Brooklyn-based band Great Caesar are turning heads across the country after releasing a powerful music video this week.
The video for the band’s newly released equality anthem “Don’t Ask Me Why” is a portrayal of the agonizing struggle of three imagined couples who contend with hatred and abuse from friends and family unsupportive of their interracial or homosexual relationships. Its hopeful ending has inspired thousands of viewers to share the video with friends on social media.
Since premiering on Upworthy at the start of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the music video for “Don’t Ask Me Why” has racked up more than 80,000 views on YouTube in less than 48 hours. Great Caesar trumpet player Tom Sikes tells us the message of the video is that “all people deserve to be able to love who they want to love” — and that message has resonated with heavy-hitting viewers like Russell Simmons, Wyclef Jean and Arsenio Hall, who all shared the video on Twitter as a fitting tribute to King’s legacy.
Sikes says supportive emails and tweets have poured in faster than the band’s six members — all of whom work full-time jobs — can read them. Sikes and his band have built a modest following playing a unique brand of jazz-inspired rock to audiences at venues like Webster Hall, Mercury Lounge and the Knitting Factory in recent years, and they’re not used to all of the newfound attention.
“I was blown away seeing names like that popping up on our Twitter feed,” says Sikes. “Equally exciting, though, are the thoughtful responses to the video from non-celebrities and complete strangers I’ve seen on everything from YouTube comment boards to Facebook conversations.”
Though the video seemed to blow up on social media out of nowhere, the band’s approach to “Don’t Ask Me Why” took plenty of careful planning.
The members of Great Caesar have been perfecting the song since singer/guitarist John-Michael Parker penned the lyrics more than a year ago, and the idea to create a music video with a powerful message emerged early last year.
Next, the band mounted a crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter over the summer. Sikes says it took “thousands of phone calls and emails to friends, family, celebrities, athletes, policymakers — essentially anyone who would listen” before the band blew through its fundraising goal of $35,000, raising more than $50,000 from more than 600 supporters.
What started as a song and the dream of “fighting homophobia through storytelling” has evolved into a video that has been covered by the likes of MTV and national LGBT magazine The Advocate. Sikes says, “It’s surreal. So far the response has been overwhelmingly positive across the board, and we are beyond excited.”
In addition to releasing “Don’t Ask Me Why” this week, the band just finished recording a four-song EP, and they’re likely to wrap up a full-length album later this year. Great Caesar’s next live performance will be at Glasslands in Williamsburg on Feb. 18.
Follow Aaron Flack on Twitter: @_aaronflack