Music

Family Video Goes Darkwave Dance on ‘Problem With My Heart’

New video features an AI-generated ensemble of soulless tech careerists

Family Video (Photo by Graham Morrison)

“If late-stage capitalism was a dance party, we’d be soundtracking it.” 

That’s how Family Video frontman Josh Shabtai describes the industrial/post-punk turn of his band — which has expanded to a seven-piece since the last time we talked — with the release of Family Video’s newest single, “Problem With My Heart.” 

Fusing dark synths, gnarly guitars, New Order drum machines and saxophones into the backdrop of a narrative about a tech billionaire trying and failing to out-tech his own mortality, “Problem With My Heart” is a darkwave anthem with a disturbing message you can dance to. 

“I feel like I can’t go an hour without reading some horrifying thing about an entitled tech billionaire doing something insane with humanity’s ‘interests at heart,’” explained Shabtai. “I thought it would be interesting to write a dance anthem from the perspective of one of those guys, staring down the end of life, attempting to destroy the natural order to hang on for just a little while longer.” 

The track starts with a punchy drum line and alluring synth, quickly interrupted by an in-your-face bassline and twinkling chimes. We’re met with lyrics depicting the billionaire grappling with death. 

Face it, daddy’s favorite/ You’re on your way out/ I can’t complain, I got no reason/ I’m family made/ My body’s gone, my mind’s receding, but my wallet’s safe…” 

But as the saying goes, you can’t take it with you when you die, which is a lesson the 1% might have forgotten. 

The billionaire goes on to say he can buy himself more time: “The problem with my heart’s the beating/ there’s another way…” 

Sound familiar? Our billionaire isn’t going down without a fight, though. 

God don’t pardon me/ I’m tearing out the heart of your masterpiece/ I’m climbing up the walls of your grand estate/ I’m burning all you got and I’m never leaving…

Family Video performs.
Family Video performs. (Photo by Graham Morrison)

As the song progresses, the sweet synth and drum’s synthetic heartbeat coupled with Shabta’s echoing vocals lift the song to its climax. 

I’m turning into something else/ I’m turning into something pure/ I’m turning into something real/ I’m feeling every heartbeat, yeah…” 

And that’s when the heavy basslines and thumping drums slam the listener right back down to Earth. Talk about a reality check. We’re left alone with an uncomfortable 10 seconds of eerie synth that slowly fades out, alluding to the fate we are all destined to meet one day. 

The Family visuals

In planning the video for the track, Shabtai and director Garrett Ballard thought, what better way to express this struggle in visual form than to turn to the tech at the heart of the problem: artificial intelligence? 

In the video, the song — recorded without the help of AI, to be clear — is performed by a series of white-collar tech workers calmly reciting the lyrics about the subject’s ill-fated attempt to cheat death, and if this chorus of corporate careerists looks especially soulless, that’s because they are. They are not human, in fact, but synthetic, AI-generated humans. 

“We thought that a song sung from the POV of an amoral tech entrepreneur trying to upset the natural order deserved a video that uses the very technology he’d cheerlead, and we’re happy (and utterly horrified) by the end result,” Shabtai said of the video. 

He and Ballard agreed on HeyGen, a program that focuses on selling AI-generated people for sales and training videos to companies, as the right platform to create the dead-behind-the-eyes ensemble.  

“The tech is evolving really quickly,” Shabtai told Queen City Nerve. “I was stunned to discover that in literally only 10 minutes, you can create a highly lifelike avatar of yourself, with a fairly accurate version of your voice, using only two minutes of video shot on a phone. It’s wild and scary, and it’s only going to get better.” 

Since new uses for artificial intelligence have emerged over the last two years, debate has followed over the ethics of implementing the technology in creative fields, as IndieWire explored in a recent article about the use of AI in the film Late Night with the Devil. 

Family Video (Photo by Graham Morrison)

The “Problem With My Heart” video is an ironic exploration of that debate, implementing tech to tell a tech-critical tale. 

“I find myself quite worried by the very real job displacement, both in creative and non-creative fields, that generative AI is likely to have,” said Shabtai. “There’s already a pronounced wealth gap being accelerated by technology platforms, and, unchecked, generative AI can very likely accelerate that further.” 

Though AI poses challenges and very real threats to the workforce and the definition of art itself, Shabtai believes it might not be all bad. 

Josh Shabtai lies on the floor singing into the mic with Family Video performs.
Family Video performs. (Photo by Graham Morrison)

“These are profoundly powerful tools that can unlock new forms of creativity,” he said. “Every new creative technology comes with its critics; look at painters reacting to photography or rock purists to turntablism. 

“But as each technology matures, so too do the artists who learn how to bend and break its unique qualities and limitations to create something new. Using AI to recompile and imitate what’s been done before is the current bar, but what happens as we learn to manipulate it in new ways?”

Family Video expands and looks forward 

Beginning with just Shabtai, a computer and a few guitars, Family Video has expanded over time, most recently adding sax player Brain Bethea, and synth extraordinaire David Frick on the keytar to the mix.

The songwriting has also grown from a one-person show to a collaborative effort, as “Problem With My Heart” is the band’s first single written through a collaborative effort among all members. 

The band plans to release its new EP, Colors, over the summer, calling it their “most ambitious batch of apocalyptic dance rock yet.”

In the meantime, catch Family Video — the real band, not AI avatars — performing with IAMDYNAMITE at the Evening Muse on April 19. “Problem With My Heart” will be followed by a series of other releases leading up to the band’s next EP, Colors, dropping later this summer. 


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