FILM REVIEW: ‘What Drives Us’ – Directed by Dave Grohl + Produced by the Foo Fighters

Words by Shannon-Lee Sloane {The Colourful Writer}

If you’re like me and love to keep up to date on music and what’s happening in the music world, you may have noticed how busy a certain Mr. Dave Grohl has been lately. A new Foo Fighters album, a new book, a new TV series, a new song with Mick Jagger, making music with his daughter Violet and on top of all that, he’s about to release his latest film. I mean, you could say he’s been just a little bit busy with his musical and creative endeavours, yeah? 

I have been a fan of Dave since I was a young teen, in fact, probably even before then. I still remember the first time I heard Foo Fighters. I was at a friend’s place after school, it was my first year of high school. We had walked home to her place and we were hot, sweaty and tired. We sat on her bed and she said to me, “Shann, you HAVE to listen to this…” She put the Foo Fighters self titled album on and turned it up loud. We sat on her bed and hardly spoke, just lost in the moment, just lost in the music. My passion for the Foo Fighters had officially begun. 

Of course prior to that I knew of Dave as the man who banged drums hard and fast in Nirvana and loved him for that too. But the Foo Fighters were something else. A new beginning. And even then, as a young girl, I had a strong feeling it was only the start of so much more to come. 

Dave is one of those multi talented musicians, he can play almost every instrument, he can sing, he can scream, he can write, he can produce, hell, I am quite sure there is almost nothing he can’t do. Then there’s the fact that everything he does, is just seriously fucking awesome. Why? Because he works so gosh darn hard at what he does. Always has. He has always given everything he sets his mind and heart to, everything he’s got. He does what he does with a genuine sincerity, dedication and commitment. He does it with heart. And this, I believe, is why he has had and continues to have such a successful career in the music world. He is also, from all reports, just a seriously nice guy and funny too…”Fresh pots!” (if you know, you know).

So let’s focus here and have a look at his new film. I have been so incredibly blessed by my wonderful contact and friend at Sony Music Australia to have been gifted the opportunity to view this wonderous new film prior to its official release and write a review. I have been fortunate in my years of writing to review many albums, EP’s, live gigs, etc., but a film review is something new for me. So my aim here is to (hopefully) not give too much away or give any spoilers. My aim is to just give you a little insight into the magic of this movie.

‘What Drives Us’ as explained by Dave himself: 
“This film is my love letter to every musician that has ever jumped in an old van with their friends and left it all behind for the simple reward of playing music,” explains Grohl.

The movie commences with the all too familiar sounds of a live show getting ready to commence. St.Vincent (American musician, singer, songwriter and producer who began her music career as a member of the Polyphonic Spree) says “Playing to an audience is like… it’s like some kind of other dimension” (no real spoilers here as you can see this in the official trailer.) The opening of the film features an array of well known and successful musicians providing quotes about playing live, performing, the passion and love for it. Every one of them, a musician I respect and adore. As the film begins, you can’t wipe the smile from my music loving face.

As Dave’s voice articulately introduces us to the film, the screen is a colourful collage of images and footage of bands, performers and musicians as they travel in tour vans.

All my life, since my teens, I have dreamt of interviewing Dave Grohl (and I am determined that one day I will!). But here, in this film, I sit and watch Dave Grohl interview other amazing and talented musicians whom I also adore. What an absolute treat. The diverse lineup of musicians Dave has put together is impressive and to begin with, they all introduce themselves, as if we didn’t already know who they were. It gives the whole movie an organic feel from the very beginning. 

The film not only focuses on some big name guests, but also two bands who are successful in their own right, though perhaps haven’t been around quite as long as the rest. First up we meet Radkey. Three brothers with a passion to play music. Later we meet Starcrawler, a band I have been fascinated with since discovering them a little while ago, with a frontwoman so wild, it just sings to my heart. 

There is nothing I love more than listening to musicians tell their stories. Of where they started to where they are now. The highs, the lows and everything in between. A movie such as this, gives the viewer a feast of such stories from the mouths and hearts of true, hard rocking musicians, who’ve got some wild stories to tell. Now, even though this is my review, these are not my stories to tell and I feel I would be doing Dave and the film an injustice to share any of the stories told here in this brilliantly put together film. But I can tell you that if you enjoy stories as much as I do and love music as much as I do and respect musicians and all they do as much as I do, then you will thoroughly enjoy this film and all the stories therein. 

