Filmage: The Story of Descendents/ALL creates a full-scale portrait of the band that never stopped going for greatness at any cost, and in the process, essentially created the pop-punk genre.
“I like to think you could just turn it on, and while you miss some of the references here and there, you get the sense of this band that made something out of nothing,” said director, producer and writer Matt Riggle over the phone.
“[You] might realize [you’ve] never heard of this band perhaps, but [you’ll] recognize a lot of the bands being interviewed and they’ll see the far-reaching influence the Descendents have.”
Filmmakers Matt Riggle (director, producer, and writer), Deedle LaCour (director, producer, and editor), Justin Wilson (director of photography, editor, and co-producer) and James Rayburn (editor and co-producer) are die-hard fans of the band, and their dedication to the subject shines through in the amount of information conveyed.
“There’s no cohesive narrative of what this band has done over the past 30 years … it’s the story of a very influential band that has never really been told,” said Riggle. “I always really connected with their lyrics and the fact that all of the people write the songs … it’s not just one guy, everyone in the band writes music and lyrics, and they’re webbed together by their drummer Bill Stevenson because he’s kind of the leader of the band,” said Riggle.
Through the framework of a linear history, the film (see trailer below) provides extensive insight into the history of the Descendents, and the band/concept which spawned from it, ALL. Riggle said that the idea for a documentary first floated around in 2004, when himself and Deedle LaCour (who play in a band together) were recording in former Descendents guitarist Stephen Egerton’s studio.
The lineup of the band is a constant revolving door throughout their career, with the only constant member being drummer Bill Stevenson.
“They’re such a unique sounding band, and a lot of it has to do with the fact they’re all songwriters,” said Riggle. “Bill’s drum parts are entities of themselves, you can tell he’s a songwriter by the way he plays drums.”
The film is able to show what an anomaly the Descendents were, how they were ahead of their time, and how they’ve managed to still never reach as high a level of recognition as those who found inspiration in them.
“They haven’t swayed much from their sound all this time. They never had that one keyboard album or anything; they’ve always had their thing. I also like that they’re very self-reliant, producing their own records, and they lived in their practice space for years,” said Riggle.
Past and present band members were interviewed, as well as a few notable fans, such as Dave Grohl and Mark Hoppus.
“Stephen got us access to the band and a lot of the people, really. Every interview we did led to another one,” said Riggle. Co-director Lacour did most of the groundwork in coordinating interviews, said Riggle.
Another fantastic thing about the documentary is how well each band member’s personality comes across. Enough time is spent interviewing people so that you feel you’ve just sat in the same room with them, shooting the shit.
“Everyone who’s been touched by this band, they’re all very quirky individuals … They’re all very articulate – that’s very unique for a lot of musicians, I think,” said Riggle.
“That’s actually a comment my dad made after he watched it: ‘they’re not just drugged up musicians, they can tell a story.’”
Although the idea was already brewing in ’04, it wasn’t until 2009 that they went ahead with it. Riggle said that, as this was his first feature-length film, he learned a lot about the process.
“Staying motivated and getting the project done was difficult.”
The film took roughly a year to shoot and a year to edit, so it was an arduous process. One of the hardest parts, Riggle said, was “learning to make those decisions, to realize you can’t cover everything, you can’t make everyone happy, you can’t even make yourself totally happy, but to let the story take you there.”
Now, in lieu of a regular movie release date, Filmage will screen in multiple cities across the USA and Canada.
“We all had our own roles, but we more many hats during production, and it kind of felt like a band – now it’s like we’re taking the movie on tour,” said Riggle.
Filmage: The Story of Descendents/ALL will be showing in Vancouver at The Biltmore Cabaret on January 15. There will be a screening of the documentary, followed by live bands TBA as of press time.
By Carly Smith
Photos: Atiba Jefferson