Huzzah! Check out Faux Faux Amis’ debut video for our slow-burner Holiday Inn. CAT FROM JAPAN have called it “a misty blues, injected with hints of Velvet Underground-esque New York vogue.” As a big Velvet Underground fan I’m thrilled with the comparison.
The video was shot in an afternoon in Brooklyn. Originally, I’d wanted to do a ‘serious’ video, starring myself. Some kind of Wong Kar-Wai montage of beautifully photographed night scenes – smeary lights reflecting off car bonnets in the rain, and the like. I wanted to be Tony Leung in Happy Together, basically. As you’ll see, that is not even close to what happened, but a few traces remained. Part of the reason we jettisoned that idea was we’d already shot the similarly structured White Roses. It felt like we would be repeating ourselves, replacing Queanbeyan with New York, and Tom Woodward with me.
The idea took on a life of its own when we discovered ‘Stan’. Friends had clued us in pre-trip that we could create our own muppet(!) at FAO Schwarz – the resultant moustachioed progeny seemed destined for the screen. Lou proved a natural puppeteer (though as a director, I was alarmed by Stan’s limited emotional range). Stan got a great reaction out in public – people smiled and waved, and at one point, a barber came out the front of his shop offering to cut his hair.
Even now when I close my eyes and imagine my original conception for this video, the strongest image is a glowing neon sign, its letters reading from top to bottom. The kind of thing that probably hasn’t existed in New York City since the 70s.
Shooting in daylight would not have captured it anyway. Still, I was intrigued with finding a way to interpolate the concept – that’s how I struck upon the scrolling, glowing text. In English, it would’ve looked like a word jumble; in Japanese, it looked natural, and its literal meaning was obfuscated enough to not distract (the individual sentences, each seven characters long, are like bad haiku lines, extraneous sentiments pertaining to the song (e.g. “with heavy heart abandon, I seek truth”). For better or worse, it’s not something I’ve seen used in a music video before.
Cross-dissolves, frequently used to show the passage of time, are on overload here, underlining the endless questing of the lyrics.
We recorded the song in Melbourne with Nick McCorriston, but the resultant version felt thin and too ‘rock’. Starting with the original stems, Paul Heslin and I remixed it, altering the arrangement and adding elements (Mel and Cath’s sultry backing vocals, Nick Combe’s killer saxophone). The result is bass-heavy and flecked with dubby touches – I think it’s now cool as fuck. Rewriting songs and/or continuing to tinker with elements post-recording is something I learnt to do in Cool Weapon. I would bring the guys a demo, and it would always bounce between us several times before the final iteration. Invisible was like that – it got built up and stripped back several times – the massive guitar solo began as the vocal line.
The first live incarnation of Holiday Inn was by my mega-talented friends Jasmine Sym and Geoff Wells, who performed it around Edinburgh after I had left. I don’t know if there is anything more satisfying for a songwriter than having others perform your song – it’s only happened a handful of times in my life – I still remember the first time, when Ben Stiel performed a song of mine at a Pot Belly open mic night.
The song prominently cribs two lines from Sugarhill Gang’s Rapper’s Delight – my influence for using another’s lyrics as a jumping off point is The Beatles’ Come Together, where John rehashed some Chuck Berry lines to kickstart his muse. In this case, it contrasts the narrator’s nocturnal search for their partner with the seeming fun and frivolity going on around him – as if the Sugarhill Gang’s party-calls are bleeding into the song as the narrator passes a nightclub blaring the tune. The rest of the song is based on an actual night in Cairns where I did wake up in the back of my car in the centre of town, and stumbled out in search of Lou. Though my ensemble wasn’t nearly as dapper as Stan’s…