The Stereo Bus “Touchdown”

1999-the-stereo-bus-touch-downThe “Touchdown” video is based on a continuous pan from left to right. Against a plain white background, various band members pop in and out of frame, along with a dog, a bottle, a chair, and other domestic items. It reminds me of a suburban version of the first 15 seconds of INXS’s “I Need You Tonight” video.

The video has a very minimal feel to it, so it’s the moments of liveliness that really stand out. Lead singer Dave Yetton gets most of the close-ups, having pretty much perfected the art of singing close-up camera face emotion from his previous videos with the JPS Experience and the Stereo Bus.

The song feels melancholic and that combined with the minimalist video threatens to produce a cure for insomnia. Fortunately guitarist Jason Faafoi – who at the time was also Jason From What Now – has a mesmerising star quality that the other members don’t. Even when he’s doing something as ordinary as sitting at a table, he’s much more interesting than the other band members who happily play their part in the background.

Every time Jase comes on screen I’m like “Yay! It’s Jason!” Even though he’s still being a blank-faced Stereo Bus dude, he’s smizing, bring some secret joy to the video.

After a six-year period dominated by the digital orgies of Supergroove and the twisted rock worlds of Shihad, the simple effects of “Touchdown” won Best Video at the 2001 New Zealand Music Awards.

Best bit: when Jason’s bottle misses the rubbish bin.

Directors: Michael Lunsdale, Alex Sutherland
Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

The Stereo Bus “Birthday”

1999-stereo-bus-birthdayThis is a quality song. It’s the sort of song that is sometimes described as “perfect pop” but it never managed to bother the charts the way that the similarly perfect pop of Britney Spears, Backstreet Boys or Westlife did at the same time.

Maybe “Birthday” was a little too depressing to get higher than #26. But it’s a good kind of depressing. “Today is your birthday and not mine,” sings Dave Yetton, looking miserable.

The video is a simple affair. It focuses on brightly lit close-ups of band members. Dave is shot against a white background, the rest of the band against a black background. And while it’s Dave’s voice we can hear, the lip-sync is shared amongst the band.

Cut between that are shots of brightly coloured sweeties. There’s Tim Tams, Cadbury DMCs (Dairy Milk Centres aka off-brand M&Ms), Pink Smokers, Jet Planes, eerily corpse-like Eskimos, licorice allsorts, Shrewsburys… Oh, I’m starting to feel a little ill now.

“No, you can’t have your cake and eat it too,” admonishes Dave. And the video conveys that well – the dark side of celebrations. Whether it’s a child stuffing their face until they turn green or an adult dealing with the end of a relationship, life has a funny tendency to get in the way of the best laid plans.

Best bit: the old-style H2GO bottle.

Director: Marc Swadel
Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Next… renewable energy.

The Stereo Bus “Be A Girl”

1997-the-stereo-bus-be-a-girl“Be A Girl” takes us into a teenage girl’s bedroom where we find a forlorn Dave Yetton. The room is decked out with posters John Lennon, Bee Gees, the Eurythmics and David Bowie. I was going to say this doesn’t look like the bedroom of a ’90s teenage girl, but maybe it is. Maybe she not listening to cool bands like Vercua Salt or the Smashing Pumpkins and is instead holed up in her bedroom, listening to pop classics, sad that no one else gets her.

The beginning of the video features a lot of Dave lazing about on the single bed, his only friend a little doll. It’s all very bright, colourful and feminine, even though the song and Dave’s long face is dragging things down.

About halfway through we meet the rest of the band hanging out in a field by the sea, looking all quirky, just like something out of a JPSE video. I’m less convinced by these scenes. They seem a little tacked on, but maybe this is a fantasy of the girl.

I really like this song. It’s very fragile and raw, looking at female weakness in a similar way that JPSE’s song “Flex” look at the male. So I feel like the video hasn’t quite captured the essence of the song. But yet there’s a lot of charm in the video, with the lonely girl/man, alone her in bedroom, being a girl.

Best bit: Dave’s mutual wave with the doll.

Director: Andrew Moore
Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Bonus! Here’s the Stereo Bus playing the song live on Ice TV, including particularly pleasing close-ups of the arpeggio guitar work.

Next… a strong jawline.

The Stereo Bus “Don’t Open Your Eyes”

1997-the-stereo-bus-dont-open-your-eyesFour years after the last JPS Experience video, Dave Yetton returns with a new band, and curiously enough, the video for “Don’t Open Your Eyes” feels like an old JPS Experience vid.

Directed by Andrew Moore, the video follows a lone spaceman exploring a barren yellow-tinged environment (played by Bethells Beach). It’s very similar, in fact, to the look of David Kilgour’s “Beached” video from 1994. But while the “Beached” spaceman wanders about on the bleak, sinister planet, the Stereo Bus spaceman is having a bit more fun. For a start, he’s wearing gumboots.

The spaceman staggers about the alien world and eventually hits a golf ball, as that is what spacemen do. The golf ball takes us to Dave Yetton standing in front of a wall covered with silver foil, again very reminiscent of JPSE videos.

Dave seems to be in some sort of control room, with quickly cut glimpses of switches, lights. Combined with the bright colours and shots of Dave’s eyes, it feels like a homage to “2001: A Space Odyssey”. There’s also a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it shot helpfully captioned “Illuminati. Secret US Government Installation Security Camera Film”.

Eventually the camera calms down and we can make sense of Dave’s new surroundings. His control room is full of crazy music electronics – reel-to-reel tape recorders, speakers and monitors. And next to that, Dave hangs an electric sign reading “The Stereo Bus”. It has arrived.

Best bit: Dave holds an object that looks like a giant tin foil donut.

Director: Andrew Moore
Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Next… chillin’ with Jordan.