Director Matt Hinton on ‘Parallel Love’ and the fascinating story of Luxury
Director Matt Hinton’s documentary, Parallel Love: The Story of a Band Called Luxury, has a couple of very interesting wrinkles. Not only is the Georgia post-punk band an act you’ve likely not heard of, the reunited act now features three members who are Eastern Orthodox priests, and director Hinton is part of the band, as well. That’s before you get into the fact that Luxury is an often-forgotten part of the early history of Christian label Tooth & Nail Records, or the terrible accident which almost ended the lives of the band members.
It’s a fascinating story, filled with music you’re sure to wish you’d heard when you were in your teens, as it’s so richly-layered and evocative, so it was with some excitement that I hopped on Zoom with director Hinton (who now also plays guitar for Luxury) to talk about all of this and more.
The Pitch: How difficult is it to make a documentary when you are part of the story itself?
Matt Hinton: How difficult is it? It’s difficult to make a documentary, period. I was definitely conscious of the fact that it’s lame to make a movie about a band that you’re in. That’s just a dumb thing to do but when I saw what was going on around me, in terms of making the new record, and three of these dudes are priests now, I feel like it’s interesting. I had made a film before–another feature documentary–so I kind of knew how to make a movie and I decided that I should do it.
Once I got into it, I had somebody else interview me–somebody who kind of knew enough, but more particularly was a guy that I know that I feel like gets the best out of me, but he didn’t know everything. He was able to genuinely ask questions and press into it a bit.
Most people, when we’ve had screenings when I stand up for a Q&A, they’re like, “Oh, you’re that one guy,” so I don’t think it’s generally obvious when you watch it that I’m the filmmaker, that, that dude that’s me as the filmmaker. Does that make sense?
Oh yeah. I mean, I knew, but even your appearance in the film isn’t, “Hey look, it’s the guy who’s also behind the camera for the other 98% of this.”
No, no, I wouldn’t have liked that very much, mainly because of my discomfort with that whole thing. But from an editing point of view, I do feel like I just treated my interview footage as just another asset that was just trying to tell the story that I was trying to tell. I was able to be fairly dispassionate about that piece of it, other than if one person said the same thing that I did, I would generally let them say it.
Sorta. I would say that that was the occasion. That’s “present” time. That’s the present for the film. It begins with that, and then the entire film is sort of a flashback that gets us back up to present day. I knew that it was going to be more than just the making of a new record, because I don’t assume that most people in the world knows the band to begin with. So, it took some work to get us to that point.
As I was making it, I’m like, “Part of this story is ‘if most people don’t know this band, then why do most people not know this?’” That got us down a different path in the story that I had no intention of telling to begin with, which was the association with a Christian rock label from the beginning, which wound up sort of coloring and giving the band that kind of reputation and maybe limiting the scope of the work that the band could do.
Several times, the myriad people who you speak with over the course of Parallel Love mention that Luxury was just a little too soon. It’s funny, because even though they were on Tooth & Nail, so was MxPx, and that didn’t end up being a problem a couple of years later. I’ve listened to those early Luxury recordings and I’m like, “Oh man, Radiohead fans would’ve eaten this up.”
A touch point for us at the time, I think was Suede, as well. There was a particular–usually on the first couple of records–there was a brashness and swagger about it, similar in my estimation to that first Suede record. There are a few things like that but certainly Radiohead and you’re not the first person to have brought that up. I know that Tom Yorke–not from a performance point of view, but just musically–he was so influenced by the Smiths, so I wonder if that’s part of it. It’s just drawing from the same well. Lee [Bozeman, vocals] was sort of arriving at some of these things in the same way that they were.
It seems as though the live performances were really where Luxury shined. Where does all of this footage come from? It seems like you really benefited from the band existing during this time where home VHS camcorders were portable and affordable.
At that point it was 8mm, if we’re being particular about the media medium, but a lot of it was stuff that I shot before I was in the band. My band was friendly with them and we would see them or we would play together or whatever and I’d bring a camera along to shoot it or I borrowed it from other people who were out there.
The rule in film and documentary filmmaking is you want to show and not tell, as much as possible, and I don’t know that I always abide by that rule, but in general, it’s a good one, and almost in every case, I had something to show. In every phase of the band’s career, I had some kind of footage or some sort of photograph. I had a wealth of footage available to me, either because I shot it myself or because other people that I had access to had.
