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Interview: Matt Hinton (Director, Parallel Love: The Story of a Band Called Luxury)

Matt Hinton, Director
14 July 2021

Photo by Jared Swafford

It doesn’t hurt if you own all of Luxury’s albums and have been following the band since their formation at a small Christian college in Georgia in the early ’90s, but you don’t have to be familiar with the band or their music to get something out of Parallel Love: The Story of a Band Called Luxury, currently available to rent through most streaming video services.

Known first and foremost for their dynamic live performances, as the preview shows, Luxury was involved in a horrific auto accident in ’95 that would have ended most bands. The band persevered for a few years after, broke up, got back together, broke up again, got back together again, all while three of the members – Lee Bozeman (vocals/guitar), Jamey Bozemen (guitar), and Chris Foley (bass) – became Eastern Orthodox priests. If that doesn’t make for a compelling documentary, I don’t know what does. Director Matt Hinton was a fan – and friend – of the band dating back to their early days and had a camcorder which he used to film live performances as well as studio sessions and behind-the-scenes footage. In 1999, he joined Luxury as a guitarist and continued filming, documenting the recording of 2019’s Trophies which many consider to be the crown jewel of Luxury’s catalog.

With all this footage stored away in boxes, Hinton knew he had a story to tell and, for an independent filmmaker, this was a tedious project and took years to develop but the payoff is one that is enjoyable for both music and movie fans alike. Hinton knew that making a film about his own band may be considered lame, but he left very few stones unturned and presents not only the story of the band, but, through interviews with the Bozeman brothers, Foley and drummer Glenn Black, provides insight into how personal experiences helped shape the band’s sound. There are moments when the documentary gets very dark, particularly in interviews with Black but Hinton felt those stories were important to tell.

Hinton and I spent over an hour-and-a-half on a Zoom call recently. Here’s a portion of that conversation.

As a musician, you’ve made records. And now you’ve made a film. Getting it into theaters is probably not as simple as getting your record into a store, but getting it streaming, there’s a ton of options.

MATT: A lot of distributors are very gun shy. Our previous distributor was like, “I’m completely in love with it but I’m flummoxed by it.” He’s done a lot of music documentaries – they were the ones that distributed the live Beatles thing that Ron Howard did – and he said, “With those, I know who my audience is. I don’t know how big Luxury’s audience is.” My response was, “Neither do we, because a lot of the growth of it occurred before the internet was really a thing and it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter who Luxury’s audience is because I didn’t make it for Luxury fans.” Honestly, I made it for people who don’t know who Luxury is.

Whether Luxury has 2 fans or 2 million fans, they’re going to watch it anyway, you don’t need to marketing to them. So, marketing it to movie fans rather than music fans makes sense – it’s a really good and compelling story.

MATT: Thanks. The story happened to have been true, I thankfully didn’t have to make anything up. I had to choose where certain things were going and leaving some stuff out. There was some stuff I really didn’t want to leave out but there was some stuff that didn’t fit. There was only one time when somebody in the band asked me not to include a thing, namely because he is a priest and that would make his job more difficult. But there was hardly any of that. But, yes, I agree. That’s been something that has been difficult to get distributors on the right scent which is, this is a story that anybody should be interested in.

And, by the way, most bands would kill to have a story half as compelling as Luxury’s. The trouble has been that because of the Christian associations with the record label Tooth & Nail and that kind of thing, people wrote it off as something they wouldn’t be interested in. I’m aware of, and semi-familiar with the Christian music world, but not much more than a lot of people. I certainly have had no contact with that world since ’97 or so. Originally, I didn’t feel like that was part of the story, like the idea of Christian rock as a thing was not going to enter the film at all because I didn’t feel like that was an important part of the film because it was never an important part about the band. That was not part of the band’s self identification. If it’s a Christian band, you’ll know they are a Christian band when they say, “Well, we’re not a Christian band, we just happen to be some Christians in a band.” In this case, it’s true.

I think that some people have watched the film and thought that Tooth & Nail was painted in a negative light or something like that. I don’t feel that way at all. There’s a sense in which that industry is the boogeyman a little bit, but I understand why that industry exists. When I was thinking of not including that stuff at all, the specter of writers saying, “Well, let me look into this band. Wait a second, they were on this label. What are they trying to hide?” I didn’t want to deal with that and, also, it’s useful from a thematic point of view, it’s one of the obstacles that the band had to deal with. I’d say that was the first obstacle – this is a band that doesn’t fit into that world but, yet, is in that world, deliberately or not. How can that band possibly succeed in that world? The answer is, it can’t. What we discovered is the band has just as much of a problem, if not more so, in this general market because of the stink of that association with that stuff.

