Crazy Music for a Crazy Presidents Day Commercial

Performance Honda - Presidents Day Promotion (by St Gregory Group)

Creative Direction: St. Gregory Group

Design / Animation: Scotty Swemba, St. Gregory Group

Music: David Klingerman, Storyocity

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It’s no secret that we love being creative, and have a lot of creative tools to get the job done. There are tons of video production companies out there, but at Storyocity, we are pretty forward about offering much, much more than video production.

The Perfect Puzzle Piece For Every Project

We have a strong belief in creating custom work for every step of the process. There are a lot of templates and corner cutting tools out there that are great in their own way, but when given the choice, we prefer to build our projects from the ground up. That allows us to focus every asset to be as effective as possible at solving the problem, or creating a connection with the viewer. We like to joke that our projects are “hand-crafted”. Our process and work might be entirely done digitally (and not technically by hand), but we approach it with the respect and diligence of a purist fine-furniture maker.

One of Storyocity’s founding principles is all about being dedicated to the craft of creating, no matter what. We take that dedication very serious, and work daily on improving our craft and our value.

The Perfect Track of Music

Storyocity is a team of creators, makers, movers and shakers. Being able to custom compose music for our projects is very important to us, but we often partner with other great makers to help elevate their projects. Our flexibility and dedication to quality brought St. Gregory Group to our door (or email inbox actually.)

Scotty Swemba is the lead jack-of-all-trades production extraordinaire at St. Gregory Group, and he was working on a unique new commercial spot for Honda Dealers and needed a banging custom track of music.

“We knew we wanted this spot to be a little less “safe”than usual. We needed a rocking Hail to the Chief track that was different than every other one used in every car commercial ever. We found the track from the video game Saints Row and fell in love with it. We couldn’t license that track though so we went to find a custom track in similar style.

This spot has no voiceover, there was no script. No words on screen other than awards and incentives, that was a first for us. Very much not your stereotypical “Sales Event” spot. It shows you can make something cool and catchy without necessarily having to explain it in writing.

Creative Director Greg Phillips drew sunglasses on a dollar bill and it spiraled out of control from there haha. Abraham Lincoln with the sunglasses on in the Pilot came first. Then I just added the other mount Rushmore presidents and animated it driving in.

Making something cool and different in style and tone was the goal from minute one.”

-Scotty Swemba, Editor / Motion Designer @ St. Gregory Group

It’s not everyday that you get asked to make a trap cover for “Hail to The Chief.” - This is how David Klingerman, Co-Founder of Storyocity, approached making the custom track:

“Music is the cornerstone of all that I do. It’s where I got my start and what I originally went to school for… Berklee College of Music. My major was Film Scoring. So composing music is always running through my veins, and when we get the call, it’s gratifying right off the bat. 

But it’s also one of the most challenging asks we get, because there are a lot of ways to screw up a track of music. I was taught to approach it with very careful consideration of tone, style and instrumentation. It’s a design-forward way of thinking. It’s never, “Oh sweet, I’m gonna plug in my guitar and see what I can jam up for this thing.” It’s making smart selections of the broad samples and instrumentation we have and using them to hit the target. It’s immensely satisfying and rewarding when you plan the composition, dig deep and execute the plan.

That said, every project has its challenges. The timeline demanded a quick turnaround. I think we had a week or so from start to finish. Also, the client already had a placeholder track and that comes with some unique challenges in and of itself. What I mean is, when a client sends over a piece of music and says, “Make it like this,” they’re married to that track and you have to meet or beat those expectations. So the bar was set.

This piece was all about energy and hype. St Gregory Group came up with an art direction and great 3D visuals that demanded an equally emotive tone from the audio side. Adding a VO would have absolutely detracted from that energy and killed the vibe, because everything was already doing  the speaking on its own. It can look risky on the front end, but when clients are brave and trust passionate, talented artists/designers… They’re not gonna be let down. I think that piece is aggressive in all the right ways and should help to cut through the noise and get its message across to its intended audience.

The first thing I did was research the genre I was jumping into. It was very similar to trap music… Kind of that southern rap, dirty south kind of thing going on.

So basically the drums and synth needed a lot of attention. I started with creating a big kick drum that basically carries the bass line as well. I knew I need a snare/clap sound that was gonna be fat, but also fast. The transient attack for the snare and hi-hat needed to be fast and sharp. Very short reverb on the snare and none on the hi-hat. The synths needed to be dirty and stab hard with reverb applied to help fill in the gaps in the mid and upper frequencies.

The rest of the elements were just salt and pepper for taste. Samples that held a bit of a bite and finish off the attitude. Ha!

I did play with the harmony and melody a bit, but in this situation, I virtually couldn’t change anything, especially because I was already changing the instrumentation and genre. The point was to play it up as the theme for President’s Day, and any further changes to the composition would have made it unrecognizable.

Overall, I’m pleased with the final product… Wouldn’t have sent it over if I wasn’t, ha! Dialing in that tone and then mixing and mastering all had their own challenges. Implementing design-forward thinking is always a good approach to any project, no matter the medium. Most of the sounds were built from multiple samples. That kick had to be right. I think we were able to deliver a track that met their expectations, again, given that the bar was set pretty high and the turnaround time was tight. That’s where years of experience, education and discipline come in handy. Naturally, I really can’t wait for the next one.”

-David Klingerman, Co-Founder @ Storyocity

We do our best to make every project we touch a fun and rewarding experience for our clients, and for us. For this project, we never even had to try! A very special thank you to the whole team at St. Gregory Group, it was a great project to be a part of, and we are looking forward to the next one!