Two members of Chicago hardcore band Daybreaker, guitarist Alex Petrov and singer-guitarist Cameron Wentworth, are headed to Hollywood Spirits, at the intersection of Hollywood, Ridge, and Wayne in Edgewater. They need to talk to the owner about using his store’s stocked coolers and shelves of craft beer as a backdrop for their next video–and they’re expecting director Alex Zarek and the band’s other two members to meet them for the shoot in less than an hour.
Posted on the door is a small sign handwritten in black Sharpie on a scrap of torn green paper: the owner will be back in 30 minutes, it says, but there’s no way to tell when it was written.
Petrov and Wentworth aren’t fazed. Petrov lives around the corner, and he’s used to the sporadic hours at Hollywood Spirits–the owner regularly closes up shop when he decides to make some extra money doing Uber Eats deliveries. The two of them head back down the street to meet drummer Garrett Ramage and bassist Jason Perez, and they all sit down with Zarek over a spread of Dunkin’ Donuts Munchkins and coffee.
Petrov, 21, formed Daybreaker in October 2018–they played their first show in January 2019–but he’s wanted to be in a band with Daybreaker’s melodic grunge sound since he was a teenager. Back then, though, he didn’t have the support and connections to get off the ground.
“I always wanted to start an alternative grunge band, after seeing Superheaven play live for the first time when I was 13,” says Petrov. “I tried to start a band–I played one show, but it didn’t really work out. When you’re 14, you don’t really know any other bands to play shows with.”
Over the next six years, Petrov would play in several other bands–since summer 2016 he’s been in Decay with Perez and Wentworth, for instance. But it wasn’t till late 2018 that he decided to make another committed attempt at a melodic hybrid of grunge and hardcore.
Daybreaker began with Petrov on guitar and Wentworth on drums and vocals, and over the course of about seven months they recorded early demos with a couple different bassists and second guitarists. The constant personnel changes slowed the band down, though, so it was a huge relief when they solidified a lineup with Wentworth switching to guitar and vocals, Ramage on drums, and Perez on bass.
Daybreaker moved fast after that. They spent summer 2019 playing every backyard DIY gig they could book, and in October they released their five-song debut EP, Fall. For their release show, they sold out the downstairs venue at Subterranean.
Petrov is definitely happy not to be reliving the frustrations of his 14-year-old self. “We came into the scene at a very good time in Chicago. It’s very rare to have a show in a backyard where 150 people come out. And it’s not a one-time thing–it’s almost weekly where shows like that happen,” he says. “It was definitely a lot easier this time, but it still wasn’t as easy as one would think. No one wants to book the new band–that’s how it is. But fortunately, we had friends that supported us from the start who were in other bands. It felt like starting over again.”
“But that’s what we were doing,” interrupts Wentworth, referring to Daybreaker’s rebirth with its current lineup.
Petrov continues: “It was a good feeling because it was more hopeful–it was a fresh start, and we could do whatever we wanted with it.”
As part of that fresh start, Daybreaker have teamed up with Chicago-based videographer and director Zarek to create two music videos for songs from Fall. The band learned about Zarek after they were booked to play a show at Live Wire Lounge with Pennsylvania underground group the Standby in May 2019. Hoping to learn more about the Standby, Petrov looked them up and found a series of videos that Zarek had created for them.
“They were really good,” said Petrov. “It actually made me think that they were famous and professional because of their videos.”
Zarek’s first Daybreaker video, for the EP’s title track, was released in December 2019 and modifies live performance footage with glitchy postproduction effects. The second, a more ambitious clip for “Porn and Fame,” came out the morning of Valentine’s Day.
Once Petrov and Wentworth leave Hollywood Spirits and meet Zarek, Perez, and Ramage, they gather around Petrov’s kitchen table, surrounded by unopened cases of Lagunitas beer and small chests filled with Dungeons & Dragons dice. The band are explaining to Zarek the idea they have in mind for “Porn and Fame”–a narrative that Perez and Wentworth have been referring to as a “Weekend at Bernie’s storyline.”