I did a film festival and there was a women there, it was not in Atlanta, but there was a women who, during the Q&A afterwards, said, “I have more of a statement than a question. I just want to point out that that stuff about Christian bands, that was real. I was the booking agent of a prominent venue in Atlanta in those days and Luxury was a band that came up as a band that would make good sense to be on several bills.” She named two of them in particular that Luxury was in contention to be on, one of which was Sunny Day Real Estate, and the other was opening for Fugazi, either of which would have been brilliant and there would have been big crowds. She said, “We specifically did not book them because we heard they were a Christian band.” That was the beginning and end of it. She said that if she had seen the film before, then it wouldn’t have been a problem at all. But, just because of the hint of that, that was enough. I was like, “Where were you when I was interviewing people for the film?” It was helpful to have that verification for what I suspected was the case.

Though Tooth & Nail mailed me CDs to review for my blog in the ’90s, I didn’t really know much about the Christian music scene and while I had heard of the Cornerstone Festival, I envisioned it as just a tent in some field where maybe 100 people would show up to listen to bands. In the film, you show Luxury at the Cornerstone Festival and it looked like a Lollapalooza-type environment.

MATT: It was bigger than Lollapalooza. It was huge. They probably had 5 tents going on all the time with huge crowds in each one. It was everybody from Starflyer 59 to Pedro the Lion to Sufjan Stevens and Danielson Famile and these sort of people who are Christian-adjacent. Not that they’re not actually Christians but they never really courted that industry in the same way as many other bands did. But, it was the one place those artists would play as well. I’m sure there was some schlock there but, I think I said in the film, it was as cool as that kind of thing could ever be. It really was something else. I discovered bands there that, to this day, I can’t believe how good a band like Half-Handed Cloud is. Their first record was a dual release by Asthmatic Kitty, which is Sufjan Stevens’ label, and Sounds Familiar, which is Daniel Smith from the Danielson Famile’s label.

Was the feeling that Luxury, because they were on a Christian label, felt like there was a built-in audience and they’d play at youth centers and things like that or did they play at these types of venues because they couldn’t break into the regular rock clubs?

MATT: That’s really interesting. At the time, particularly in Atlanta, I don’t think anybody thought of Luxury as a Christian band other than the lady that we were talking about, a few years later once Tooth & Nail happened. But, in the first place, Luxury was just playing bars and stuff. But, as we indicate in the film, Luxury would play anywhere that somebody asks. “Okay, we’ll play the skate park.” Did you like that scene, by the way?

Oh yeah. It was funny.

MATT: In the skate park scene, there was just one guy going, “Woooo!” And then there was the big dude who just sort of walks past the camera. That scene makes me laugh. But, the perception of the band was very different in Atlanta than anywhere else. In Atlanta, and from South Carolina to Alabama, there was the capacity to see the band in a normal club and you’d never in a million years guess anything. That’s where a lot of people saw Luxury, in that context, and they had no clue there was any sort of Christian association at all. But, if you heard about Luxury and you were not from Atlanta and what have you, the only way you were going to hear about the band was because you went to a Christian book store because your parents told you you were going to go to a Christian book store. It’s this very narrowly constrained thing and if you’re one of those kids, you go into a Christian book store and you go, “I don’t know, that has a cool album cover. I’ll try that.” That’s what was going on.

There’s a guy named Mark Solomon in the film, he’s the guy with the bald head and mustache. I was going to interview Aaron Marsh who is in Copeland, who are very influenced by Luxury, and he said, “Mark Solomon lives up the street, you should interview him too.” I didn’t even know who that was. Aaron was like, “He’s in Stavesacre, who are a Tooth & Nail band, and Crucified, who are a hardcore band.” I asked, “Does he even know about Luxury?” We sit down and the first thing Mark said was, “I didn’t know anything about Luxury.” I’m like, “What am I doing here? What is happening? How am I going to get out of this?” But then pretty quickly it became clear that he knew Luxury by their reputation. The fact that Luxury had any reputation at all on the West Coast, which is where he was from, was staggering to me. It was interesting to hear it from that perspective.

Was it extreme luck, and was it the reason that the film got made, that you had all this stuff you recorded back in the day or could you have told the story without all the footage that you had?

MATT: There’s a lot of footage, right? A lot of it existed because I shot it, which was weird because I was not the guy – it seems like every friend group has that one guy who is always taking pictures. Part of it is my dad had a camcorder and the band that I was in, every so often I would ask somebody, “Hey, would you mind setting this on a tripod just so we have some footage?” I don’t know why that seemed like a priority to me for me to make recordings of my previous band. I think part of it is that I’m primarily a fan of music and a fan of bands and I was so influenced by seeing The Complete Beatles documentary. I would go to record shows in Atlanta and I would buy records but there were also a couple of different guys that had bootleg videos. I’ve got tons of them, I still have them even though that stuff is now on YouTube.

