Interview: Drew Stubbs
In my never-ending quest to interview everyone I know, I decided today to talk to my roommate Drew. Note: This is not Drew Stubbs the baseball player. My roommate Drew is a filmmaker and editor, and he’s also a celebrity in the city of New Orleans. I use the term celebrity quite loosely, because really he’s more of a known figure than a known person. You see, Drew’s portrait used to hang on the wall of his favorite bar, and recently vandals tore it down. This upset Drew as well as the owners of the bar, so together they’ve formed a Kickstarter donation campaign to have a newer, more-permanent portrait made. You can read all about it on the official Rebuild The Drew Stubbs Portrait At The Saint Bar And Lounge Kickstarter page. Watch the video, and make sure you donate to the cause.
This might sound like a lark, but Drew is very serious about helping his friends at The Saint procure a better portrait to adorn the walls of the hallowed watering hole. If you’ve got as little as $5 to donate, it could go a long way towards beautifying not only The Saint Bar and Lounge, but the city of New Orleans. Think of your donation as a stepping stone on that path to rebuilding one of America’s crown jewel cities.
Today I sat down and talked with Drew, in our living room, over a Turkey sandwich and a Pepsi (only I ate, he was too busy playing guitar and drinking coffee to eat with me). We discussed his career as a filmmaker as well as the campaign to rebuild his portrait. I hope you find our conversation as inspiring as I do. And, once again, if you’ve got even a dollar to spare, it’ll go towards making the lives of the people of New Orleans just a little bit happier. Thanks guys! Donate here!
DS: Drew Stubbs
EL: So, why don’t you tell me about yourself. You grew up in Louisiana.
DS: This is true. It is the most beautiful, amazing state. I grew up in the heart of Cajun Country. In Lafayette, Louisiana, home of the Mighty Lions. I lived there until college, and then I moved to New Orleans, where I went to the University of New Orleans for film. I was a bit of a slacker in high school. UNO was the only in-state film school and the easiest option, and I wanted to move to New Orleans.
EL: Did you make any films when you were in film school? Were any of them good?
DS: I made a bunch of short films. Some of them I liked a lot, yeah.
EL: Did you have a favorite?
DS: Actually I think I made some in high school that I liked more than the ones I made in college. The ones at UNO were, like, here’s how you use a film camera so I’m going to film a guy eating a sandwich at a restaurant. They weren’t that great.
EL: After film school you stayed in New Orleans.
DS: No. Well, that whole hurricane thing blew through there.
EL: Oh yeah, that.
DS: That’s actually why it’s hard for me to remember what I did before. In the hurricane I lost every project I’d worked on up to that point. They were in a box underneath my bed. I’ve since learned that a box underneath your bed isn’t the best spot to keep all your tapes or things that are important. But that was before my last year of school. I transferred to the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and
finished my education there.
EL: How long have you lived here?
DS: I don’t even know how long I’ve lived here to tell you the truth.
EL: When did you first move in?
DS: Well, I sublet the room from Pat upstairs in the summer of 2009. And then I moved into another place for a little less than a year, so in September 2010 I moved back in here.
EL: How did you get in this place anyway?
DS: In this house?
EL: In my house. How did you get in my house!?
DS: Well, it was my house first. A good friend of mine from New Orleans named Tess Brunet was playing drums in The Generationals, who were also friends of mine. So, I’d been here for like two weeks sleeping on a friend’s couch and then I went to go see the Generationals’ show at Spaceland, and Tess and I were hanging out here afterwards, and then Pat was outside just as I was thinking about what a great group of people lived here, and he said, “This sucks! I really wanted to sublet my room and I’m leaving town tomorrow. It’s impossible for me to sublet it for a month now.” And I said, “I’ll take it.” So I got it and I moved in two days later.
EL: That’s crazy. Do you remember the first time you met me?
DS: The first time I met you? No.
EL: Yeah, I don’t either. It’s a shame. It was probably really, really cool…meeting me. Do you remember your first impression of me?
DS: The earliest impression of you, which I know wasn’t really the first because I’d known you at least for a little while, but…you were eating some really nasty potato chips — they were Doritos but not Doritos, something worse than Doritos — and you had that black nail polish on — you might have had face makeup on too, I’m not sure — and you were wearing — you just looked like a freak. I took a picture of it.
EL: I remember that. That was a weird time in my life…ages one to twenty-eight. Hey, let’s talk about this Kickstarter thing!
