(Photo: Caris Reid)

Alan Del Rio Ortiz painted by Caris Reid.

What do Florence and the Machine, St. Vincent, Smith Westerns, Drowners, and Spector have in common? Alan Del Rio Ortiz has directed videos for all of them. (Also, they are all insanely talented.)

You probably saw the clip of Solange performing at a laundromat near Barclays Center earlier this week. Yep, Del Rio Ortiz shot that one too. While the 30-year-old filmmaker specializes in music videos, his portfolio also includes live concerts, tour videos, a documentary special on Blood Orange, and several short film collaborations with Slutever’s Karley Sciortino. He’s spending his summer shooting a series of live performances (including the Solange one) as part of the Uncapped series for Vitaminwater/The Fader.

Bedford + Bowery met up with the director at St. Mazie, a short walk from his Williamsburg apartment, to find out what it’s like hanging out with David Byrne and getting caught up in the Florence machine.

BB_QWhat video was the most fun for you to make?

BB_AProbably the Blood Orange “Dinner” video. I was new to New York and didn’t really know Dev [Hynes] or any of his friends that well. It involved a lot of figuring things out on the fly and trying to make it work with the things we had available to us. Everyone just got along really well, and Dev and I became really good friends afterwards.

BB_QHow did you land that video?

BB_AI met Dev through friends in Brooklyn. I had seen him play once and kept bugging him: “You know, I do videos. I’d love to do a video for you sometime.” He didn’t commit to anything, but was always very nice, like, “Yeah, sure.” Then, one day out of the blue, he called me and was like, “I need a video done and I need it in a week.” [Laughs.]

BB_QDo you prefer people coming to you with a specific idea or you having complete creative control?

BB_AIt depends. I like when people know what they want to a certain extent. It’s a little difficult if you have this idea and they end up being disappointed. When they have an idea of what they want, and trust you and let it go, then it’s good because you have a direction and you’re free to do what you want within a certain vision. I find working within perimeters to be the most exciting.

BB_QWhat’s the weirdest thing you’ve been asked to shoot?

BB_AThe videos I’ve done with Karley, the Slutever videos, would probably be the “weirdest.” I personally don’t find them to be strange, but they are unconventional and some people might find them to be a little pornographic.

BB_QIs there someone who you really want to make a video for?

BB_AThere are a few: the bigger hip-hop acts like Jay-Z and Kanye are obviously incredible; Chairlift; Julia Holter; and Kindness.

BB_QI saw a series of tour videos you did for St. Vincent. What was that tour like?

BB_AI’ve done a few series of videos for her, for different tours. The first round was probably a month or so long.

BB_QThat’s a long time to tour with someone.

BB_AThat is a long time to tour with someone, but it was great. This was when her second record came out, and she didn’t tell anyone in the band I was coming until the day I was there. I didn’t know them at all and had to introduce myself and be like, “Yeah, I’m going to be sticking a camera in your face for the next month, hope that’s cool!” [Laughs.] Then I did either two or three weeks on the Strange Mercy tour and made another series of ten videos. Then I went on the road with her and David Byrne for a week, but I didn’t shoot anything — I was just a tourist.

BB_QWoah, David Byrne. What’s he like in real life?

BB_AHe’s so sweet and charming and goofy; it was so refreshing. One of the reasons I got into this field is that I wanted to be around people who I really respected and admired, and I feel like I’ve achieved that to some degree. [Annie and David] are so nice, so strange and artistic, and have such crazy ideas. Being a fly on that wall and listening to them talk about art, and about life and music, was really inspiring.

BB_QYou also toured with Florence and the Machine. How was that?

BB_A I’ve never been on a tour of that scale before. I’d been on indie tours, and the David Byrne tour was obviously a bigger thing, but the Florence tour was really enormous. Hollywood Bowl sold out — two nights. We flew into Mexico City and there were fans waiting, crying. Literally weeping in tears. I knew she was big, obviously she’s completely ubiquitous, but I had no idea what that was like until I was in the middle of the storm: interviews, videos, TV spots, commercials, singing and rehearsals. It was just crazy. It was so fun! I’m really glad I did it, but I would never want to do that for living.


BB_ABeing on the road is a really difficult life and I don’t wish that on anyone. I like having done it, and I want to do it every now and then, but I don’t know if I would want to do that nine months out of the year like these people do. A month is perfect. The first week is me getting used to everybody and them getting to know me, so it’s kind of a freebie. Then you’re really getting into it, and working, and having a good time. After about week four, you’re really starting to get on each other’s nerves, so you have to keep that balance. By the end of it, my brain is so shot that I’ll be like, “The drummer’s eating a slice of pizza, is he mad at me?” [Laughs.] He’s not, and everything’s fine, but your head starts to give out.

BB_QHow was working with Earl Sweatshirt?

BB_AReally fun. That guy is so wild.

BB_QHow so?

BB_AHe’s such a figure. He was a myth for while, so it’s just so crazy to see him coming back and really doing it. He is so good. All the stuff he does is really silly, and it’s fun, and it’s weird. I really like watching him. I got to shoot the Odd Future show when Earl Sweatshirt came back for the first time, and the crowd went fucking wild. They’re such a force. Kids were jumping off the balcony.