TAKING THE PISS
‘We Are CVNT5’ Is a Bonkers, Must-See EDM Mockumentary
Created by and starring acclaimed British EDM DJ Gareth Emery, the witty new series plays like a cross between ‘This is Spinal Tap’ and ‘We Are Your Friends.’
The subjects of We Are CVNT5, a clever new eight-episode mockumentary taking on the EDM scene, are a British DJ duo named Chad and Brandon who spin under the moniker CVNT5. They play at music festivals in the desert and ritzy Las Vegas nightclubs. Their days include orgies and absurdist music videos and racist tabloid scandals. They can make half a million in one night but are still in crippling debt.
The series, which is available to binge in its entirety on the Verizon site go90, plays like a cross between This is Spinal Tap and that techno Zac Efron vehicle We Are Your Friends. But while the latter was pretty much only enjoyable to laugh at, We Are CVNT5 is full of delicious, witty satire, and feels like a genuine labor of love. The show’s creator, Gareth Emery, is an acclaimed DJ and producer in real life, and he also stars in the series as Brandon Bass, CVNT5’s frontman and the brains behind the operation. Chad (Paul Holowaty) serves as Brandon’s dopey, pretty-boy DJ sidekick, and James (Alex Madden) as their well-meaning but generally incompetent manager.
Emery’s real-life knowledge of the industry imbues the show, directed by Matt Enlow, with a sharp, inside-baseball sense of authenticity. But the jokes are never too specific as to alienate any non-EDM fans. One funny running bit concerns CVNT5’s arch-nemesis group The Sound Therapists, who, as their name suggests, are touchy-feely-crunchy LA caricatures; clad totally in chambray, they spin a self-styled genre called IDM (intelligent dance music). “Sorry we’re late, I nodded off in the sensory deprivation tank,” one of the pair remarks idly when they show up, much to Brandon’s chagrin.
Another memorable scene finds CVNT5 in Romania to shoot with a visionary music video director: a sultry female virtuoso who James claims he’ll be able to seduce within five minutes. Instead, she casts James in the music video as a creepy loser jerking off to photos of the DJs. “I could get you in five minutes,” he says in an interview, breaking the fourth wall to address the fictional documentarian behind the camera. “I’m actually married,” a voice deadpans in reply.
But the best subplot centers on CVNT5’s ambitious and astute social media manager, Zoe (Taylor Misiak). For the first few episodes, Zoe’s chief role is to be the butt of a running joke about the DJs forgetting her name and her role in the group. But she soon grows into a fully-fledged lead, complete with ambitions (to be a badass mogul) and setbacks (a sleazy mentor, a Raya date gone wrong) and weighty, significant choices. She’s the only team member capable of providing real, clear-eyed takes on the men’s antics, and it’s always a welcome moment when the camera turns to interview her. (If Brandon were Michael Scott, Chad were Dwight, and James were Toby, Zoe’s like a combination of Jim and Pam.) Misiak, as Zoe, provides a welcome addition to the team—both as the capable glue helping to hold CVNT5 together, and as the sole female star in a series largely focused on three silly dudes.
The gender imbalance starts to feel a little like the show’s Achilles heel, especially since rampant misogyny in the music industry is alluded to or explicitly depicted in basically every episode. Still, when the story does tackle sexism directly, it’s spot-on. In Las Vegas for a particularly profitable DJ set, the team is forced to tolerate a truly terrible nightclub owner—misogynistic, elitist and all-around vile. (The Sound Therapists may be CVNT5’s rivals, but the Vegas enterpriser is the series’ only real villain.)
“We have morals!” James shouts at him after a blowout between CVNT5 and a filthy-rich club regular. “Morals? What you have is blinders,” the owner scoffs back. “They pay for the right to do whatever the fuck they want to do. That’s how it works in Vegas.” It’s one of the few sobering moments in an almost entirely upbeat series, which makes it feel all the more significant. The nasty club owner’s right: money from pigs like him is the only thing keeping the industry running. This isn’t only how it works in Vegas, it’s how it works throughout the EDM world.
But CVNT5 isn’t like that. Chad may be a vacuous playboy, James an amateurish pushover, and Brandon a vain neurotic, but deep down, they’re all good guys, and as a team, it’s hard not to root for them. Though currently housed in LA mansions, the three men all hail from small towns in Britain, and the utter earnestness that derives from these humble origins—no matter how much they try and hide it—is endearing.
It’s difficult to tell whether they have any actual talent—“Those that can do, do. Those that can’t, blog,” Brandon yells at a roomful of music critics in one scene—but by the end, it hardly matters. We’re not here to moralize. “Have I learned anything from this experience?” Brandon ponders, seemingly sincerely, after a major flub. “No,” he decides. We haven’t either, but a light laugh is more than enough.