“It was surreal and it was crazy to see that and witness it.”
Boston punk phenom Carissa Johnson has a lot going on these days. On July 26, her and her backing band The Cure-Alls put out The Good EP via the indie label A Diamond Heart Production. To follow that up, she dropped a music video for a remix of “So Far So Good” on July 10 that packs a remarkable depiction of a desolate Boston during COVID-19.
As with everything that Johnson has released during her career, the EP and the video stand out. Both creative pieces are excellent, showing other sides of her ability and tastes.
I recently spoke with Johnson about the video, which was filmed with a drone, as well as the local drummer handling her remixes, maintaining a band with each member doing their own thing, and plans for the coming months.
The music video for the remix of “So Far So Good” has you skating around a quarantined Boston. Who had the idea for this kind of video and when was it filmed?
The idea was a combination between my brother and I because he has a drone. He actually recently became a certified drone pilot and he does a bunch of filming for fun and also for companies. When I was away, I was out on the west coast and I had toured out there. I intended on touring back home but that tour got cancelled and I ended up having to fly home instead. While I was out there, my brother was filming all of this footage from an empty Boston and I thought it would make for a cool music video for when I came home.
Then, Ryan Manning from The Devil’s Twins had reached out about wanting to remix some songs. I sent him just the vocal track to that song and he did two remixes—one of the verse words, which is in the video, and one of the choruses. The latter is more of a dancey song, but I love the first one so much and it paired so well with the eerie footage of Boston. When I got home, it was mid-April and my brother and I woke up super early around 5am on a Thursday where we got most of the footage. Then we went back another day around the same time and we caught some stuff right when the sun was coming up and I just skateboarded around.
It was surreal and it was crazy to see that and witness it. It was a combination of my brother’s drone technique and me riding a skateboard.
I love the whole video, especially the look of it. I can only imagine how strange it must have felt to be skating around Boston with no one else being outside.
Yeah, especially Boylston.
The skateboard you’re riding in the video has a cool black and white vertigo design on it. Where did you get the skateboard and how long have you had it?
I actually made that skateboard. I was doing a lot of crowdfunding with skateboards, that’s how I funded the Talk Talk Talk album. I had this idea of having five skateboards and a bunch of different grip tape while painting the bottoms of them for an art piece that I could raffle off to have people pay for chances to win. It went so well that I funded most of the record and I was talking to a friend of mine from The Gits, they’re one of my favorite bands ever. I met up with him in San Francisco, he was doing a fundraiser for a book on Mia Zapata and he said that if I wanted to make skateboards for that project to let him know and he would add it to the Kickstarter.
I made five more for him to fund the project and I had three boards left over. I think only one person won one of the skateboards and another one was turned into a t-shirt with Encore Apparel. The skateboard I rode in the music video is one of the boards that were left over, the bottom is the lyrics to The Gits’ song “Second Skin” and it has their logo on it. Then I made it into a cruiser board and I tried transforming the other ones into something. I donated one to Girls Rock Campaign Boston for their summer camp and I raffled off the other one.
It was cool to just make them. I’ve been making a bunch of custom skateboards and I had one lying around so I figured it would be cool in the video to use one with the black and white swirl on it. That’s just the grip tape, but I assembled the whole thing myself. Thanks for noticing.
I wasn’t expecting that answer, I expected that you got it from a shop or something. Going back to the remix used for the video, there’s more of a pop vibe than in the original track. How involved were you in the vision behind the remix and how was the experience like when it came to working with Ryan on it?
That was all him. I didn’t have any input, I basically sent him the track and he just did his thing. I didn’t even expect him to send back two remixes and he sent them so quickly. I’ve been listening to a ton of synthpop and a lot of stuff that I’ve been listening to has been in that vein of keyboard, synth, and bass with kind of dreamy tones. That’s kind of been inspiring me lately and it’s really cool that this popped up out of nowhere where he was like “Hey, I wanna do a remix.” I was super excited and he totally outdid himself.
I love it, I love the whole vibe and working with him was super easy. Ryan is such a good guy and he loves collaborating, he’s worked with so many local bands and I was honored that he asked me.
Both remixes are great, I think it puts a different spin on your songwriting with how it shows your own versatility and the different ways you can go forward with your music. … I never would have pictured it. It opens some different doors that maybe beforehand you didn’t realize were possible, which I think is pretty cool. The Good EP includes the original version of “So Far So Good,” both remixes of the song, an acoustic version of “You Lost You,” and two new tracks with “The Upside” and “Something Good.” The whole thing runs the full gamut when it comes to different recordings, so did you have that in mind while making it or did it just come together that way?
It came together in a different way than I originally had in mind because I didn’t foresee the remixes and I didn’t foresee doing an acoustic version of “You Lost You.” What happened was last year when The Cure-Alls and I got together for a show, because we were doing fewer shows but we were getting really cool opportunities and all of us were flying in from wherever we were to do a show and then we would go back to where we were living. I was on tour, our drummer Nick Hall moved out west and our guitarist Steph Curran was working a lot so we were kind of everywhere. Then we were all home for a weekend so we did some recording, we did a photo shoot and then we played a show. After that, we didn’t see each other for three to four months but I figured that if we could get together three or four times to record some singles then we could have an EP out the following year.
The original plan was to do that, which “Something Good,” “So Far So Good,” and “The Upside” resulted from. I then wanted to round it out with some other stuff, but I didn’t really know how to do that. Then it made so much sense when I got the remixes and I wanted to get “You Lost You” out there again in a new way, kind of like with the remixes where it’s a new take on an old song. That one gets a lot [more] attention when I play it acoustic than with the full band and I wanted to push it more towards radio too. It didn’t get out there as much as I still wanted it to get out there so I thought that if I put it out in a new way and I’ve been doing so many acoustic shows that I could showcase it in the way that I’ve been playing it mostly. It felt good to put it on the EP and it’s kind of a hidden gem on there.
You have a lot of different things going on that make for an interesting listening experience. Can we expect another music video from you in the future off of the EP or do you plan on working on new projects?
That’s a good question. I’m thinking that I might do one more, but it’s not for certain just yet. I put out a lyric video for “The Upside” and I put out a music video for “So Far So Good” last year. There hasn’t been one for “Something Good” yet so maybe that could be a possibility, but there are two singles coming out in August that Steph and I will be releasing together. They’re two covers that we did, we’re super excited about them and there will be videos for both of those.
I’ve been working on a lot of music but I’ll probably just keep focusing on the new stuff while recording, writing, and figuring out a plan for when things reopen.
This article was produced in collaboration with the Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism as part of its Pandemic Democracy Project.
Rob Duguay is an arts & entertainment journalist based in Providence, RI who is originally from Shelton, CT. Outside of DigBoston, he also writes for The Providence Journal, The Connecticut Examiner, The Newport Daily News, Worcester Magazine, New Noise Magazine, Northern Transmissions and numerous other publications. While covering mostly music, he has also written about film, TV, comedy, theatre, visual art, food, drink, sports and cannabis.