DS: But I’ve lived in a bunch of other pla–
EL: No, I don’t care about that shit. Wait, in the past year you’ve been working on a lot of projects. You’ve been working on various films and music videos and all kinds of creative projects.
DS: Yeah. OK. Well, I finished up that job with Stallone, and —
EL: You say, “That job with Stallone” as if it means something. You have to kinda elaborate a little bit.
DS: I finished up a job with Sylvester Stallone called Inferno, and then I did a couple of music videos and shot some shorts. I edited a music video for Juvenile, and directed a music video for Jean Eric and one for Empress Hotel, with a lot of help from John Gerdsen. Then I started working on these documentaries. One of them is about this guy Juston Stens, who used to be the drummer in Dr. Dog — he recorded Shame Shame with them and then he left right after the album was recorded. He decided to do this crazy solo project where he drove his 1972 Triumph motorcycle across the country. He stopped in, I think, 15 different cities, all across our beautiful country, and in every city he would try to record a new song with a musician from that city.
EL: Were they pre-written songs or were they songs conceived and written with those artists in those cities?
DS: Well, yeah, he had all these demos that he was working on forever. The whole time he was in Dr. Dog he would make demos of his own songs and put them on the shelf. He had this huge collection of demos and he basically emailed them out to everyone who was on his list of people he wanted to collaborate with, and then those people could either pick out a song or in some cases they just wrote a new song whenever he got to where he was going. That was pretty awesome because every place we went was a totally different experience. The musicians all had different setups, we’d stay with whoever he was recording with…
EL: Who did he work with?
DS: He got to work with a ton of different artists. John Stirratt the bassist from Wilco, the drummer from Spoon, Brass Bed, Jessica Lea Mayfield — she’s pretty awesome, I’m working on a music video for her right now too — David Vandervelde, Seth Kaufman from Floating Action, some of the guys from Golden Boots in Tucson, a couple of the guys from The Generationals, Apollo Sunshine, Drug Rug, Those Darlin’s…a ton of people. It was really cool.
EL: And you followed him on the road the whole time?
DS: Yeah, I followed him in a rental car while he was on his motorcycle. It was hard to keep up sometimes when we’d get caught in traffic in different cities, but, you know, we made it work. I think he’s got thirteen or fourteen songs that he recorded on our trip. Now he’s got to take them all and get them mixed somewhere, and I don’t think he’s planning on having the album released until September.
EL: Is it going to be paired with the documentary?
DS: Yes — in some way. We’re also coming out with five short Internet videos that RayBan is going to post at some point this summer. We had three sponsors, actually, who were really cool. Eastwood Guitars, RayBan, and GoPro Cameras. They’re all awesome.
EL: What’s the second documentary?
DS: It’s about this band called Supagroup from New Orleans. They went on a European tour, which is one of the last tours they’re going to do. They’ve been around for a really long time and I think they’re at the end of wanting to tour. They’re not planning on coming out with any other albums or anything, this was the last hurrah. They’re all a little bit older, mid-30s, they were Skyping with the wives and talking to the kids back home, missing everybody, but at the same time they were going out and partying pretty hard. They put on really, really good rock shows. I never got tired of their shows. It was 30 days, 27 cities, it was awesome. I got some great footage. I think that film is going to come out really well. I’m happy with both films, but they’re totally different in that Juston’s is a quiet, introspective studio recording time calm film, and the one in Europe is like…crazy Jackass stunts and stuff. I’m hoping to have them both done by this summer.
EL: Now. Your Kickstarter campaign launched yesterday. You’re already seeing some results. You’ve got some very kind donations. How did this come about?
DS: There used to be a big portrait of me at the Saint bar and lounge, which is probably one of the best bars on the planet. It’s one of my favorites. Playboy magazine named it the best dive bar in the country. And there used to be a larger-than-life poster of me on the wall, and tragically someone decided to take it home with them. That person, or those persons, decided to deprive the community the joy of seeing me hanging out at the bar. I can’t be there all the time, but that poster made it like I was there all the time.
EL: Other than the fact that it got a seal of approval from Playboy, what makes The Saint the best bar in the world?
DS: It’s just one of those really cool, unassuming bars. It’s a small neighborhood bar, and you could go in there on some nights and it’s totally dead, but on other nights — Diplo did a secret show there one night, Dave Nada plays there whenever he passes through town — it’s a place where anything can happen on a given night. The atmosphere in there is comparable to Tiki Ti’s or another bar like that, it’s dark and weirdly lit, there are always good tunes playing and good people hanging out. It’s open really late. And my portrait was on the wall.
