What makes a band walk away from everything while still at the top of its game?
"That's the thing that interested us about the story, it's kind of the opposite of what a band usually does," says Dylan Southern, co-director with Will Lovelace of Shut Up and Play The Hits.
The forthcoming documentary follows indie-dance icon James Murphy and his decision to disband LCD Soundsystem at the very pinnacle of the group's career. The film also captures LCD's final, sold-out concert at Madison Square Garden, and the strange, quiet aftermath.
When they began thinking about Shut Up and Play the Hits, Southern and Lovelace had just finished another music doc, No Distance Left To Run, about the band Blur, and they wanted to start a more personal project. Being fans of LCD's work, they approached lead singer Murphy directly.
"James isn't a huge rock star figure. He just seems like you could sit down and talk with him," Southern says. "I think the music operates on two levels as well. You can dance to it, but there's something else there too. I think that's what appealed to us about making the film about the band. I guess that's what appeals about them in general."
Soon after sitting down with Murphy, the final LCD Soundsystem show at Madison Square Garden was announced. And immediately, the directors found the narrative focus of their film.
But Shut Up and Play the Hits is more than just a concert flick, exploring Murphy's desire to leave a lasting legacy, free from the downward spiral of irrelevancy that usually characterizes the end of a band. "I think James always saw the band as a finite thing," Southern explains.
But such a huge decision still left Murphy feeling vulnerable. "It's all bitter-sweet ending a band," he says. "In the conversation that he's having throughout the film, there is a sense of doubt about whether it's the right decision. And James, once he's made his decision, he sees it through."
But to really understand the LCD bandleader's motivations, the filmmakers needed help. So they contacted legendary music journalist Chuck Klosterman to "get inside James' head."
"We basically just put those two together a week before the show, and it was an amazing conversation," Southern nods. "It kind of acts as the spine of the film."
Filming the four-hour final performance was the most difficult part. Instead of focusing on the instruments, they wanted to capture the energy, sadness, and elation coursing through the crowd and musicians. It was a surreal arena-sized dance party, because it was also like a funeral. The directors thought the juxtaposition of the day after's banal reality would best illustrate the point.
"The event was amazing. The atmosphere was incredible," Southern says. "And then just to see more mundane, more kind of patient scenes, where James is just waking up and taking the dog out ... It seemed like a really good concept."
"James, the next day, when he goes and visits the storage room," Lovelace adds, "he broke down and that was a thing that we hadn't expected. That was sort of an amazing moment."
In the end, Shut Up and Play the Hits attempts to be more than just the last stand of a band beloved by thousands. It will be loud and it will make you dance. But it also tries to be as unique as LCD, the band that ended on the perfect note.
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LCD Soundsystem's Shut Up and Play the Hits. Wednesday, July 18. Tower Theater, 1508 SW Eighth St., Miami. Visit oscilloscope.net/lcdtheaters.
All My Friends: LCD Soundsystem Release Party. With Krisp, Beatmachines, The Gun Hoes, The Goddamn' Hustle and Bonnie Riot, plus DJs Ray Milian and Aramis. Saturday, July 21. Grand Central, 697 N. Miami Ave., Miami. The party starts at 10 p.m. and admission is free with RSVP via eventbrite.com. Complimentary cocktails will also be served from 10 p.m. to midnight. Ages 18 and up. Call 305-377-2277 or visit grandcentralmiami.com.