to the spooky-but-classic Halloween costume dress code.
9:30 p.m. The extras were positioned around the cul-de-sac and given directions on what to do once the cameras started rolling: Be wild trick-or-treaters running chaotically behind and around the band as they played.
9:45 p.m. The band got their makeup touched up and received final cues from the director before the scene.
10 p.m. “Last year I was a train wreck, now I’m just a mess / I’m letting go so I don’t lose myself,” the chorus played repeatedly as extras ran around, hopping on each others’ backs, dancing and throwing toilet paper while the band played* their instruments. (*Yes, there was a back track playing, so it wasn’t really “live” — that’s how music videos typically go.)
11:30 p.m. We had two extras go down during the taping: a twisted ankle and a scraped-up knee. But even so, the energy was high as the band continued to jam out to “Mess.”
12 a.m. The shoot wrapped up around midnight and we were all feeling it. The crew began to break down the equipment and fans got to chat some more with the band.
Who would've thought that a residential cul-de-sac could get so lit and contain mosh-pit level energy? Especially after a super long shoot day that went into night time with pretty frigid temperatures. I only hung out for the first day of shooting — yes, that's me pictured above with the band in cat ears — but the amount of fun I had made me wish I stuck around to watch the rest of it unfold on day two. I had no doubts that everything I had watched this day would translate into a super rad, Halloween-themed video. And it did.