EL: So basically what you’re trying to do is raise some funds to get this portrait remade?
DS: Yeah. I think we need to make it bigger and better. It’s going to be painted this time. We’re going to get some heavy-duty bolts, it’s going to be framed, we’re going to put a plexiglass cover on it, and it’s going to be bolted hardcore to the wall. It’s going to be a new pose, and it’s going to be painted. The last one was just a print. It’ll be similar to the last one — it’ll be me, in a suit, holding a cocktail.
EL: Will there be another halo over the rim of your glass?
DS: Maybe, I don’t know.
EL: What about a halo over your head? What about some bad-ass wings instead of arms, or something?
DS: Let’s not push it. I don’t think we need to go that far.
EL: You are taking donations because you really want to see this happen. Is this a personal project? Is the Saint bar and lounge somehow involved in this campaign?
DS: I think everybody at the Saint is behind it. I know they are. There was talk…they were going to put another copy of the same poster up again, but they slacked on it so then we had the idea to do this campaign on Kickstarter to make it better.
EL: And you’re just asking for donations from the public.
DS: Well it’s not just a donation, there’s prizes involved. So it’s more like a trade-off, you know? It’s like an investment. First of all, it’s like an investment in the community, because I think that the portrait is good for the community. It’s good for the people in the bar. They need a role model to look up to on the walls. Second of all, you get some sweet prizes. So you get a sweet prize and you the pride of knowing you did something good for the community.
EL: Because the community is shattered over the loss of this poster.
DS: You know, people are sad, people are really sad. People who used to be happy. Even the bar has let that room go to shit. You can see it in the video, it’s not…the room doesn’t look good right now. They’ve got old plywood in there, there’s an old vending machine, sad crap.
EL: You mentioned “prizes” for making donations. Would you call them prizes? It’s almost more like a reward, isn’t it? A prize is kind of like, for someone who has entered a contest. These people are actually giving you money. You’re rewarding them for their consideration and effort.
DS: I’m rewarding them with a prize.
EL: OK. What can donors receive?
DS: Well, at the seventy-five dollar level you get a lapel pin. I’m really hoping somebody donates at the $75 level. No one has yet. I really want someone to, or to donate an amount higher than seventy-five dollars because anything about that gets you the lapel pin too. It will be a lapel pin of the portrait of me that’s hanging on the wall at the Saint bar and lounge in New Orleans. Now, at the fou-hundred dollar level —
EL: Whoawhoawhoa. You’re only trying to raise five-hundred dollars, shouldn’t you focus more on telling people about smaller donation amounts and those prizes?
DS: Yes, we’re trying to raise five-hundred, but if we go over that amount it’s only going to a) make the portrait better, and b) we’ll get to throw a great big party for the community.
EL: Does four-hunedred dollars include, like, a ticket to the party?
DS: At one-hundred bucks you and three guests get to come into the bar and see a private showing of the portrait before it goes up. That’ll be at a little cocktail party kind of event. I can’t get you airfare there or anything like that, but if you’re there —
EL: Well, if someone’s giving you four-hundred…
DS: That’s one-hundred. At one-hundred you get the private viewing.
EL: Alright, so what if you go over your goal by, like, two-thousand dollars. You’re not going to fly someone at random who donated a large dollar amount to the party? Don’t you think that’d be a pretty cool reward? Like, take all the names that donated one-hundred dollars or more and put them in a hat and pull out one to fly to the party?
DS: We might do something like that. Alright, I’ll add that to the prize. If you donate one-thousand–
EL: No, no no no no. I meant if you go over your goal by a thousand dollars you should take all the donors names and fly one at random to the party!
DS: I think a lot of the donors will live within a few blocks of the bar.
EL: One of the out-of-state donors. I think you should fly one of them out. What I really think is that you should set your goal a little higher, assume that you’re going to shatter your measly little five-hundred dollar goal and focus on the big money. How long are you running this campaign for?
DS: It’s running for thirty days. It’s going to end either the Thursday or Friday before Mardi Gras. You know, with Mardi Gras in New Orleans, the party goes on for a few weeks before, but the real hardcore time starts on that Thursday or Friday.
EL: And you think you’ll have that portrait up by then?
DS: Oh, no way, but I’ll be able to coast through Mardi Gras
EL: Wasn’t there something about the cheapest donation, the one-dollar donation, that you’d get your name on a plaque next to the portrait on the wall in the bar?
