The Occidental Saloon. Violet Suitcase. They are more than just fanciful phrases. The first represents a collective hobby of four men, and the latter resulted in the dream job of one man.
The year was 2009, and the setting was the greater Utah County area. Matt Eastin was working at a broadcast company in Salt Lake, but he wasn’t feeling quite fulfilled. So he decided to quit his job and he began his own film/production company, The Violet Suitcase, named after his daughter Violet. “I had felt that I was making too many compromises working for other companies, and I wanted to be independent,” Eastin said. “But then I was independent, and still wasn’t doing what I was passionate about.”
So when his friend Dean Cheesman asked him to help film a video of a local band, Eastin figured it could be a fun distraction.
Cheesman was running the Provo Acoustic Session, a small company that shot raw footage of local bands and then put them unedited onto a website. The first video that Eastin helped Cheesman shoot was of the band Neon Trees. When Eastin saw what was taking place he realized that it could be something great. So he gathered two more friends and formed a collective group.
“We wanted to highlight local bands,” Eastin said. “There were so many good ones, so we wanted to do scaled down performances, but a little higher quality than a regular performance video—not quite a music video. And I hadn’t even heard of most of the bands until we started filming them.”
And so The Occidental Saloon was born. Eastin and his brother-in-law Aaron Hymes did the shooting, editing and directing of the videos. Cheesman did the audio recording, and Corey Fox, the owner of Velour, was the liaison between Occidental Saloon and the bands.
All four members of the group had their regular full time jobs, and they committed their off time to this new found project. But their newly organized business was a success. “Corey was really picky about the bands that we did,” Eastin said. “We were getting calls from everyone within 100 miles of here. We wanted it to be a win-win so that [the band and us] both were cool enough that we made each other look good.”
However, the hobby led to real business ventures for several members of the group, and the Occidental Saloon slowly dissolved. Hymes made it big and moved to Los Angeles to work exclusively with Columbia Records and Warner Brothers making music videos. Corey Fox continued to run Velour, hosting local bands and touring groups.
And Eastin continued with the Violet Suitcase but changed his shift to follow his passion— filming bands.
“I had always been involved in film,” Eastin said. “I was like that nerdy kid that would make his own videos with his brother and friends. And I loved shooting, editing, directing and working around the bands. I am super passionate about music. I never learned to play an instrument and I’m terrible at singing, but I feel like this is the way that I can be a part of it.”
The Violet Suitcase gained recognition and was approached by BYU TV to film a show. The show was called “Audio-File,” and the task was to travel across the country and film 13 different bands and highlight a new one every episode. The first of the episodes begins in April.
And in the meantime, Eastin is traveling around pursuing his dream.