WATCH: 'Don't Ask Me Why' We Support Equality for All
BY Sunnivie Brydum
January 17 2014 8:11 PM ET
The men of Great Caesar like to talk about intersections. Intersections between race and sexuality, between Dr. Martin Luther King's dream and today's ongoing fight for true, full equality, and intersections between art, music, and activism.
So it's fitting that the six-piece, brass-fueled chamber-rock band from Brooklyn is debuting a powerful new music video and short film — crowdfunded by more than 600 contributors to the the band's Kickstarter campaign — on the national holiday meant to celebrate and remember the legacy of Dr. King. The music video is directed by Alex K. Colby.
The Advocate spoke with the band's front man, John-Michael Parker, about the video for "Don't Ask Me Why," the arguable risk involved in a group of white men filming a video that draws parallels between the civil rights movement and the fight for LGBT equality, and, for the first time in public, Parker's sexual orientation.
Parker, who describes himself as "not straight," also heads up the Future Project, an emerging social enterprise that empowers young people to chase their dreams and passions through projects that change the world. Together with Adam Glaser on bass, Mike Farrell on guitar, Stephen Chen on saxophone, and Tom Sikes on trumpet, Great Caesar looks to set a powerful example to people the world over to follow their dreams, and to make tomorrow's reality better than today's history.
Read on for the exclusive interview, and watch the moving music video below.
The Advocate: What inspired you to record the song and have the video address topics that are so often considered controversial?
John-Michael Parker: We wrote this song, "Don’t Ask Me Why," long before we had even the first idea of all that would come from it. The inspiration for the song was actually my time spent with New York City high school students through the Future Project, an education initiative I helped launch after college. Our big idea is that all young people need the opportunity to pursue their passions and explore their purpose so that they can put their dreams in action — whatever they might be. So as I was really exploring this idea of dreaming and the typical notion folks have of either the pie-in-the-sky idealist dreamer, or the practical nose-to-the-grindstone doer, I thought I’d start writing a song with these two characters and let it play out through a story. And so "Don’t Ask Me Why" came out, and it started to become an anthem among our friends and fans for dreaming, for taking bold risks and living a life that matters.
After playing the song a few times, we started to see just how powerfully folks connected with the emotions and the inspiration of the song, and so we started to think about a music video that could use the song to actually do something and make some change in the world. And that’s when our best friend — and director — Alex Colby came up with the brilliant concept behind the video. The night he shared it with us, we immediately knew we had to make it a reality. At one level, we all connect with the story and these "controversial topics" differently, whether as a result of experiences with our own identities — sexual, racial, and otherwise — or the experiences of the people we love.
At a deeper level, however, we share the belief that all people deserve the opportunity to live happy, healthy, and self-expressed lives, that people should be able to love who they want to love, regardless of any label they or society place on that love, and that we don’t yet live in such a world. So, as artists and changemakers, we considered the tools we had at our disposal — namely, the ability to create an emotional experience that could inspire folks to think and maybe even act differently — and so we set out to make a music video that would let people experience love and equality so that they might in turn spread that in the world.