The 95 Exchange Interview
Updated: Feb 7, 2022
I had the pleasure to speak over a Zoom meeting with the guys at 95 Exchange -- a music video production company and I was able to learn a lot about them. Their work already speaks for itself, and after getting to talking with them, we share very similar influences and goals. I'm very excited to see where they all go from here - Written out by Grace @disgracedweekly
How would you sum up 95 Exchange as a company?
We're a production company that focuses on music videos. We have an emphasis on theatrical and narrative. Bringing a story into it, really going through the lyrics and depicting what's going on. Creating a visual story to put on the screen for everyone to enjoy
What makes you unique & separates you from other production companies?
We're going through college now and we are working with a lot of highly trained film students, which brings a sense of professionalism to set. We also focus on a cinema narrative -- an intersection of movies, shorts, and music. Combining cinema with rap
Could each of you introduce yourself, let us know your role in 95 Exchange?
Max Spiro CEO
Drew Jagger COO
Runs day-to-day operations, in his words, "I'm like a chicken with its head cut off, running around and everyone telling me to calm down, the situation will be handled... sort of." Actual duties include reaching out to people, bridging the company to artists, a little bit of everything
Drew was the one who originally reached out to me (Grace) and who I've been in contact with. We first spoke over DM back in April... 4 months later we all met over Zoom call to do this interview. It's really cool to see how our brands have grown since then
Creative Director & Director
Will write the treatments & concepts or be on set directing. Sometimes produce or AD but mostly the writing and creative side
*Treatment - outline of the overall idea/mood/direction for a music video production
Head of Productions
Gets treatments from Clay, then reaches out to the crew. Goes SCAD (Savannah College of Art & Design) in Savannah, Georgia, which allows Pong to connect with a lot of film kids who are willing to work on set.
Everyone made it very clear that Pong was the VIP
"Pong is the fan favorite of the group" - Drew Jagger
"He's a brilliant director and he comes up with some great treatments himself" - Clay
"Everyone has their own importance and role in the company but Pong is far, far, far from replaceable and is very important in making every single set happen" - Max Spiro
Who or what were your influences in doing what you do now?
[Clay] I'm a huge fan of rap, I was watching the Cole Bennett videos when I was younger and was like "this is sick, I'd love to do this". It's my passion now
[Drew Jagger] We grew up in a time where we were heavily influenced by rap, hip hop, and pop culture as a whole. Watching that morphed us into the creators, producers, and filmmakers we are. It's our mission in a lot of ways to work alongside other people who are products of our generation & are here to propel that creative energy into the next generation
[Grace] In high school I was listening to Asap Rocky, Odd Future, all those people coming up, so it's cool to see all of us now being influenced by those times
[Clay] I remember remember listening to Odd Future in Middle School, thinking these guys are so cool. We're big fans of the Earl Sweatshirt video
[Drew Jagger] I think everyone remembers their first time seeing Yonkers.
[Grace's thoughts] I do! It was on MTV the morning before high school & I spent the day searching for the song/video. Just "rapper who eats cockroach, triceratops threesome, etc"
[Drew Jagger] It's very different from rap these days - all these little teams of people, that was an awesome time. I think that was the era that inspired us to start out. That leading to the Soundcloud era, watching Cole Bennett Lyrical Lemonade videos, the culture was so live and popping.
[Grace's thoughts] That was around the time I originally thought, maybe I could actually pursue a career in the music industry
Here we are now, products of that trying to see what's coming next
How did you all originally meet and start 95 Exchange?
[Clay] Max and I went to high school together and we were both were in a singing group together, "on some funny sh*t". Shout out Acafellas. We would hang out after practice and get into some teenage trouble together. Then we went our separate ways off to college. Last summer I was around Charleston, Spiro saw me there and was like 'hey, come down' and we re-connected and were chilling. Our good friend, Ross, was in Savannah, so we came down and Spiro was helping him produce a video
We all come back from winter break and I get introduced to Drew and the three of us start talking -- and Ross -- he used to be a partner here. We all were talking and we went up to Savannah to shoot our first music video and we went to lunch with Pong (January 2021)
Just instantly I was like this guy is dope! First time meeting him he comes prepared with a treatment for a music video -- I've never met him before
So we kind of kicked it off after that and we all clicked up.
[Drew Jagger] and we never stopped
*Ross Ginsberg -- a talented filmmaker -- is the common connector for almost everyone. He's Max and Clay's friend growing up from high school; went to the same college as Pong.
"He's someone to look out for, he'll be up there in Hollywood."
What does 95 Exchange mean and how did you come up with the name?