When I started seeing Luxury, before I was in the band, they were called The Shroud at the time, we would be playing with them and I’d have the camera and I’d be like, “Yeah, I’ll shoot them.” And then eventually it was like, “These guys are so interesting, I want this footage, I want to be able to watch it.”

When the wreck happened, one of the things that survived the wreck is the camcorder. I picked that up, I guess I wanted something to do with my hands and to the chagrin of various wives of bandmates, there I was shooting them. But, never in a million years was I thinking anything would come of it in terms of a film.

If I didn’t have all that footage, would I have thought of making the film? I doubt it very much. When it dawned on me that it would make an interesting movie, it was predicated on the idea that, after all, I remember I shot some stuff at the hospital and I probably can dig that up. When we had made certain records, I always made a point of getting some footage in the studio. It was when we were about to start recording Trophies, and it was the first time there were priests in the band, I’m like, “This just all seems way too interesting to not make a movie.” I had already made another movie so I kind of knew how to do it.

Did you film stuff and put it in a box or did you, every couple of years, go through stuff and think, “I wonder what’s on this tape?”

MATT: Some of them were things I watched every so often or I would figure out what they were for the first 5 years that I had them. But I don’t have a VHS deck sitting around or certainly not an 8mm deck. It would be a bit of an ordeal to even look at them. It was footage that I had not seen in 10 or 15 years, some of it.


(Chris Foley, Matt Hinton, Lee Bozeman, Jamey Bozeman, Glenn Black)

Did you sit down with the rest of the band members and tell them the story you wanted to tell? Or, was it your story and you said, “Here’s what I’m doing, I hope you buy into it”?

MATT: I said, “Here’s what I want to do, would you all be willing for me to do this and would you be willing for me to interview you for it?” They said “Yes” thinking that I was kidding or thinking that it wasn’t really going to happen, not realizing the degree to which I’m a stubborn person and when I start a thing, I generally finish it. It took longer to finish. I remember when I was in the middle of editing – that’s where the film is made, in the edit suite – I was talking to a guy who had been a film editor for 30 years and he said, “You do know the hardest thing you can do is make a documentary by yourself, right?” But, the answer was no, I didn’t know that. It’s very hard to make these things.

With a regular film, you line up the shots and know what you need for a scene in order to tell your story. But, you’re digging through boxes trying to remember what you had filmed 15 years ago and then trying to find it.

MATT: You know how they say with painting, it’s like 99% prep work and if you do that properly, the rest of it – the actual painting – is a piece of cake? I understand that cognitively but that’s not my nature. I made a point of becoming extremely surgical in terms of the way that I ingested the material and organized it and labeled it so that I could find it and make it a searchable database. That was the first months and months and months of the project.

I’ve got two 3-ring binders of printed-out transcripts of interviews. Some of the interviews were 5 to 8 hours long and narrowing all of that down to the specific story that I feel is the most interesting one, finding that narrative thread is the trick of it. You have a story you want to tell and the people that you’ve interviewed are your puppets at a certain point. I’m like, “I need to find the person to make the point that I’m trying to make right now.”

I often say that making a documentary that has a clear narrative thrust is kind of like writing an essay but you’re not allowed to use your own words at all but it’s simply by cutting up somebody else’s words who are speaking tangentially about the same general idea and editing them so that it forms something that you intend to say and that’s to say nothing of the visual aspect of it and the musical aspect which is a whole other thing.

With all the footage you started with, do you have a 6-hour cut of the movie?

MATT: I have a 12-hour cut! I basically arranged the material in terms of themes so there’s certain things I knew I wanted to talk about. Here’s a broad theme of the wreck. And here’s the lead up to the wreck. And here’s the wreck itself. And here’s the time in the hospital. And here’s the recovery. Each of those concepts got their own timeline and then I tightened that up until I get to the point where I can create one timeline. There’s always a point where you say, “I don’t think this can possibly get any shorter than 4 hours, it’s all essential.” It’s finding the stuff that’s not essential and trying to give yourself some distance from it and maybe get some other eyes on it. The first year of it, I had these sequences trying to explain why these guys went to a Christian college, why they were there in the first place. For some reason, it felt like it was important to explain that. I remember an editor saying, “They’re there because they’re there, who cares?” I was like, “What? I can just do that?” That saved me 10 minutes and then could move forward. Then I found little short cuts. Instead of somebody in the band explaining what kind of music they like, just having them hold up record sleeves. Anybody who’s into music will see the albums they hold up and say, “Okay, I know this guy.”

That part of the movie was powerful. I instantly could tell where these guys came from.

