Oakland rock quartet the Heavenly States announced today the signing of an option to produce a feature-length film about their epic and controversial 2005 trip to be among the first Western bands to play Libya (yeah, the Middle East, Libya.) -- David Downs
Heavenly States’ vocalist Ted Nesseth declined to name the specifics of the option, which can run into the tens of thousands of dollars in Hollywood, but said the option is three-tiered. The band gets paid again when a production contract is signed and gets points on the backend if and when the film comes out.
Producer Jawal Nga (recently behind “Married Life” with Pierce Brosnan) will add this project to his duties executive producing the Allen Ginsberg documentary, “HOWL,” for directors Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman through his NY-based production company, Tiny Dancer Films.
Many films never make it out from option to screen, but the story would be a good one. Chronicled by award-winning Village Voice music journalist Rob Harvilla for the East Bay Express [link to Rob Harvilla's 'Lock the Casbah']the band journeyed and attempted to play a venue in Libya only to get denied by the government and threatened with arrest. Newsweek also did a story on the band.
“When I read the Newsweek article, I immediately realized that this had to be made into a film,” said Nga. “The Heavenly States attempted something that no Western band has done before, and having grown up in Libya, I have the ability to appreciate the great humor in this real situation of almost impossible culture clash.”
No decision has been made as to who would play members of the band, their label manager or Mr. Harvilla. Ted Nesseth mentioned Zach Braff, but said he looks more like another pop culture figure. “I get Mr. Bean a lot.”
Jawal Nga is a name you may not be familiar with in the music world. On the horizon for Nga is the September release of “Married Life,” starring Pierce Brosnan, Rachel McAdams, Patricia Clarkson and Chris Cooper. Nga produced the film along with Sidney Kimmel, Steven Golin and Ira Sachs who also directed the film for Sidney Kimmel Entertainment. Most recently, Nga produced the 2005 Sundance Grand Jury winning film, “Forty Shades of Blue,” also directed by Sachs. Nga is currently executive producing the Allen Ginsberg documentary, “HOWL,” for directors Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman through his NY-based production company, Tiny Dancer Films.
In the midst of all of this, Nga had come across an old Newsweek article written about Oakland’s indie-rock darlings, The Heavenly States, and their attempted tour of Libya in 2005. “When I read the Newsweek article, I immediately realized that this had to be made into a film,” said Nga. “The Heavenly States attempted something that no Western band has done before, and having grown up in Libya, I have the ability to appreciate the great humor in this real situation of almost impossible culture clash.” Having grown up in Libya, Nga brings first-hand knowledge to the project, and is currently writing the script with Tiny Dancer partner, Adam Penn. “The guys in the band are really to be commended,” says Penn, “they tried something practically unthinkable, and were able to laugh at themselves in the end. Jawal and I hope to tell their story with as much humor as possible.”
As for The Heavenly States, the four-piece have just finished off their first run of 17 tour dates all around the Western portion of the states, testing out some of their new songs to follow up the successful and critically acclaimed sophomore LP, “Black Comet.” Songs with titles such as “Piano Exercise,” “The Race,” and “My Little Friend,” show a growth in The Heavenly States’ rock that is so big and sonorous it is experientially orchestral. Also included is a retouched and re-recorded version of “Pretty Life” -- a favorite from their back catalogue, which as been expanded in the
way that Arcade Fire recently transformed “No Cars Go.” Currently working on their forthcoming LP, tentatively titled “Delayer,” the record should surface sometime around the dawn of 2008 at the end of January.
Aside from their excursion to Libya, The Heavenly States have been a hard-working band for years. Two full-lengths – a self-titled and "Black Comet" – and a three-song disc entitled "King Epiphany I" under their belt, a 7-inch single with Coldplay and The Postal Service exists within the collections of devoted THS fans. Their praises have been sung in Billboard Magazine, Rolling Stone, Spin, and Alternative Press, and continue to magnetize listeners with their new material. With all of this in tow, a forthcoming LP with original songs is just what we all need to shake up our playlists and remind us of what we’ve been missing – a blissful state of nirvana through the musical manifest of talent, passion, and chemistry.
THE HEAVENLY STATES are:
Ted Nesseth: electric & acoustic guitar, vocals
Masanori (Mark) Christianson: bass, keys
Genevieve Gagon: keys, violin, vocals
Jeremy Gagon: drums