With their video for “Some Do,” Richmond indie-rock group Deau Eyes presents a positive message of inclusion and acceptance — along with some excellent tuneage.
Ali Thibodeau is Deau Eyes, a Richmond-based singer-songwriter whose debut album, Let It Leave, will be out on Egghunt Records next month. However, a few singles from it have already been released, and the video for the latest, “Some Do,” sees Thibodeau collaborating with drag queen Camille Teaux to recreate the aesthetic on display in Reba McEntire’s “Fancy” video, but with a campy twist.
The “Some Do” video, which was released in February, stars Thibodeau, actor and drag performer Paul Major, aka Camille Teaux, and actress Abigayle Harris. Inspired by Reba McEntire’s music video for “Fancy” and the dark campiness of David Lynch films, it follows Thibodeau, Major, and Harris as they don bejeweled denim jackets and sky-high wigs, gleefully disrupting their 9-5 lives. The idea for the country glam music video originated with Thibodeau and video director Ted Day.
“The whole dream of being a country star, to me, feels like a fun thing to play on,” Thibodeau said. “We also really love wigs and [Day] loves to film with wigs, so it’s just a big playful collection of our favorite things to work with. We all made it tie into this theme of having your own little dream escape world, away from your day job.”
Shot in Charlottesville, Virginia, largely inside a friend’s barn, the video shows the three stars [Thibodeau, Major, and Harris] discontent with their daily life and the pressures to dilute oneself to fit in. Thibodeau casts herself as a waitress, proudly posing for her only slightly amused diner patrons — who were, by the way, actual restaurant-goers. Major shows up for his construction site job in full drag. Harris primps and prances in a high school hallway as slack-jawed classmates look on. The end of the video feels like a breath of relief, of total freedom in expression.
Major, a longtime friend of Thibodeau’s who previously performed with her when both were working at Dollywood, was delighted to collaborate with Thibodeau in actualizing this vision for “Some Do.”
“The song is talking about how people can be chameleons in their everyday life. But some people are really trying to fit in that box of whatever success looks like for them. And I love that the video celebrates that,” said Major. “You don’t have to do what everyone else is doing in order to be happy; you can be your true authentic self, and be able to express that in whatever it is that you do. Whatever your job is, whatever you’re going to be successful at, you can still have your passions and still be your true authentic self in those environments as well.”
The key to that freedom? A rhinestone-covered, fringed denim jacket that is truly a sight to behold.
“When we were talking about what it would look like for the characters in the video, everyone needed to have a cohesive look and it’s challenging to costume everyone in the same look — myself being 6ft.2in. and then having that same look for a teenager and for Ali. We were thinking what could be a simple nod to country, as well as reflective of the video and the fun of it,” Major said. “So we decided on the western jackets, French Western jackets. Ali and I came up with that concept of denim and diamonds. Then she and I created those jackets that we’re wearing in the video, and also designed and created the wig that all three of us wear. The hair and makeup and some of the costuming really helped add to the design and the concept for the video.”
Shot over the course of one day, the filming experience was “organized chaos,” as Thibodeau describes it.
“We all met up in Charlottesville at a friend’s barn out there,” Thibodeau said. “We had a great time. I brought bagels and we set up a whole little crafty section and a pickup truck and a bunch of donkeys came out of nowhere. It was just such a spontaneous thing, which is the way that I work best. It was awesome.”
Major agrees. “We were right outside of Charlottesville in November on a very, very cold morning. And in the barn, there was no heat. So we had some small space heaters. But for me, it was great, because having all of — you know, the padding in here and makeup and stuff — I was very warm,” he said. “It was interesting and fun to be running around Charlottesville in full drag, going to the school that we shot in, where there was still some staff around rehearsing for a musical. And in the restaurant that we shot, there were still patrons in there while we were shooting. So it was a really cool experience, to be able to share that with Ali.”
Collaboration and inclusion are important values to Thibodeau, and that is clear in both the music video and the filming process.
“I really wanted to, like everything I do, try to work with my friends and make fun stuff with my friends. I feel like that’s the whole point of choosing this career path, is having an excuse to do something exciting and make something new with the people that you love,” Thibodeau said. “It also pertains to the video and the song, because this song is all about how, no matter where you are in your life path, you have the option to change it up and to create whatever it is that you want to create. We made a point to make the video as all-encompassing and inclusive as possible, because the song reflects upon this Americana vibe, and it’s also reflecting upon the message of being able to be malleable and change. And that change being empowering and exciting and invigorating.”
Thibodeau was delighted to collaborate on this effort not only with longtime friend Major, but with director Ted Day and co-star Abigayle Harris as well.
