On many a night since late September, while the rest of us have been snoozing and snoring away, painter J.J. Horner and the other local artists and skaters behind Pyramid Country have been hitting the streets of the Valley with their boards and cameras in hand.
The result is The Phoenix Lights, a 16-minute-long video that serves as the latest project by the skating crew/art collective and clothing brand. It debuts tonight at the Hacienda Trading Company in Tempe and chronicles approximately four months of skateboarding feats throughout the Valley, all of which were shot at night.
See also: Pyramid Country Presents Phoenix Skate/Art Video Couchlock Odyssey
"We've been pretty much going out while everybody sleeps for the last four months and filmed," Horner says. "It's kind of just all of our dudes who are on the Pyramid Country skateboarding team and then some friends and people who also skate with us, essentially. But the whole kinda concept behind the video is that it's all night footage. That sort of makes it unique but it's pretty good."
Local filmmakers and Pyramid Country members Jackson Casey and Bobby Green shot grinds, flips, and other skating tricks taking place around the downtown areas of Phoenix, Tempe, and Scottsdale, as well as in parts of Mesa and Chandler.
"It's mainly our dudes that are on the [Pyramid Country] team and then a couple of friends that are on other clothing brands that skate with us," Horner says. "We got four months of going out to spots that the guys want to skate at and they skated for around four hours at a time to essentially get 30 seconds of footage."
Casey and Green also collaborated with Horner on creating more bizarre and trippy-looking footage since The Phoenix Lights -- much like Pyramid Country's previous videos Couchlock Odyssey and Who is the Observer? -- is a blend of skateboarding action with artsy stylized clips.
Horner's paintings and papier mâché objects are mixed with green-screened and chroma-keyed effects to give Pyramid Country's videos an ethereal and almost otherworldly feel.
"It's really a collaborative effort with [Jackson] and I. We'll talk about a lot of stuff and then I'll build some stuff and he'll interpret it in his own way," Horner says. "So I always have a bunch of new 3-D art in there. I build like papier mâché sculptures and things, and then we green screen them and key out the background color."
Pyramid Country's videos also star Exeter, a ghostly figure who has a star tetrahedron for a head that functions as the group's icon of sorts and represents how it's a "collective of consciousness brought together by like energy from different universes."
Horner says that Exeter's noggin represents a few different things.
"It's like a sacred geometry shape and it's also known as a merkabah, which is essentially an astral projection vessel," he says.
Needless to say, both Exeter and other artier aspects of Pyramid Country helps give the collective a certain uniqueness from other skateboard crews. It's also helped get their videos some love from skating publications like Thrasher, which praised the collective and spotlighted Who is the Observer?on its site back in September.
"It was really cool that Thrasher, the bible of skateboarding, featured some of Pyramid Country's videos," Horner says. "That went really well and we got a lot of good feedback."
Horner is hoping that The Phoenix Lights gets a similar response during the premier screening tonight, which will also feature many of his various art pieces created for Pyramid Country. (Local artists like Colton Brock and Jason Guthrie will also display their works.)
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"It will be fun to see how it's all received," he says. "It's just overall Phoenix love, which, in my opinion, the greatest part about the project."
Pyramid Country's premiere of The Phoenix Lights takes place at 8 p.m. on Friday at Hacienda Trading Co. in Tempe. Admission is free.