The long strange trip of coronavirus sequestration just got a little stranger and a lot more fun with the appearance of Dropping Out with Bing Crawley, Brad Nack’s YouTube series about a surf legend whose notoriety somehow goes hand in hand with his nonexistence.
Thanks to the enforced time at home over the last two months, Nack, best known as a prolific painter of reindeer, has begun releasing decades’ worth of footage from an abandoned surf music documentary. The beguiling and idiosyncratic result premiered its first episode during the United by Art online music festival in April, and has since grown to five episodes, with no end in sight.
The project originated in an afterthought. At the end of many long interviews with various experts on surf music, Nack would casually ask the current subject to improvise a few lines about Bing Crawley, a fictional character. Perhaps it was the atmosphere created by exploring the overlap between surfing and music, or maybe it was just something in the air, but time and again, people took the Bing Crawley prompt and ran with it. Amidst more than 100 hours of relatively serious conversations about the styles of guitar rock associated with surfing, first dozens, and then hundreds, of minutes of random tall tales about Bing accumulated.
When COVID gave Nack time to digitize and edit this extensive archive, his original intention to make a surf music documentary hit the cutting-room floor. Instead, these supposed throwaways about the apocryphal Bing Crawley blossomed into something open-ended and absorbing — a DIY Spinal Tap filtered through a visual artist’s experimental sensibility. Wall-to-wall original soundtrack music by Rob Taylor of the band Cat OK added the requisite final touch before the clips started going live.
Rough, lyrical, and decidedly nonlinear, Dropping Out reveals a side of Southern California surf culture that’s subversively funny, unforced, and unpretentious. Follow it as it unfolds week by week on Nack’s YouTube channel.
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