Despite the video’s comic premise, “Porn and Fame” isn’t a lighthearted song. Wentworth, the band’s main lyricist, says it addresses a real problem that many young people face–when partying with friends crosses the line into substance abuse. “You’re feeling numb and out of touch,” he sings. “You try so hard to give it up.”
In keeping with that tone, the hard-driving music doesn’t sound like party punk. It’s thoughtful and even morose, which conditions the way the video’s profusion of cheap beer and goofy antics comes across. The whole thing can even be read as a subtle subversion of the time-honored “dirtbag fuckup band dudes” subgenre.
That said, Daybreaker’s brainstorming session is hardly serious. They want somebody to pretend to be passed out the whole time–to be the “Bernie” of the video–and they decide it’d be funny to pick Ramage, the only member not big into partying. He’ll be fake-unconscious on the couch while Wentworth pours himself a bowl of “beereal”–that is, Boo Berry cereal with Miller High Life instead of milk. Perez is excited about shooting dice in the alley after the band finish the scene in Hollywood Spirits. Did Petrov ever talk to the owner? Someone needs to check on that. Zarek wants to know if there will be any skateboarding in the video, because, well, it seems like there should be a skateboard.
“You don’t have to overthink a lot of this stuff, and that’s a misconception for a lot of people,” Zarek says. “You don’t script out or block out a music video in the same way you would with a show or a short or a documentary. You can be so creative and so random with music videos, because all it is is a three-and-a-half-minute visual supplement to something that already exists.”
The filming process is mostly silly and fun, and all of it takes place on Petrov’s block, between Bryn Mawr and Hollywood on Wayne. While Wentworth chokes down his beereal, the rest of Daybreaker watch from behind the scenes, pretending to gag and muffling their laughter. When Wentworth and Petrov carry Ramage down the front steps and into the windy 16-degree weather, Ramage stifles a grin and tries to control his shivering–he’s still supposed to be passed out.
“One of the shots was us shooting dice in an alley, and for continuity’s sake we couldn’t put a jacket on Garrett,” says Wentworth, laughing. “So we had to sit him down in this alley in 16-degree weather and have him stay completely still for every shot.”
The laughter and horsing around behind the scenes aren’t reflected on the screen, though. The way the video is edited, three guys are simply going about a mundane day–they eventually meet in the alley to have a few beers and shoot dice–but they have to drag around their passed-out friend the whole time. Nobody ever remarks on this or treats it as odd. Even the gross-out jokes (the beereal sequence, a shot where Petrov brushes his teeth with Fireball) are played straight, as though these are totally ordinary things to be doing.
That leaves the “Porn and Fame” video as something of an open question: Is it supposed to be funny? It’s certainly not much of a party video. Sometimes it seems to be commenting instead on how laughing off red flags and dysfunctional behaviors serves to normalize them–which is one way substance abuse goes undetected, even in tight friend groups.
“The lyrics for ‘Porn and Fame’ do have quite a bit about partying too hard, dabbling in things you probably shouldn’t. Flying too close to the sun with substance abuse,” says Wentworth. “Singing about something as serious as substance abuse, you have to do it respectfully, but . . . I don’t think we should have gone in on this very serious storyboarding. Not to make fun of people who suffer from substance use–like myself–but you have to take everything in life with a grain of salt. You can’t take yourself too seriously.”
Daybreaker hope their fans will be able to see that they’re more involved and more passionate about the “Porn and Fame” video than they were for “Fall,” where they deferred more to Zarek due to their own inexperience. The band are split on how they think viewers will interpret the new clip, but they all agree that their goal was never to solicit a specific reaction–they hope each fan will make a unique connection.
“I’m a really big believer that art is subjective to the person,” says Wentworth. “So however the fuck you want to receive [the video] is how you should receive it, and I don’t think we as artists should tell you how to receive our art. I think it’s entirely a personal thing.”
The “Porn and Fame” video is live on Daybreaker’s Facebook page via YouTube. The band’s next live show is at a DIY space on Saturday, April 18, with Natural State, Mannequins, the Kreutzer Sonata, Lower Automation, and Sawbuck. If you want the address, as the old saying goes, “Ask a punk.” v