PanAm “Cigars In The Suitcase”

2003-panam-cigars-in-the-suitcaseA horse walks into a music video. Animals aren’t the easiest things to have in music videos, but director Richard Bell uses plenty of footage of a horse in PanAm’s final NZOA-funded video.

The video opens with a close-up of a horse’s eye, but the whole video is shot in black and white, so it’s more artistic than veterinary. The horse shots provide the backdrop for PanAm performing the song in a studio. As well as the horse, we also see Paul from PanAm singing on the backdrop as he simultaneously performs in front of it. Meta. I will also note that by this stage Paul’s hair has grown out of the awkward in-between stage, as seen in the previous video, and is looking longer and more in control. Nice one.

It’s easily PanAm’s best video. It’s shot nicely (though the fake film scratches now look really dated) and the band are confident performers. Even the visual non sequitur of the horse fits right in with the song and the band’s energy.

Over on the Songlines Across New Zealand blog, Paul says this about the video:

“With this one we were tying to do a late 60’s psychedelic idea crossed with a bit of early 90’s (in black and white), we added shots of a big old horse into the mix I and I still think this video is by far the best example of a band performance as we were honed from lots of touring around that time. In fact that video probably represents the high-water mark in terms of the bands powers of entertainment. It was all downhill from there!”

It’s a reminder that making a good music video isn’t necessarily something that a band can do right off the bat. Performing on camera is a different thing to performing on stage. A good director can help, but it takes time to learn that skill. And it seems that PanAm got there in the end.

Best bit: extreme close-up horse nose.

Director: Richard Bell
Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Next… robot smash.

PanAm “Song1”

2003-panam-song-1It’s night time and Paul from Panam shows up late for his shift behind the counter at a petrol station. I feel great tension every time I see him in this video because his hair in this video is how my hair goes on a bad day. I want to give him a good blowdry.

It’s an old-style petrol station (filmed “in Christchurch in the middle of winter at night in a draughty old gas station,” Paul told Songlines Across New Zealand). It’s the kind of place that was primarily an automotive workshop with just a little shop selling a few chocolate bars and chips, secondary to the oil, fanbelts and other essentials. It’s also the kind of petrol station that isn’t really around these days, and indeed it seems that the location in question is now occupied by a budget car rental company.

Business is slow and there’s nothing for Paul to do but slouch around the till. If it were me, I would alphabetise the chips – cheese and onion, chicken, ready salted, salt and vinegar. There.

But relief comes in the form of a customer, an old geezer rolling up in a Mercedes. Paul fills up the car. Petrol is only $1.049 a litre, and the 91 is 99c. Remember that fact, kids. Those were golden days.

The customer tended to, Paul goes back inside and keeps singing “I don’t care anymore”. Even a dwarf customer isn’t enough to break his boredom, so he goes out the back and jams on his keyboard, using headphones.

A shifty looking young man (who I think I recognise from my olden Hamilton act0rizing days) comes in the shop and buys some chewing gum. He’s either wanting to break a big note or he’s casing the joint.

Paul returns to his back-room jamming, and the shifty dude returns and steals several boxes of Cadbury chocolate bars. He runs out and there’s the geezer in the Mercedes waiting. What kind of arrangement is this? Rich older man picks up a young street youth, gets him to steal chocolate bars and they go back to the geezer’s mansion and spend all night eating Pinkys and Crunchies until they crash out in a sugar coma, holding each other as they sleep?

And then the video expects us to happily go back to Paul moping around the petrol station. No, I want to know what the odd-couple crims are up to.

Note: In 2012, PanAm released a revved up new recording of the song.

Best bit: the physical comedy of the thief dumping the haul of choccies in the back seat of the Merc.

Director: Richard Bell
Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Next… you, me and everyone we know.

PanAm “Interstate Boy”

2002-panam-interstate-boyI figure the titular Interstate Boy is a distant cousin of Telegram Sam. He seems to exist for the purposes of making the lyrics sound cool. Is the song really about a pretty boy who has travelled to several states? Or is just an excuse to drawl out “interstate” because it’s a cool word?

The video doesn’t even attempt to sort out the lyrics. Instead the band are plonked inside a grunty old steam train along with an old man. The video is also shot in high-contrast black and white, so things manage to look really cool. Yeah, check out the clouds of steam and the hot fire of the engine boiler.

A lot of the video involves lead singer Paul playing the song on his acoustic guitar, when the only guitar in the song is loud, distorted, crunchy electric. It’s like a warped take on the cliche of the travelling hobo, hitching a ride in a boxcar. We also see the whole band playing, crammed inside the narrow-gauge New Zealand railcar.

