Local music fans are quite familiar with Allies. The group, formerly known as Sunday Funeral, has been polarizing local audiences for more than 14 years—making it one of the valley’s longest-running groups—and leader Justin Ledesma has established his group as more than just a band, experimenting with various forms of visual arts.
The band has returned to the spotlight with another impressive combination of music and visual media. Allies’ brand new single, “Love Me, Then Die!” is a head-banging track with lyrics that describe a tumultuous relationship. The band went out and created a five-minute-long music video for the song—and then fleshed that out into a short film.
The band is planning a premiere party for that film at Plan B Live Entertainment and Cocktails in Thousand Palms on Friday, May 21.
“I made the song, and it was kind of for one specific person,” Ledesma said. “The bassist, Andrea (Taboada), and I were talking, and she came up with the idea of ‘love me then die.’ We were just joking and bitching about significant others and that sort of thing, and she said we should write a song called ‘Love Me, Then Die!’ so we did that. I thought it was a really good idea, so I just ran with it—but she was just joking. I don’t exactly remember how we got to that point of making it into a film noir sort of thing, but COVID hit, and I was just looking for some kind of project to do.”
This is far from Ledesma’s first foray into the world of multimedia.
“I made a short, 45-minute film around 2010 to 2012 when we were Sunday Funeral,” Ledesma said. “When I got into this valley, I wanted to make a movie. I thought that’d be kind of a neat way to get some different kind of publicity. It was about a two-year project, and it was my very first film. I’d never done anything like it—so it was pretty darn amateurish.”
Ledesma’s love of creating is apparent. You can find hours of content on his YouTube channel.
“When I was in third- or fourth-grade, I took acting classes,” Ledesma said. “I just really loved TV and movies, and it was kind of a natural progression. … I got it into my head how all the tropes work, and I kind of started making things click. Before I knew it, I started making shows. I do reviews of rock movies on YouTube called Bad Rock Films, and I also made a cartoon a few years ago called Elliot Family Farms.”
Full disclosure: I appear in both the music video and the film, playing the role of “Murder Victim.” (Blink, and you’ll miss me.) Ledesma got help from talented people across the valley—and beyond.
“There are a lot of friends (in the movie), but obviously the band was going to be the main attraction,” said Ledesma. “We’re trying to get people to notice us a little bit. There’s a lot of friends of friends, and some of the major parts, like the part of ‘Ghost Fiancée,’ was outsourced. We found her up toward Joshua Tree, and we shot part of her scenes in Pioneertown. We also had some shots from an earlier music video, and we ended up reusing that footage. My friend Courtney—she was in my original amateur 45-minute movie, and she was one of the first people I started working with when I came out here—played the part of the murderer. It was kind of filling out friends who I know could be fun and act, and then when I needed to, I kind of looked on Craigslist and stuff like that.”
One of the things I appreciated was Ledesma’s accommodation of the fact that, well, I didn’t want to leave the house to be a part of the video; COVID-19 was running amok, after all. Instead, he allowed me to send in a few pictures, making my effort very COVID-cautious. Ledesma said most of the scenes were filmed with minimal contact.
“It was fairly easy, because a lot of it was filmed at home,” Ledesma said. “I got a lot of location shots; all I had to do was drive there. It’s set in Los Angeles in 1947, so I got a lot of location shots in Los Angeles, near City Hall and down in the river valley. (The film) kind of revolves around the Sixth Street Viaduct before they made the new one. It’s kind of neat. I have it all plotted out on a little map where the fictitious club is, and it was sort of serendipitous how everything ended up being close. Things ended up just clicking.”
Ledesma has set his sights high for this project; he has even submitted it to some film festivals.
“People have been telling me for a while that I should do it, but I never quite got around to it,” Ledesma said. “I’m no James Cameron or anything, but I’m pretty proud of this work, and it’s something that I actually want to present to give it a shot.”
Ledesma and the rest of Allies are planning for a great premiere night—and are looking forward to their next project.
“For the event, I’m going to provide popcorn and sandwiches,” Ledesma said. “There’s free food, and people get to come out and enjoy the movie. It’s like 17 minutes, so we may play it two times, depending on how things work out. I’ll also put it on our website. Right now, there’s the ‘making of’ video, and the music video is on there under ‘Short Films.’ Once we’ve either gotten into film festivals—or haven’t—I’ll release it on YouTube.
“From the beginning, I meant to make it a movie. By the time we finished the music video, it was for sure going to be a movie, so we shot about five or six more scenes just to explain a little bit more. It was so much fun to make—and I can’t wait to make another.”
The premiere party for Love Me, Then Die! will take place at 8 p.m., this Friday, May 21, at Plan B Live Entertainment and Cocktails, 32025 Monterey Ave., in Thousand Palms. For more information, visit alliesmusic.com.