Written by Elise Olmstead

As a child I would rent the movie Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory over and over again from the local blockbuster, imprinting the classic scenes into my brain like so many youth since the release of the movie in 1971.  It’s clear to see that the psychedelic imagery and haunting songs have integrated their way into our collective memory. “Pure Imagination” inspired the Philadelphia funk fusion band Expansion Project to write the song “Emagination,” and record a trippy full production music video inspired not just by Willy Wonka but also by Philadelphia and the band’s collective interests.  For those worried that the Chocolate Factory inspiration is too derivative, rest assured that the song is very lightly sampled and mostly consists of incredible psychedelic jams and musicianship as delicious as a big ol’ Wonka bar.  

Expansion Project has just gotten off summer tour and is already writing more music and making plans for 2020.  They’ll be playing October 19 at Home Grown Docket in Newark, DE, as well as a super show October 25th joining together some heavy hitters in the up-and-coming Philly jam scene, with a lineup of 4 total bands: Tweed, Beard of Bees, Expansion Project, and Aquatic Ape Theory (Facebook event).  You’ll want to get to this show early in order to catch every one of these bands, but you don’t have to wait at all to experience Expansion Project’s song “Emagination” and their mind-blowing funk. Check out the new video below and learn more about the Project in our interview.

When was the song “Emagination” written and how did the song come together?
The creation behind “Emagination” originally began a few years ago when Anthony had the idea to create a Willy Wonka inspired song. His demo started with the 7/8 section which lead into the “Pure Imagination” familiar riff. After that, it consisted of an improvisational jam to which had no concrete ending. The Gene Wilder sample from the film as the intro/outro and the entire second half of what you hear in the final version, all came much later when Expansion Project improved on his concept together. For a while we messed around with this separate jam we called “Wile Coyote” which was synth driven and had a heavy disco drum flavor to it. This was eventually added onto the second half of song directly after the “Pure Imagination” riff. From there a talk box solo was added by Matt, and then finally the idea for the last melody during the outro came from Zamere.

Where was it recorded?
The entire song was recorded at our rehearsal space in North East Philadelphia. Anthony mixed and mastered the version that you hear today.

Where was the video shot?  Who was the videographer? Tell me a little bit about your experience shooting the video.
Creating the “Emagination” video was really fun! We do everything in-house as a band and love having full control of what we release to our fans. This is the advantage of being an independent artist and we are very proud to hold that title. After we recorded the audio for “Emagination” we didn’t want to stop there. We took on this endeavor to make a full on video production out of it. We sort of fell down the rabbit hole as they say with ideas of what we wanted to portray throughout this 7 minute song. The entire video was shot on a DJI Spark Drone and a Samsung S9 cell phone. After shooting everything ourselves, the final edit came from our friends at Creative Outfit Inc.

A theme we used is obviously Gene Wilder as Willy Wonka but also portraying things that we like besides just the classic film, for example: nature, skateboarding, basketball, Philly & Delaware (where we’re all from) and just having a good time with it. For Anthony, he has a deep love for skateboarding. As a kid growing up skating in Philadelphia, he wanted to shoot his scenes at FDR skate park, where he started learning how to ride. For Matthew, both water fronts in Wilmington, DE are where he was taken as a child. On the Delaware river such as the scenes on the bridge is where he would go fishing with his father. The scenes with the keytar are where he would search for creepy crawlers as a kid. So it felt amazing to be able to work on a project in both of those locations. Zamere is also from Wilmington and has always loved basketball. So it felt natural to shoot his scenes on the court. But not just any, Bob Marley would play music and throw concerts on the exact same courts back in the day, true story! 

Also we want to give a shout out to our awesome friends: Lucas Gould for the taking some Philly drone shots but also playing the Wonka character at the end of the video. Brandon Potter (camera shots at multiple locations) and Vince Fedetz aka: Visual Kan Destruction (lighting & visuals) Vince IS the 4th member of Expansion Project. He’s our visuals/lighting guy and helps with the live production side of things. He also did the visuals on our first music video: Lincoln Blvd. But the outcome would not have been possible without all of their help on “Emagination.”

Are you guys writing a lot of music these days and/or spending time in the studio?
Yes! New music is absolutely on the way. Now that the festival season is over and we’re back home from the road, we’ve begun writing new music with hopes of releasing a new album in 2020. So far things are sounding really great as inspiration is high within the band.

Do you have any plans for an album or EP coming out soon?
Fall and winter is a perfect time to start working on new material. Now that the summer festivals have come to an end, we have much more time to sit down as a band and come up with new ideas musically. We had the time of our lives playing festivals all along the East Coast this Summer and we hope to get on even more next season. But it’s nice to switch gears when a tour ends to start writing new music again, that’s kind of where we are right now. 2020 will be a busy year for us, so our fans can definitely expect a ton of new music from Expansion Project.

Have you played with Tweed and/or Beard of Bees before?  Why are you excited to play with them? What about the venue, have you played at Wissahickon Brewing Co before?
To be completely honest we are SO excited about the show on the 25th. Tweed is a killer band from Philly, though we have never had an opportunity to play with them on the same bill before. Jesse Miller from Lotus will also be playing this show under his solo project: Beard O Bees – which is an incredible live performance of synth-dance modulation music. Also supporting the night is Aquatic Ape Theory! The fact that we have the opportunity to play with groups that we highly respect is very rewarding to us. We are ready to bring everything we got! Never have we played at this location before but our friends from The Butter Lounge helped put this whole event together along with Wissahickon Brewing Co., so all the thanks must go to them for inviting us to be apart. RSVP to the event.