For a band that espouses the values of transparency and multi-platform creativity, it makes sense that Brockhampton would eventually release something like The Longest Summer Ever — an hour-long, black-and-white documentary, directed by frontman Kevin Abstract, that looks into the group’s turbulent last year.
And 2018 was definitely a weird year for Brockhampton. Last June, the boyband collective released their debut album, Saturation, and quickly established themselves as one of the most exciting new forces in hip-hop. But this past May, one of the group’s co-founders, Ameer Vann was accused of sexual misconduct (he denied the allegations), and his eventual ousting cast a shadow on the future band, whose new album Iridescence arrived today (Sept. 21).
The film is a sweet, homemade look at everything that’s happened to the group these past few months, and, perhaps surprisingly, it’s not all intense conversations about the band’s time in the headlines — though there’s definitely a lot of that, too. Here’s what we learned:
Their RCA deal didn’t change their vision
When Brockhampton signed a staggering $15 million record deal with RCA, there was of course outcry from some fans who didn’t understand why the group would, in their eyes, sacrifice their creative freedom for money (and label input). But as Kevin Abstract explains in the film, the deal actually lead to more creative freedom, not less. In a persuasive monologue, he talks about how he can make exactly what he hears and sees in his head because he now has the resources to do so. It was also a confidence boost: Romil Hemnani says the deal proved that “someone else believed in [them].”
Their Coachella performance was “a dream and a nightmare”
Booking a festival gig as huge as Coachella can be a major stepping stone for a burgeoning group. And with Brockhampton, the timing seemed perfect. The film shows endearing clips of the boys working with a professional choreographer before the performance as well as footage of Kevin Abstract gushing about watching Coachella live-streams as a teenager and promising to prepare for the set with the same intensity he would apply toward a headlining the show. But he eventually changes his tone as he laments about what actually happened during their performance: “Just so many things went wrong,” he says, referring to sound and technical problems that included mic and guitar cut-outs.
The group found out about the allegations against Vann at the same time their fans did
The first half of the documentary mostly consists of clips of Brockhampton enjoying what looks like the initial crest of their career: hanging out with Jaden Smith and Jamie Foxx, swimming in hillside pools, recording music in crisp California mansions. The mood didn’t last, however, and in the film, members of the band open up about the departure of Ameer Vann following accusations of sexual misconduct against him. Each member tells the story slightly differently, but they all describe — sometimes in tears — what it was like watching the story unfold on Twitter, taking to the band’s group chat to try to grasp what was going on and wondering whether it would all be, as one member put it, “the end of everything [they] had worked so hard for.”
Ansel Elgort played a major role in the band’s regrouping
Actor/sometimes DJ Ansel Egort is close with the band — like, very close. The documentary depicts the group, following Vann’s ousting, coming home from tour and feeling unsure of what to do next. That’s when Egort invited Kevin Abstract to Hawaii with him to hang out. And that hangout ended up being a rejuvenating experience for Abstract, who promptly invited everyone else in the band to join him for a much-needed regroup. The vacation ended in a series of studio sessions that resulted in “Tonya,” an honest and emotional track on their just-released Iridesence album.
Making iridescence was the first time in a long time that they were “100 percent having fun again”
At the end of this summer, the group arrived in London, which provided a cathartic reset after a difficult few months. The documentary shows clips of the band members geeking out at Abbey Road Studios, talking about the artists who’ve recorded there before them (“Frank Ocean made Blonde here” exclaims one member) and dancing around as they put together what would become Iridescence. It’s not until these last fifteen or so minutes of the documentary that it’s made clear that Hemnani has been doing all of his confessionals and commentary from a studio in London. It’s there that he says he’s finally returned to the carefree, creative energy he felt when they made Saturation.