Stoner-pop song explores social media envy

The video for “Living the Dream,” by stoner future pop duo James & Evander explores social media envy and our obsession with our phones — and it’s made entirely with stock footage from Dissolve. Its creator, Sean Wells, talks about the video’s origins and themes.

I’ve been a superfan of James & Evander (Adam Myatt and Glenn Jackson, respectively) for years, which eventually turned into a real friendship without me forcing it (too much). We’ve become frequent collaborators on some fun creative endeavors. Adam opened Cat Town, America’s first cat café, which I made a documentary about, and Glenn and I work on a bunch of music and video projects together.

“Living the Dream” is one of my favorite tunes from their album Bummer Pop. It’s the perfect example of “bummer pop,” the genre James and Evander invented for themselves, which mostly involves kinda sad songs over four-on-the-floor kick drums. I hadn’t cut a music video in a few months, so I decided to make this one for Adam’s 30th birthday. I’d used Dissolve footage before and knew the curation generally has a more artistic aesthetic than other sources.

In the video, I touch on a few themes:

  • Social media envy (ever wonder what social media would be like without a like count?).
  • Online dating and “disposable” people — removing scarcity removes value. There’s a seriously gut-wrenching line about this in Swiss Army Man, where Hank says, “Before the internet, every girl was a lot more special.”
  • Not making time for the people who really matter (grandpa!).

The list goes on …

Basically, there’s a balance to be had with these pocket supercomputers, and we each have to take moments to think about what we’re missing while we’re scrolling. The chorus sums it up: “Has it really come to this, staring quietly into a screen, watching other people live? Has it really come to this, spending nights alone, tied to the phone, to make sure we exist?”

I’ve got a weird documentary I’m slowly chipping away at that revolves around automation and its human cost. Just thinking about what huge changes our parents have gone through and knowing that Moore’s Law seems to be working out is going to make for quite a ride in our lives. James, Evander, and I might have to be back in a couple years with the virtual reality take on this song …

Sean Wells is a director, video editor, and colorist. He works on everything from Star Wars, music videos for acts like rapper Lil Dicky, short films, and internet cat videos. See more of Sean’s work.

James & Evander are a synth/stoner pop duo who got their start while attending “an art school of sorts.” Bummer Pop is their first full-length album.