As music scene members across the country use their platforms to stress the importance of voting, one hyperlocal act is hoping to create waves of their own with a public service announcement video.
Fishtown-based husband and wife rock band Instant Smile recently released the video “Instant Smile Votes 2020” on their website.
Set to the couple’s 2016 song, “Gettin’ Out,” the video follows guitarist Greg Phoenix and drummer Erin Berry on their walk to the local post office to drop off their mail-in ballots.
Along the way, there are quick cuts to images the couple came across during walks through the River Wards during quarantine.
“The slow nature of walking lets you see so many little things you’d otherwise miss, zipping by in a car or on a bike,” Berry said. “The scenes that made it into the video – some of them are moving, like the black lives matter signs everywhere, or the signs supporting teachers, or sanitation workers. Some of them are funny, like that Cinnamon Toast Crunch car. Some of them are just beautiful, like the fall displays of pumpkins and mums on stoops everywhere. … It’s a rich landscape full of eye-candy in these neighborhoods, if you walk slowly and keep your eyes open to it.”
While not an overtly political band, 2020 was a troubling year for the duo, according to Berry.
“We’ve been very troubled by a whole host of issues over the past few years, both political and social. This year was truly a breaking point for this country, and for us, too. Between the psychological effects of the pandemic and some serious personal health issues (and ensuing recovery), we had trouble just picking up our instruments, let alone writing new songs,” she said.
And, while Instant Smile may have had some trouble finding motivation to make music, they still felt a call to action.
“The real impetus for making the video was concern over people saying they weren’t going to vote – friends who said they couldn’t bear to vote for ‘the lesser of two evils.’ … We still believe our votes count, and we wanted to remind everyone how fortunate we are to live in a country where we have that ability to cast a vote,” Berry said.
Encouraging the public to exercise their right to vote is the central message, but the post office’s cameo appearance was no coincidence.
“The U.S. Postal Service is an invaluable resource to all of us. It’s affordable, it’s accessible, and it’s reliable. … The USPS budget woes needed to be addressed, but the fact that Trump appointed a new PG whose cost-cutting measures resulted in a chaotic slowdown of deliveries in an election year seems extremely suspect,” Berry said.
“In addition to that, people that rely on delivery of medications or paychecks are being victimized by these measures. And then there’s folks like Greg and me – musicians who ship their records or merchandise. Musicians aren’t making money touring right now; selling merch is one of the few ways to keep money coming in, and the USPS is the most affordable way to ship goods to their fans.”
Mail-in voting aside, Instant Smile hopes their video appeals to people who may have lost faith in the voting process.
“We just want people to go out and vote. … But it’s the people who think it’s all fixed, or buy into that whole refusing to vote for “the lesser of two evils” thing – that’s who we made the video for. At one point in the video I say if you give up on the process, they’ve got ya. We really believe that. Don’t give up on the process,” Berry said. “Don’t be complacent now, and by all means, don’t be complacent after the election. This is a lesson I’ve learned – the years of voting and forgetting about it are over. Citizens have to hold their elected officials accountable; let’s not forget they work for us.”
To view “Instant Smile Votes 2020,” visit https://instantsmileband.com/video.