Tomorrow sees the limited theatrical release of my first feature film, Shangri-La Suite. It tells the story of two lovers-on-the-run during the summer of 1974. Their names: Jack Blueblood and Karen Bird. Their aim: to kill Elvis Presley. It stars Emily Browning, Luke Grimes, Avan Jogia and Ron Livingston (as the King). Burt Reynolds narrates. The trailer can be seen here. Justin Gage, the man behind Aquarium Drunkard (and my good friend), served as the project’s music supervisor. Justin has been kind enough to offer me a platform here, leading up to the film’s release, where I can write about some of the artists and tracks that inspired our movie and helped shape its creation. – Eddie O’Keefe
I don’t recall hearing Elvis Presley for the first time because as far back as I can remember he’s always just been there. Ubiquitous. Undying. Elemental and fixed. Though I’ve never asked my folks about it, I can almost guarantee the first song I ever heard; three days old – idiotic and drooling, terrified and awe-struck by this strange, new, incandescent world – was something sung by Elvis. And if I know my old man, I’d also wager it was a track recorded between 1968 and 1971; something in that sad, sweet, smooth, easy era in the afterglow of the Comeback Special. Though maybe that’s just my own bias speaking – it definitely could have been a Sun cut too, or one of Elvis’s soulful seventies hymns. It’s just that I’ve always found the King’s mid-tempo, late-sixties tracks to be among his most soothing and relatable; confident and melodic and pure. To me, those songs – “Don’t Cry Daddy,” “Mary In The Morning,” “Bridge Over Troubled Water” – sound like home. They sound like my family. And this song in particular, a cover of Neil Diamond’s “And The Grass Don’t Pay No Mind,” reminds me of my childhood. It’s also a song that I could see Jack and Karen, the love-drunk protagonists of Shangri-La Suite, listening to on their long road trip west. There’s a sense of freedom and possibility to it. It sounds like a sunny afternoon with nowhere to be.