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How'd He Do It? Kurt Hugo Schneider On His Latest Music Video for Coke

By:  Jay Moye Apr 2, 2014
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Kurt Hugo Schneider

He’s back.

Kurt Hugo Schneider, the inventive musician and YouTube sensation known for using Coca-Cola bottles, glasses and cans as instruments, has returned to the Internet to delight his fans with another music video for the “AHH Effect” campaign.

In his latest film, a creative cover of "Safe and Sound" by Capital Cities, Schneider is joined by the talented vocal ensemble of Zendaya (of Disney Channel and Dancing with the Stars fame), Max Schneider and Kina Grannis. Multiple edits of the film were created, with each singer taking the lead.


We caught up with Schneider to learn more:

The last time we spoke, you’d just teamed up with Coke for the “Little Talks” and “Feels So Close” videos. When Coke approached you for the 'AHH Effect' campaign, what was your initial reaction?

I’ve always loved making music using little things I find around my apartment -- from spoons to cellphones. It makes me feel like a kid again. Growing up, I was always tinkering and building things. I would make noise using things people never thought could sound good. I drove my mom crazy! So making music with Coke bottles was right up my alley. I was, and still am, really excited to be part of this project.

This is the third video you’ve filmed playing Coca-Cola ‘instruments.’ Is it getting easier?

Recording the music was much easier this time because I’d already experimented with the sounds. That work was done. I was able to take what we’d done last year and reapply it. On the video end, however, every project is different, so you have to take each shoot as it comes.

How do you prepare for shoots like these?

The first steps are creating the arrangement for the song, recording with the singers and getting the audio to sound great. For one-take video shoots like this, I map out in my head and on paper exactly what the camera will focus on at every moment and arrive on set with a little notebook of instructions.

When and where did you shoot ‘Safe and Sound’?

We filmed at the YouTube space in Venice, California, just a few weeks ago. We shot over a three-day period. Right after we finished on the last day we were on set, we went into a post-production room about 100 feet from the stage, turned around a quick edit and sent the videos off that night. It felt great to be able to say, “We made this!”

Had you worked with your ‘Safe and Sound’ collaborators before?

I’ve worked with Kina and Max many times before. But this was my first time working with Zendaya; we met when we recorded the music for the project.

How do you select songs to cover?

I basically pick songs I like. I like songs that are fun and that get inside my head. I usually enjoy listening to them over and over on the radio without getting tired of them. Eventually, I’ll think to myself, “You know what? I can do something with this.” That’s what happened with “Safe and Sound.”

In November, you invited your fans to help you compose the soundtrack for the Coca-Cola Red Carpet LIVE! Digital Pre-Show leading into the American Music Awards (AMAs). What was that experience like?

It was a ton of fun, and an entirely new experience for me. It was different because I didn’t have a final piece of music in mind from the beginning, like I usually do. All the sounds that ended up on the final mix were voted on by fans who said, “I like this melody, or this type of drum sound.” I’m pretty happy with how it turned out. And I’d never been to the AMAs, so that was an awesome time.

What inspired you to upload your first video to YouTube in 2008?

I’d been doing a lot of music production at the time. I was working in a little recording studio in college with some great singers. I saw some things other people had done on YouTube and knew that if I put in the time and effort, I could make some great stuff, too. So Sam (Tsui) and I put out our first video. It was a cover of a popular song from High School Musical 3, which probably says a lot about how far we’ve come.

Are you a musician first and a videographer/director second?

I am, but now videography is just as much a part of what I do. In the beginning, a lot of music on YouTube was very simple, visually. Someone playing guitar in a bedroom, stuff like that. I wanted to step up the visuals, because I felt they were just as important as the music. That was something that helped my YouTube channel grow.

Why do you think your ‘AHH Effect’ videos have been so popular?

I think people like seeing things done in new, different ways. They want to see things they haven’t seen before. Watching us make music with Coke bottles and cans is really interesting to a lot of people. When people think of a traditional commercial, they might think of someone simply sitting there drinking a Coke. And that’s not very interesting. These videos are really interesting, so people want to watch them. Some people have even tried to recreate them with friends. And that’s really cool to me, because it’s not easy… it takes a lot of planning and effort!