EL: No? What’s the minimum donation someone can give?
DS: It’s five dollars. At five dollars you get a personal letter of thanks from me.
EL: So what do you have to do to get your name recognized on the plaque next to the portrait?
DS: Name recognition is twenty-five dollars.
EL: If you end up getting, like, one-hundred donations that are each for five dollars you won’t put those names up there? Those people would be giving you the five-hundred dollars you need to achieve your goal and they’re not going to be recognized?
DS: I can say with confidence that for a donation of five dollars I can have your name listed on the Saint’s website on the special Thank You page for a month.
EL: You’re willing to go on record as saying — oh, wait, for a month? Do they edit their page so much that the Special Thanks are changing every month? The names of the people the bar needs to thank changes that often?
DS: I guess. I don’t know. Maybe we can leave it up there for a while. I need to talk to the owners.
EL: There should be a dedicated page on the Saint’s website to the portrait and the room, and you should be able to list the names of all the people who donated even a dollar to the cause on that page. People who go to the bar are going to wonder what the portrait is about, so you need to make a page on the website dedicated to it, and on that page you have the freedom to list every single donor’s name to thank them for giving money to the cause.
DS: I think you’re absolutely right. That’s what we’ll do. I can say with confidence right now that we are going to make that happen.
EL: OK, so every donation of five dollars or more guarantees that you’re name will be listed on the website, and at twenty-five dollars you get your name on the plaque.
DS: One dollar you’ll get your name on the website. Five dollars you get the letter of thanks from me, twenty five bucks gets you on the plaque.
EL: What’s the largest donation amount that you have a prize for?
DS: Five-hundred dollars. For that you get everything. The name on the website, the name on the plaque, letter of thanks from me, the regular 8×10 as well as the framed and autographed 8×10, the lapel pin, I accept your friend request on Facebook, a five minute phone call from me, a tie that I have hand-made and designed and autographed the back of, you’ll also get a tie from my personal collection that’s also autographed, and the big one is that I’ll DJ your little get-together.
EL: What get-together?
DS: Any get-together you want.
EL: What if someone in Oklahoma wants to have a get-together. You’re going to fly out there and DJ their gig on your own dime?
DS: If I tell you I’ll be there, I’ll be there.
EL: Fair enough.
DS: It could be anything. It could be a wedding, it could be a birthday party, it could be anything. It could be a Friday night when everybody wants to get together and have a good time. You choose what it is. Plus you get all the other shit too. I think it’s worth it. Anyone can see that.
EL: Do you really think you’re going to achieve this goal? Do you have artists in mind who you think will render your visage?
DS: Yeah, of course we’re going to reach the goal. I have some local New Orleans artists in mind but I don’t want to give any names. We’d like to hire a local artist. That’s the goal. I certainly know tons of artists who would be willing to do this. It might take a little more than five-hundred, though. We need to pay for the little light that goes above the portrait, we need to pay for the frame, and the heavy duty bolts to bolt that sucker into the wall. Oh, and the special plexiglass cover.
EL: How many people have donated so far?
DS: Five or six, I think?
EL: And where do you stand with money?
DS: Right now I think we stand at one-hundred and seventy-six dollars.
EL: So if you had to tell people reading this right now why they should donate a few dollars to your cause, what would you say?
DS: Everybody really wants to rebuild New Orleans. This is a pretty solid way to do it.
EL: Is New Orleans still not rebuilt?
DS: Once we get that portrait up it will be.
EL: It’s been a few years since the hurricane.
DS: Yeah, and things have gone really well, but I think they’d be better with the portrait.
EL: Has the city come back, would you say? How far along is it?
DS: As a tourist, any place that you go to is going to be fine. You’re not going to be able to notice that anything happened. In a lot of ways it’s…I don’t want to say it’s better because there’s an obvious difference…but tons and tons of new places have opened up, and they keep opening. Every time I go back to town — and there’s usually only a few months in between each visit — there’s always three or four new places that have opened up, and they’re all really nice. It’s great. The population isn’t quite where it was before, but I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing either. I think it will come back. It’s growing pretty rapidly.
EL: And putting your portrait on a bar wall is going to push the city over the edge.
DS: Yeah. This will be the first city in the country to have my painted portrait on its wall. It was already the first city to have a portrait of me on the wall, now it could be the first city in the country to have a painted portrait of me on the wall.
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