The music video we created for Joy on Fire’s hard-hitting song about gun violence in the United States, Uh Huh, continues to tear up the festival circuit and has now garnered its first all-out win: The Obskuur Ghent Film Festival in Belgium. Moreover, it just won the runner-up award at the Brighton Rocks Film Festival in the UK as well. Here are the band’s thoughts (as expressed by lyricist and vocalist Dan Gutstein):
Joy on Fire music video for “Uh Huh” wins Best Music Video category at Obskuur Ghent Film Festival (Belgium) and garners Runner-up accolades at Brighton Rocks Film Festival (UK).
In a dream I don’t want you to know about, “Uh Huh” plays overhead as a rugged pugilist makes his or her walk to the ring or octagon. The drums are tapping, the bass plays “dinn-dinn-dunn,” and the vocals recite what’s both obvious and ominous—“Uh Huh”—over and over again, until, of course, the song becomes electrified, a thumping action that buffets the chest—“dinn-dinn-dunn”—of the opponent. At this point, with the arena lights going all whirlybird and the crowd going all whirlybird, the song drops out and the two fighters drift toward one another.
I don’t want you to know about this dream because it precedes some violence, however sanctioned or celebrated, and yet, what sort of purity can we realistically expect of ourselves? In any event, I can’t undream it. And it’s not so far-fetched. A combatant could take courage from “Uh Huh.” (I’ve never been shown the end, don’t know if the fighter prevails.) Yet there’s quite a difference between this scenario and someone deciding to do the ultimate wrong, such as picking up a firearm, pointing it at another person (or persons) and fatally harming them.
In early 2022, the world will take stock of what will hopefully be a Covid pandemic in steep retreat. But what of the gun violence pandemic? It only seems to worsen, and it seems especially virulent in the United States. In response to some of the worst examples—such as schools attacked and innocent school children murdered—the country seems incensed, well, for a little while. Then the story fades, and gun ownership even seems to multiply. The massive lunacy of arming teachers gets trotted-out as if that’s the only conceivable solution. More weaponry.
The lyrics for “Uh Huh” refer to gun violence, yes. But they’re also aimed at the unknowable: songs that our murdered brethren are singing—as we bury them. In a fit of rage, the singer challenges the killers to return the bodies to the earth. “Uh Huh” could appear inflammatory at that moment, as if we were challenging the murderers to kill again. But in the end, when the song’s peak—including the screeching saxophone—reaches toward euphoria, it’s quite important to remember that anger has different colors. Call ours the color of outrage.
Filmmaker duo Mark Isaac and Gabriela Bulisova produced a wildly creative film that matches the outrage and the ambiguities in the music and words. As of this writing, “Uh Huh” has been the Official Selection of 12 international film festivals, from the U.S. to Europe to Asia. The emotions that accompany our win at Ghent Obskuur Film Festival and being a runner-up at Brighton Rocks Film Festival, are a mixture of humility, gratitude, and devotion to message. It’s a roughened song for a roughened age in human history. Can it be the color of your outrage? “Uh Huh.”