“Ted is such a pro. He’s so, so talented, he’s one of the most generous artists out there. He’s just full of fun, zany ideas,” she said. “And then of course, Abigayle I hadn’t known, I met her the day of, and we just had the best time. She was so professional and just wonderful to be around.”
Major agreed that the entire experience was excellent. “It was great and the crew and Ted, the director,” he said. “Everyone was fantastic and making sure we had everything that we needed and felt comfortable doing what we were doing.”
A lifelong performer and trained triple-threat, Thibodeau has done it all, from choreographing musical theatre to singing at Dollywood and starring in numerous productions. Now, with Deau Eyes, she is stepping into her own, creating a unique indie-rock sound with music videos to match.
“I think the kind of music I make is very visceral,” Thibodeau said. “And it really varies from each situation. Sometimes it’s kind of a subdued and sweet songwriter-y, storytelling vibe, and sometimes it’s just ‘enough is enough’ rock music. It really depends on what emotion or what story I’m trying to get across.”
The concept behind Deau Eyes’ debut album came from a time of big changes in Thibodeau’s life.
“I felt like I had escaped my previous lifestyle, which was working as an actress and singer and dancer and auditioning every single day and just feeling like a cog in a machine going nowhere,” she said. “I did a lot of reflecting on my previous life, and the album is like my own version of a sly outlaw song of leaving behind a life, just torching it and moving into the exciting, wild unknown.”
The musical style found on Let It Leave was one Thibodeau began exploring during a gig that landed her in the midst of a new environment.
“I was working on a cruise ship at the time, singing country music and playing with my partner,” she said. “I was really, really digging into the story-song format during that time. The format — that verse- hook- verse- hook- verse- hook, there wasn’t much of a bridge or a true repetitive chorus per se — it was just a different format than I was used to writing in.”
Thibodeau is still young, but her artistic life has encompassed a lot, from cruise ships and Dollywood to busking on the street. Let It Leave sums all of it up to give the listener a window into who Thibodeau is and what she’s been through so far.
“Everybody only has one debut record and you’ve got like your whole life to make it,” she said. “This album was the culmination of a lot of different life experiences and different times in my life encapsulated… [Let It Leave] deals with a lot of life transitions, a lot of pain, a lot of growth, and a lot of empowerment through loss and leaving what doesn’t serve me anymore.”
The songs on it weren’t necessarily ever written to share with the world, though; for Thibodeau, musical composition began as a therapeutic outlet for difficult emotions. “I never was somebody who was writing music for the sake of it being heard. It was always just kind of silly, something that got me through whatever I was going through,” she said.
However, the material that made up the initial burst of songs written for Deau Eyes was different; it had a greater hold on her than she’d expected.
“It became apparent that I was needing to write so much that it took over my time and my heart,” Thibodeau said. “So I really committed to it, and committed to sharing stories with others through songwriting and storytelling. I found it to be really fulfilling and really nice to have a shared experience with others, and to not feel so alone in those moments.”
With the help of an incredibly supportive Kickstarter campaign, Thibodeau was able to record the album with friends and fellow Virginians Jacob Blizard and Collin Pastore at Trace Horse Studios in Nashville, TN. With only two days in the studio, Thibodeau describes the recording process as collaborative and exciting, as she heard her songs come to life.
“This record is really a sonic journey — it takes you through a lot of different styles,” Thibodeau said. “I love that it’s not just one style; I think it’s cool and representative of what my path has been thus far. It’s all sung with my voice in the most true way that I know how to portray the different chapters of my journey, and I’m really excited to share my little corner of the world, my little slice of life with everybody.”
Along with “Some Do,” there are already two more videos for Let It Leave tracks. They include “Paper Kites,” the video for which captures a live performance, and “Parallel Time,” an intimate look at relationships, performance, and travel. Of the latter video, Thibodeau said, “It’s the first music video I’ve ever made by myself. I feel just so empowered by that, and vulnerable in a really great, exciting way.”
Releasing the album in the midst of a pandemic-related quarantine has been less than ideal for Thibodeau, a self-identified extrovert who can’t wait to share her work with as many people as possible. However, she hopes to use more video presentations to combat the isolation inherent in our current cultural moment.
“I’m currently making a visual album,” Thibodeau said. “I’m getting ready to go do some filming right now.” Her hope is to eventually create visuals to accompany Let It Leave in its entirety.
“It’s weird because we’re living in a time where people aren’t out and about and talking to each other,” she said. “I’m usually out at every show I can be at in Richmond, because everyone’s so good, and I love to be around people. And there’s such unity out in town, but our conversations aren’t as frequent. So I’m really wanting to get the word out that I’m doing this visual album, so that people can still consume the album in an exciting different way.”
Top Photo by Joel Arbaje, courtesy Deau Eyes/Lucky Bird Media