Ted Leo and the Pharmacists' music video for "Bottled in Cork" chronicles the band's hilarious quest to launch an "American Idiot"-esque stage production based on its indie-leaning guitar rock. The band engages in ridiculous dance moves and sports outlandish costumes while Leo undergoes a melodramatic stage death -- only to earn "Pharmacists' Phlop!" headlines the next day.
The video is a smart satire on artists repurposing their work for over-the-top stage shows. However, the true genius of the clip may be the way the band decided to present it to the public. "Bottled in Cork" premiered Aug. 23 on popular comedy video website Funny or Die and has since been featured on its home page while being picked up by most music sites. While "The Brutalist Bricks," the group's fifth album featuring "Cork," has moved only16,000 copies since its March release, according to Nielsen SoundScan, the clip already has more than 73,000 views.
"We put it in a totally different context," says Leo, "It's a cool experiment to jump that boundary."
The singer and director Tom Sharpling were kicking around music video ideas when they began crafting a lampoon of modern musicians presenting their work on the theatrical stage. "The more we talked about it, the more we were cracking up," says Leo.
The band recruited comedian Paul F. Tompkins to play an off-kilter promoter who equates a Broadway show with being "immortal," while "The Daily Show"'s John Hodgman and comedy writer Julie Klausman pop up in cameos. Sharpling shot "Cork" in Brooklyn last June, with scenes from the "musical" taking place at The Bell House theater.
In deciding the best way to launch the video, Sharpling says the band realized it could attract a larger audience by reaching beyond music sites. "Pitchfork, Stereogum ... they're all great sites," says Sharpling. "But [the video] is going up in front of people who already know who Ted is."
Instead, the director contacted Adam McKay, who has helmed features like "Step Brothers" and "The Other Guys" and founded Funny or Die with actor Will Ferrell. While the site normally doesn't run music videos, Sharpling says McKay thought "Cork" was "funny and … had some familiar faces" that would appeal to the site's fans.
"Cork" clearly riffs on the current Broadway production of Green Day's "American Idiot." Although Leo hasn't seen the musical, he says he wanted to "take a swipe" at how that type of show forces a narrative into an artist's music. "Of course," he adds, "everything this is lampooning is meant to be taken with good humor."