Wes Alums Concoct Music Video Extravaganza: “Peonies” by Sarah Dooley

Full of pop culture references, science experiments, and an upbeat indie-pop sound, the music video for Sarah Dooley’s first single, “Peonies,” definitely has Wesleyan written all over it.

Wes alums Conor Byrne ’11, Tyler Byrne ’09, and Robert Alvarez ’11 joined forces with the New York-based singer-songstress to create a “musical short film” that would both encompass the energy of Dooley’s music and tell a musical story. To accrue the funds for the project, the group started a kickstarter campaign, which met and exceeded their $5,000 goal—undoubtedly due to Sarah’s palpable charisma and sense of humor, as seen in the video she posted on the fundraising site.

After weeks of fleshing out the details, filming took place in the summer of 2012 in New York City with the help of even more Wesleyan alumni, including Aude Cuenod ’09, Andrew Gladstone ’11, Mat Larkin ’11, and senior Augustin Vita ’13. The video was inspired by a combination of studio-era Hollywood musicals, “weird science,” and the elusive concept of true love, culminating in a visually appealing and compelling end result, which was posted on Vimeo approximately a week ago.

For more about the video, Sarah Dooley, and the Byrne Brothers, read after the jump.

The scene opens on Dooley playing a keyboard in a cluttered room, surrounded by old-fashioned machines, anatomical models, and molecular drawings, which are revealed more directly through artsy close ups. An EKG quickly flat lines as the song begins at a slow, mellow tempo. Sarah then gets up to add a photo to her wall of classic romances, featuring pictures of Snow White and Price Charming, Zeffirelli’s Romeo and Juliet, and the iconic “Kissing Sailor” connected by pushpins and string. Inspired by the photographs, Dooley decides to attempt to transform a skeleton into the love of her life. The song picks up pace and now Sarah is in a laboratory, where she experiments with colorful chemicals, smoking beakers, and even some lab mice. Suddenly, the film becomes a Mary Shelly tribute as Dr. Dooley attempts to bring her creation to life, only to create a molten, gooey figure of a man. After some reevaluations, such as dressing up the creature as Danny Zuko and analyzing Pepe Le Pew through a microscope, she tries again. This time, the machine explodes, resulting in a quick dream sequences resembling Busby Berkley’s The Gang’s All Here—floating heads and all. She awakes to find that her efforts succeeded; she’s created a gorgeous man with a six-pack! Alas, only a moment later, the lights go out and when they return, Dooley’s hunky monster has reverted to its original skeletal form.

An amalgamation of literary antics, obscure references, and an excellent track, this musical short film is beautifully orchestrated on all fronts, appealing not only to the alumni’s loyal Wesleyan fan base, but also to the music community at large.

Sarah’s soon-to-debut album is titled Stupid Things ,and it will cover an imaginative, wide range of topics including “that tattoo of your first wife,” “the tooth fairy,” and “the goonies.” Visit her website here.

Also, check out Tyler and Conor’s Brudder Film Productions. If you’re as taken with Sarah as I am, she appeared in their short film, First Mate, which was featured in THE REEL and in several film festivals. Go Wes!

Pictured: Sarah Dooley. Not pictured: Wesleyan, Wesleyan alums.

Pictured: Sarah Dooley. Not pictured: Wesleyan, Wesleyan alums.

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