The idea of a band pigeonholed by its existence on a Christian label has a certain ironic counterpoint in three members becoming priests and then making music. Is that a difficult tightrope to walk, where you’re wanting to make this a movie about the band and not strictly about the band and their faith, both pre and post?
It’s a strange thing because it is a cliché that Christian bands always say, “We’re not a Christian band, but we’re Christians in a band,” and they all say, “Everybody says that, but for us, it’s true.” And what I want to say is: it’s the same thing for us, but it’s true. Particularly on the first couple of records, you’d have a hard time finding anything that you could characterize as having any sort of Christian content at all. There were other bands who were sort of similar to that, but there would always be a thanks to God or whatever in the liner notes or something like that.
I don’t think anyone could pick up, for example, the first Luxury record and ever imagine that there was any connection to the Christian world at all because that wasn’t what Lee was interested in writing about lyrically. The first song on that record was about a transgender kid, which in 1995, nobody was really talking about.
Maybe there are other bands that it’s true of, but I don’t really know that world all that well. I’m just not that familiar with tons of like Christian rock bands. So maybe there are others like that. In the case of Tooth & Nail, the basic situation was, Luxury was one of the first bands that got signed to that label, and the angle for Tooth & Nail at the time was, “Look, we’re not trying to be a Christian label at all. We just realize that there are bands in this sort of milieu that are that are still interesting and doing interesting things that happened to have Christians who are in these bands.”
They had some cool bands. Danielson Family is a great example of a really super interesting band and they escaped that world, and I’m not certain why, because they were explicitly Christian in a lot of ways. They were signing some cool bands like them and Starflyer 59 and a few other things that were interesting to us in Luxury.
And again, I wasn’t in the band yet, but I knew what was on their mind and, and the angle was like, “We’re just trying to be a regular label,” so it seemed to Luxury like Tooth & Nail was the label version of Luxury. They just wanted to do good music and they named all the right things in terms of, “We’re trying to get into AP” or whatever things that were big at the time–the media outlets that you would want to get to as a regular band.
What happened with Tooth & Nail, I think they were being completely earnest. I don’t think that there was anything about it that was dishonest or whatever, but I think that the reality was that because the guys that ran it had a background with a Christian label, where some of his connections were, he wasn’t going to say no to a distribution path and so it was complicated for bands that were distributed in those kinds of ways. And it made it more difficult to be seen as a legitimate band because–everybody knows the thing from South Park: “You’re not making Christianity better. You’re making rock and roll worse.”
That reputation doesn’t do anybody any favors so, from the point of view of making this film, originally I wasn’t going to mention anything about the Christian market because that was something that we were trying to avoid from the beginning anyway. I just wasn’t going to say anything about it, but then it was hard to explain certain things without talking about that, so I wound up talking about, and I do think that people who are not from that world actually have found it more interesting than people who did have experience in that world.
I’m peripherally informed on it, but hearing that story in detail was like, “Oh, that’s a whole other world.”
I think my perspective on it has changed a little bit on account of making it because the parents of every generation have something to be afraid of. There’s some boogeyman that people are scared of. I mean, right now, obviously, it’s COVID, but whatever it is–when you have anti-vaxxers or something like that–it’s not coming out of a place of just sheer insanity. It’s coming out of a place of wanting to protect your kids. As soon as you put that question mark in people’s minds, it’s like, “Well, we’ve got to protect our kids.”
I think a lot of people, even if they weren’t indoctrinated Christians, would say, “We just want our kids to be safe, and here’s a Christian bookstore, and they’re selling a safer version of rock and roll, and that’s how we’re going to keep our kids safe.”
I understand that impulse. It’s not how I’m raising my kids, but I understand the impulse. I used to begrudge that industry more, but now I’m sort of at a point where I understand why it existed. A lot of people came out of that world, people that we know who are really good, respected musicians, but have moved on to other kinds of things.
It seems that you got a lot of people who were part of the Luxury story from the beginning to speak on the record. Were there any folks who weren’t interested?
I mean, there were a couple of people that would have been nice to have talked to who we couldn’t make it work, for timing reasons or something like that, but other than people I just couldn’t reach or that we couldn’t make it work logistically, there wasn’t anybody that didn’t want to talk about the band. If you knew the band, if you were the kind of person who would be into that kind of thing, and you knew the band, then you loved that band. And that was what I was. That’s what I experienced when I reached out to these people.
Parallel Love: The Story of a Band Called Luxury will be available on digital platforms for rent or purchase, as well as DVD, starting May 18. More details here.