MATT: I don’t know if we made it clear enough in the movie, there’s no reason on Planet Earth that Glenn, the hard rock drummer, belongs in a band with Lee, the Morrissey singer guy. But, it was specifically because they were in that narrow constrained context in the northeast corner of Georgia at a Christian college. It’s like, “There’s very few of us, we don’t have a lot of options here so if we’re going to have a band, it’s going to be us.”

It wasn’t until the end of the movie that I realized that you were the producer. I thought you were just a member of the band.

MATT: Okay, good. That was the thing I was most nervous about, the general axiom that there’s nothing lamer than somebody making a movie about their own band. That’s a dumb and embarrassing thing to do. So I was cognizant of that the entire time. It was important to me that you’d watch the movie and not have any idea that it was made by somebody in the band and that it didn’t feel like a promotional vehicle for the band. I grant that it’s possible that it will promote the band to a certain degree, that people like yourself will see it and say, “Oh, I actually like the music.” But there’s no barrier to entry along those lines. It’s not like you have to like this music to like this story. I wanted the story to be pre-eminent in it.

The Glenn stuff was a tough topic to touch upon.

MATT: It was, and that was something he had not spoken about to anybody. The guys in the band didn’t know this or didn’t know it to any real degree. He wasn’t even certain his family members knew what had happened. He had to reach out to them. When I was interviewing him, he said, “And then it gets dark and I don’t know that I want to go there.”

What was a good piece of filmmaking is that when he said that, you didn’t go there right afterwards. In fact, I thought you were going to drop it and leave it to the imagination of the viewer to think about what could be so dark that he didn’t want to talk about. A little bit of a spoiler but you revisit it later in the movie and Glenn does share.

MATT: I felt like I made the promise, so I had to pay it off, by having that line in there. In my estimation, if he said that in real life, which he did, then I could have just cut that out if we weren’t going to find out what the dark stuff was.

Originally, the story of his mom was going to wind up early on. It was going to be like, “This is the youth of this band member. This is the youth of this band member.” And I realized that you can get into Glenn’s story, you can move from light to darkness, but getting out of that and being like, “So, anyway, then I went to college and met these guys.” Anything just seemed so trivial after that, that sequence nearly didn’t make it into the film. I’m glad that it did because it gives you some additional insight into him and I think that he’s glad about it now. He was nervous about it when I was interviewing him and I said, “Why don’t we talk about it and we don’t have to use it? I’ll give you absolute right to say whether or not you want me to use it in the film.” Where I wound up putting it was where the band was sort of disintegrating, everyone is going their own way and he was starting to have seizures which was connected to that. That felt like it could lead us in to the dissolution of the band at that point. It added gravity.

You’ve told a very compelling story. Even had I not liked the music, I would have watched the whole thing. I don’t think you even need to be a music fan to appreciate the story.

MATT: I always find music documentaries to be a mixed bag. I like the first half of them and then they become really depressing to me. They become depressing for two main reasons – One, The Beatles always break up at the end of the story. Or, worse yet, the band gets back together and makes another record and it’s never as good. In this case, whether or not the new Luxury record was good, I don’t think you’re left with the sense that the identity of these guys is wrapped up in being a rock band, certainly not the priests.

When Father Chris is talking about being a priest, you can’t say that he’s not being genuine and that he hasn’t truly found a meaningful vocation for his life. I think it has a happy ending, in that sense. It starts like all rock and roll documentaries start – young, energetic guys who are like, “We’re going to be the best, we’re going to be the biggest.” Lee says, “We’re going to be the biggest band ever. That’s the goal.” We already show what the intent is. Most documentaries, that one goal is the same goal from the beginning until the end and that’s where it becomes depressing, when these 50-year-old schlubs are like, “One more time. We’re going to do it this time.” There was a re-evaluation of the goal that Luxury had or the goals that we had individually and therefore we can achieve those goals without reference to what’s going on with the band. That’s cherry on top stuff.

Knowing the very little I did about the movie, and sort of the twist that three of the guys are now priests, I thought religion would play a much bigger role in the story and it would be more like these priests looking back on their younger, wilder days. This guys could have all become bankers or lawyers or scuba divers and the story would have still been great, it wasn’t tied specifically to them becoming priests but that they all got into the same line of work and found their calling after the band.

MATT: Would you have really been interested in a band where three of the guys became bankers? The priest thing may not have been the hook for you, but it could have been, “Oh, hey, I remember the name of this band. Let’s see what’s up.” For me, it’s a unique story in the history of rock and roll. My angle all along has been, what’s a more interesting story than this one? The twists and turns of it, not only did they go on to become priests, but still making music as priests feels really rather remarkable.

Visit the Parallel Love website to find links to watch the film.

 

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