It began as a way for musician Jesse Carmichael to acquaint himself with a new medium–filmmaking. With three Grammy Awards and top singles like “Moves Like Jagger” to the band’s credit, the Maroon 5 keyboards and guitar player has been leaning toward film scoring and decided short subjects might provide an avenue in. With that in mind, he founded 2 Minute Movies (2MM) in early 2019, a collective of filmmakers and artists making shorts with the only stipulation being they not exceed two minutes in length.
“Being interested in film in general, meeting cinematographers, editing and shooting myself, I love films all around and wanted to kind of learn every aspect of it,” Carmichael explains to Art & Object.
His latest is a collaboration with Australian artist Paul Davies. In it, Davies paints one of his signature acrylic portraits of a mid-century modern house surrounded by tall palms, an image derived from stencils cut from his photos. The soundtrack features a loop of Led Zeppelin drummer John Bonham playing a solo and a voice saying, “Man, I ain’t believin’ that shit about Bonham’s one-hour drum solos, man. I mean one hour of drums, you couldn’t handle that shit on strong acid, man.”
“Jesse was around the studio filming and I said I don't think much is going to happen while you're filming,” says Davies recalling the days before the pandemic when the footage was shot. “There's not much visual stimulation, but looking back, you're playing around with paint and color and it’s very intuitive.”
Watching footage of Davies layering in colors and tones, the musician turned to his modular synthesizer, which breaks down the main components of a synthesizer into individual modules to be manipulated into creating new sounds. Patching in video modulars he happened to pick up a stunning color effect generated by his two-year-old son banging on a nearby drum set.
While filming the clip in the studio, the pair listened to Led Zeppelin. So, Carmichael ripped from YouTube a solo by the band’s drummer, John Bonham and played it on a loop. He then laid over it the quote about Bonham taken from one of Carmichael’s favorite films, 1993’s Dazed and Confused.
“I love the idea of the loop,” Davies says of the audiotrack and how it reflects his daily routine. “Every day you keep coming back and it still needs something.” His paintings frequently begin with a photograph of a house, which is then enlarged and cut into stencils. By doing so, he can mix and match the house with a landscape of his own making augmented by colors and textures of his own design.
His emphasis on stencils reflects a foundational concept behind the works of mid-century modern architects like Richard Neutra and Rudolph Schindler, whose Fitzpatrick-Leland house in Los Angeles hosted a show of his artwork at which Carmichael and Davies first met in 2017.
Stencils can shape or modify a landscape and composition to fit esthetic and practical needs. Neutra took a similar approach employing off-the-shelf elements for his revolutionary Lovell Health House, also in Los Angeles. It’s a style founded on a set of principles that are interchangeable based on location and client demands.
Educated at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Davies has completed residencies in Paris and Taliesin West, and has works in the permanent collections of Palm Springs Art Museum, Laguna Art Museum, and U.C. Irvine Institute and Museum for California Art. You can find his paintings in different chapters of Soho House all over the world, including the mural in the rooftop bar of the DTLA arts district chapter. Among his collectors he counts rapper Lyrics Born as well as actors Bobby Cannavale and Rose Byrne, and now Jesse Carmichael.
“Part of the whole process of making the film was an almost dadaist approach,” says Carmichael about working with Davies. “Audio from the movie I decided to just loop. It’s almost like an audio stencil at that point, this fixed thing, and you can decide what color paint you want to put on it.”
Carmichael was a teenager when he met Adam Levine, Mickey Madden, and Ryan Dusick and formed a band called Kara’s Flowers. They put out an album in 1997 that quickly vanished. After that, Carmichael and Levine attended Five Towns College on Long Island, but after two years they returned to L.A. and got the band together again as Maroon 5, becoming one of the most successful pop bands of the era.
Among the shorts on the 2 MM Channel, movies from last year reflect a different reality than more recent entries like artist Marina Dunbar’s “Quarantine Flow States,” and “Mother’s Day Painting” in which a couple and their tot run through art-for-mom sessions in hyper-fast motion.
“There’s definitely a direct connection with the lockdown and the self-isolation thing,” Carmichael offers. He’s currently awaiting footage from a cinematographer friend who has been filming the city’s abandoned streets at night. Part of 2MM is something he calls “Score This,” challenging four different composers to score a twenty-eight-second film clip. It’s all a welcome distraction during quarantine in his Laurel Canyon home, but his main focus is completing Maroon 5’s seventh album with bandmates over Zoom.
“It’s an extension of the last couple of songs we put out,” he says of the new album, which he expects to be released by the end of the year. “It’s becoming a bit more minimal in its instrumentation. And the fidelity is approached with a fine-tooth comb and microscope. It’s just sonically very satisfying.”
While Carmichael works with the band on finishing the album, Davies is in his Queensland, Australia studio painting for his one-man show in September at Peter Mendenhall Gallery in South Pasadena. The new works deal with pianist John Cage’s 1948 composition “In A Landscape,” written while at the legendary Black Mountain College.
“You have to lock yourself away in the studio to create the work–it’s one thing to choose to do it, but when that choice is taken away, you really think about that isolation,” says Davies from relatively COVID-free Australia.
“It’s such an odd time, it feels like a dream,” adds Carmichael. “The biggest takeaway from this period of isolation is just how important it is to have friends around to make things in life with, memories and art.”