Rock music and BYUtv. Perhaps it’s an odd match, but those are two components of Audio-Files, a new music documentary series that’s part of BYUtv’s effort to reinvent itself as a supplier of high-quality, marketable entertainment.
Audio-Files is the brainchild of 33-year-old Matt Eastin. The self-proclaimed “video guy” (“filmmaker,” he says, is inaccurate) worked various odd jobs in the film industry before going independent to fulfill his dream of filming live music performances.
In 2010, Eastin began collaborating with friends on a project called The Occidental Saloon. The series—influenced by Vincent Moon’s “Take Away Show”—featured mostly local musicians performing in unique and intimate settings. With each installment, the series gained popularity, and it wasn’t long before opportunity knocked. Literally.
“Sam Cardon (executive producer of Audio-Files) knocked on my door about a year ago,” Eastin says. “He was familiar with The Occidental Saloon, and he said, ‘How do you think a show like that would work on BYUtv? Would that be interesting to you?’ ”
At first, Eastin wondered if he could get bands onboard. After all, in regard to most rock bands, BYUtv is about as alluring a network as C-SPAN.
“I thought convincing bands that this network is changing and being suddenly open-minded might be tough,” Eastin says.
He was right.
Eastin contacted bands like Arcade Fire, The National and Fleet Foxes, to no avail.
“These guys were going to the BYUtv website and seeing a white guy in a suit standing at a pulpit wearing a lei, and that wasn’t really selling them on the vision we had,” Eastin says.
Despite the initial turndowns, Eastin was able to put together a roster featuring locals Neon Trees and Joshua James, along with national acts like Damien Jurado and Low, among others. The next installment will feature Paper Route on June 12.
The series premiere featured Imagine Dragons. Dan Reynolds, the band’s frontman, spoke of the power of what Eastin calls “Occidental Pieces”—portions of an episode in which the band plays an intimate version of a song on location.
“When an artist strips down, it can be a little more raw and a little more emotional,” Reynolds says. “Every good song should be able to be stripped to its simplest parts and still represent itself.”
Corey Fox, owner of Velour Live Music Gallery and art director for Audio-Files, says the show has the potential to further establish Provo’s reputation as a music and arts center.
“I think the show being produced here brings more credibility to the local art culture,” Fox says. “Hopefully, that brings more talented touring artists to Provo.”
For BYUtv, the value of developing programs like Audio-Files lies in its ability to attract a more diverse crowd.
“We want to reach as many people as possible,” says Jared Shores, the show’s supervising producer. “We want to create programs to share with people who have similar values, regardless of their beliefs.”
While the network’s shift is sure to attract more non-Mormon viewers, Shores insists its focus isn’t to preach but to promote inspiring and feel-good programming for all. “People can walk away feeling motivated and uplifted,” Shores says. “When you see people on a show like Audio-Files who have a passion, you’re motivated to find your own passion and go after it.”
Eastin has witnessed the passion of these artists first-hand. According to him, part of the show’s purpose is to demonstrate the motivation behind the music. “I’ve learned that a musician’s lifestyle isn’t easy at all,” he says, “especially for artists who aren’t making a lot of money. I want to know why they get out of bed and do this every single day and where this passion comes from.”
It’s fitting that Eastin portrays people pursuing their passions while he pursues his own.
“This has been a dream job,” Eastin says. “I was in [Low guitarist/vocalist] Alan Sparhawk’s basement one night and he was showing me his old four-track recorders. This experience is so unique and it’s just fun to do.”