[Max Spiro] We were all sitting at a coffee shop that we enjoy spending time getting work done. We wanted to come up with a name that related to all of us and what we're about. So we were thinking about what we had as obstacles, locations, things we had in common -- and the idea came like a lightning bolt into Clay's mind
[Clay] What it was was '95 Exchange' because we are based in New York and we film a lot in Georgia. So we drive and take 95 (Interstate) down and back all the time. As well as, it's an exchange of ideas, people, and culture that happens on the east coast that is connected by 95 (Maine to Miami)
[Max Spiro] It's almost become a painful joke because we'll be driving on 95 for 8 hours at a time and we're like 'curse this parkway'. We love it at the same time - we're in college trying to save money while we can, just drive when we need to
What was your favorite video you've done so far?
Obviously, they only had good things to say about all of their videos, but these two received unanimous agreement
Kid Moon "Duck Em"
[Drew Jagger] "It's so good, such a clean flow to it. Honestly the video itself was so amazing, some of the best performance shots we've got, I love it so much
[Ping Pong Matcha] "That one is going to be one of our best"
[Max Spiro] "Personally I'm a fan of Kid Moon's video"
[Clay] "It's my baby, it just looks so great and the coloring is amazing"
dampszn "Migraines" ft. Ethan Ross
"When we approached him asking to do some work with him because we were fans, we didn't have much of a body of work to speak for ourselves. He took a chance, got on a plane, came down with money. And we shot him a fantastic video -- from what I think. That started the true 95 Exchange adventure that we've all been on. Shout out to dampszn"
What has been your biggest accomplishment & struggle as a company starting out?
Creating a successful network of film creatives that can help us anywhere from booking locations, to getting a film actually made, to editing. Just networking in general with artists
Everyone in here would say one of our number one goals is to try to make new connections and get our name out there organically and in the right way
Self actualization we had to go through with people around our company. At first we were giving out the whole pie -- it was hard for us to know who actually should be eating the pie with us. Now we've figured out who's hungry and who's getting fed
Do you have any stories of a time where something went wrong right before or during a video shoot -- how did you overcome it?
The bathtub incident
[Drew Jagger] That's happened too many times where things get hectic -- specifically this one time where we had to create a bathtub -- more like a big tank, a plexiglass tank
Someone installed it on set when we weren't there and they used some super permanent glue to glue it down to the hardwood floor.. and the set happened to be at an Airbnb. All the glue is sticking to the ground, if you'd peel it, the ground would come off with it.
It ended up eventually leaking, so there was water going everywhere. Max and I ended up running off set, going to Target, and getting around 30 towels
[Clay] We were filming this scene and there's about 20 gallons of water in this tank -- we have the rapper lying in the tank, water coming out of it. We're rolling film and right off the frame you have Drew, Max, and the PAs getting the towels and sopping up the water. We'd call cut and they'd come in with a fresh set of towels, mop up the water, and throw them outside. It was insanity
[Max Spiro] Once we actually moved the tub you can see the outline of the super glue adhesive on the ground. A bunch of us (Max, Drew, Tomas, AJ, Jordan, Wes), we sat on the ground until 4am scraping the floor trying to get the adhesive off. By the greatness of God, the floors were good by check out at 10am, and we left, no Airbnb fees
They said it may not have been worth it considering the shot was barely in the video, but worth the learning experience and seeing the problem solvers they've become
What are your future plans and goals?
[Drew Jagger] I think all of us are starting to figure that out now as this has gone a lot quicker and gotten a lot more serious than we thought it could at first. For me personally, I don't see production as an end goal.
I want a conglomerate, i want to make music videos, sign artists, release songs, merchandise, articles. We're going to be in your ear
[Clay] Thats kind of all of our end goals. Short term goals, I'd love to do a video for Lil Baby. Booking more videos faster, bigger budgets, making movies.
I'd love to use a crane where the camera is almost floating
[Ping Pong Matcha] I agree, just making every video the best one we did.
One big goal is to do a video for a bigger rap artist like Travis Scott. Bring ourselves to the biggest that we can
[Max Spiro] Everybody enjoys what we're doing here
My goal as CEO is to make sure we keep doing what were doing so that we can all continue working the best job we can ask for -- making creative content with cool motherf*ckers and making money off of it
Is there anything else you want people to know about you guys?
[Max Spiro] Look out because we're starting a new norm for mid to high budget videos and setting the standard of how the quality should be. You have rappers doing videos for millions of dollars these days. When you're talking about less than $1M budget, there's an assumption that the quality isn't going to be the same. We're working hard to never lose quality and do videos for people who maybe wouldn't have thought for their price range they were going to get as good of a project. So of course we want to work with bigger artists, but never settle and continue to provide the highest quality
[Drew Jagger] Just what I said before -- watch out, we're going to be in your ears
[Clay] Make dreams happen, give them a video and make a movie
[Ping Pong Matcha] We're always looking to expand our connections with filmmakers and people who want to get on set. Going to other big cities such as Chicago & LA and finding connections there
[Clay] We love working with artists but also with innovative filmmakers who are going to bring something unique to the table. You bring all these innovative people together and something beautiful is going to happen