It’s a beautiful thing to be ‘let in’ on the lives of those who took part in this film. To discover what bands made Tony Kanal want to play in a band before he joined No Doubt. To discover how all these amazing bands came to be. The very roots, the very ‘newborn’ moments of bands that we all know and love. Bands that have been played on our radios, on our cassette players, record players, CD players and now through downloads, Spotify and everything else. The very beginning of this music that we know, love, adore and perhaps even take for granted. It all started here in these stories. Some of these musicians were born into music, from musical families, from a long line of musicians. Some chose music to help them be born again, to escape daily struggles and to find a new light, a new hope. 

I was surprised by some of the guests who made me laugh out loud with their wit and sense of humour. I mean, some of them, I already knew, had a wicked sense of humour, like Flea for example. But others had me in unexpected fits of laughter as they relayed their stories or answered questions that Dave asked them. Dave also, clearly enjoying the banter and laughing at their responses. 

I can only imagine how many times Dave Grohl has been interviewed over the years. But seeing him be the interviewer was a great pleasure for me. He has a natural flow to his interviewing technique and his voice and whole vibe is calming and I think that is why those being interviewed seemed so relaxed. Of course most of his guests would already also be good friends of his, so that would also contribute to the overall relaxed feeling and vibe from the interviews. But that takes no credit away from being a good interviewer. Being one myself, I know the importance of making your guest feel comfortable and as such, they then choose to open up to you, making for an all round good interview. 

The interviews move on from discussing early days, to the next step. The touring. The vans. The hard yards. The early tours in the beaten up old vans.

About 30 minutes in and I suddenly get shivers from head to toe. I get tears in my eyes. Being an empath, I feel things on a deep level. At this point in the film as Steve Tyler, Ben Harper and other guests are discussing the early days on tour, I get lost in the emotion behind it all. How amazing it is to have achieved what they have achieved, to have had these experiences. To have come so far. To be telling their stories. 

There is something almost mind blowing about listening to bands that are so well known and so successful talking about their early days, playing shows where they sold no tickets. Playing to empty rooms, putting their hearts and souls into what they are doing and then the heartbreaking moment of driving in a van all day to play a show with no one to appreciate it. This, right here, is one of the many reasons I do what I do with Good Call Live. Our weekly gig guide alone, takes myself and my management team hours to put together each week but we do it to support the music, to support the live music, to support the bands. To try and ensure that these bands DON’T play to an empty room. I mean, at the end of the day we can’t make people go out and support live music, but we can fucking try, right!? Watching this film just gave me more drive (pardon the pun) to keep going with it all. The discussions about live music vs. other ways of connecting with your favourite bands and musicians that we have today is deep. There is much emphasis on the feeling of playing live and not only for those on stage, but for those in the audience watching. It is like nothing else. Nothing compares to it. The energy alone is something you can’t get from watching or listening to music at home. 

It is known that touring in a van and living side by side, in such close quarters can bring a band closer together, but can also tear them apart. Listening to absolute rock legends like Ringo Starr talk about the Beatles and some of their adventures while on travelling in vans was something else. 

As the film begins to wrap up, there is quote after quote that brings more tears to my eyes with the sheer sincerity of it. The film flashes to an old interview with Anthony Kiedis where at one point he simply says “There is no pain when you’re on stage” (again, this can be seen in the movie trailer).

‘What Drives Us’ is a film for every musician who is, every musician who ever was and every musician who dreams to be. It’s for the lovers of music, those who really, genuinely have an interest in not only the music, but those who make it. ‘What Drives Us’ is an open love letter to the journey of music, where it takes those who choose to follow its path. And those who choose to get in that van. 

I highly recommend you watch this film.

‘What Drives Us’ features interviews with an array of iconic figures spanning eras and genres, including: Taylor Hawkins, Nate Mendel, Chris Shiflett, Rami Jaffee, Pat Smear, Ringo Starr, Flea, Brian Johnson, St. Vincent, Slash, Duff McKagan, Ben Harper, The Edge, Mike Watt, Ian Mackaye, Starcrawler, RadKey, Exene Cervenka, Tony Kanal, DH Peligro, Charlie Gabriel, Jennifer Finch, Dave Lombardo, Kira Roessler, Pete Stahl, Lars Ulrich and Steven Tyler.

Roswell Films / Therapy Studios production, ‘What Drives US’ was directed by Dave Grohl, produced by the Foo FightersJohn RamsayJames A RotaMark Monroe. It was edited by Dean GonzalezJessica Young was the director of photography and Brandon Kim was the sound designer and mixer.


For more info on ‘What Drives Us’ click HERE

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With thanks to Sony Music Australia + Roswell Films

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