Meanwhile, the old man (who has a pet rat) come in and does a freaky dance in front of the band. This sort of thing never happened on the Crunchie train.

And these high jinks continue into the night, as the train rolls onto its destination, with the three rock dudes, the old fella and his pet rat. I’m intrigued to know what happens next. What further adventures will these four interstate boys (and one interstate rat) face?

Best bit: the brief appearance of a comedy Afro wig on the old man.

Bonus: here’s a list of director Richard Bell’s five favourite videos that he’s worked on, as presented on a rapidly decaying TVNZ webpage.

Bonus II: Songlines Across New Zealand has a good interview with Paul from PanAm. He describes the “Interstate Boy” video as:

“A sort of ‘crazy train’ idea seemed a fitting visual motif for the song Interstate Boy. Got the train, got the weird actor guy, got the chickens and the rat, got the band on board and voila!- a music video. It has its flaws but it’s an interesting little video.”

Director: Richard Bell
Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Next… the dire consequences of genetic engineering.

PanAm “Japanese Girls”

2002-panam-japanese-girls“Japanese Girls” uses the same trick as Garageland did for their “Gone” video – casting a group of random Auckland Asian extras as Japanese fans of the band. According to NZ On Screen, director Greg Page cast the video via “a notice at an Asian food hall”. Though in the case of this video, the extras do reasonably resemble the sort of young women who’d be fans of the band and who’d leave a video message for PanAm.

That’s the premise of the video – that in a padded pink booth, the titular Japanese girls can leave a message for Flying Nun’s young act. The messages are subtitled, and include such revelations as “I like the drummer”, “My phone number is…” and “Excuse me”. Disappointingly, no one is making like a One Direction fan and claiming that her cat died and wanting Paul to give her consolatory hugz.

While the video fan fest is happening, the band are rocking out in a cool looking warehouse. Except it’s not a real warehouse. As Greg Page explains, “we used a miniature warehouse for the background, made out of balsa and cardboard”. If you look very closely, you can tell the band have been green-screened in, but otherwise it gives the setting a slightly spooky feeling, like maybe the band are ghosts.

Now here’s the thing. When the band are rocking out in their shoebox warehouse, they look really cool. And the song’s a bit saucy with its allusions to BJs and girl-on-girl action. But at the end, when the boys finally get inside the pink video booth with the Japanese girls, they suddenly lose their swagger and become three geeky guys who aren’t quite sure how to act around all these girls, nervously shuffling off at the end. It feels like a really candid moment.

Update: Songlines Across New Zealand talked to Paul from the PanAm about the video. He describes it as the strangest video the band has made, crammed into the video booth with a bunch of non-professionals pulled off the street.

Best bit: that everyone in the video – male and female – pretty much has the same haircut.

Director: Greg Page
Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Next: wet, wet, wet.

PanAm “Long Grass”

2001-panam-long-grassPanAm were an Auckland four-piece Flying Nun band, going for a noisy punk-pop sound. “Long Grass” was directed by Greg Page and uses puppets to depict the band. They’re a bit like three-dimensional versions of Terrance and Phillip from “South Park”, with big flappy mouths. The inside of their mouths even look a bit like half a 45, but upon closer examination, it’s just a black semi-circle with a red bit in the middle.

The band are playing in front of an aeroplane, with a glittery “PanAm” logo (which, I assume for legal reasons, is enough from the airline Pan Am). They’re wearing black turtleneck tops with the initials of their names on it, jeans and sneakers – all made with just enough detail to look as authentic as puppet clothes can.

We also see the trio dressed in cammo gear and military helmets, looking like they’d gone and formed a puppet junta. It gives the video a slightly dangerous edge, especially coming so soon after 9/11. Perhaps the puppet PanAm hijacked the aeroplane just so they could use it in their music video. Yeah, that’d be it.

But this time, most of Greg Page’s music video were live action, so it’s cool that he’s had the opportunity to go back to his non-human video roots. Only with a significantly bigger budget than his Hamilton student video days, “Long Grass” is a slicker production.

For PanAm’s debut, it’s a bold choice to not feature the band in the video. But the video turned out to be well liked, scoring nominations for the Juice TV Awards and the Squeeze People Choice Awards in 2002.

Update: Songlines Across New Zealand talked to Paul from the band about the music video. He revealed that the band themselves were operating the puppets. And the puppets and set were all designed by Greg Page.

Best bit: the little kazoo toot mouthed by puppet Paul.

Director: Greg Page

Next… post-apocalyptic dub.