The Feelers “Fishing for Lisa”

2002-the-feelers-fishing-for-lisaTell me what (oh!) ever happened to Lisa. It’s a summer of heartbreak and the Feelers have a theme song for it, a lament for the long-lost Lisa. The video sees the band enjoying a summer holiday. They have a Kombi van and have been joined by three model-like women, one of whom we can assume is Lisa. The six of them drive around, enjoying a stereotypical outdoorsy summer, partying like it’s 1969.

The footage varies between video and old film, giving it a grainy home movie look. There doesn’t seem to be any relation between the type of film and the scenes. Just whatever. We even see one of the models holding a camera on the beach. But that camera is filmed by another old camera. Things were so complicated before Instagram came along.

Much of the vintage camera footage involves the six mucking around at the beach. And there’s Lisa walking around with a surfboard, sitting with a surfboard but not actually surfing. We see a dude surfing, though. Perhaps Lisa was just minding his board.

The sextet also end up having a picnic by the beach, complete with a singalong. They also all end up crammed inside the Kombi, where the singalong continues (with Lisa tooting along on recorder). James Feelers doesn’t take his sunglasses off while he’s in the van, which makes him look more like a dad with Transitions lenses, rather than a cool rock dude.

Despite all these fun times, the video ends with Lisa cheerfully being dropped off on a deserted, bush-clad road. It seems like a dick move for the lads in the van. I mean, couldn’t they have at least driven her to the nearest town? But if she’s happy and the Feelers are happy, why is there such lament?

Best bit: James Feelers’ singalong lei, for that authentic tropical vibe.

Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Next… a scratchy drive.

The Black Seeds “Coming Back Home”

2002-black-seeds-coming-back-homeFor a band that had such a strong live reputation, it’s curious that the Black Seeds started off by making music videos that didn’t show the band playing. The video for the chilled-out “Coming Back Home” starts with time-lapse footage of the band setting upon stage, but that’s the last we see of them. The rest of the video is animated. Perhaps they were too busy gigging to appear in a video.

The animation is based on simple line drawing, mainly white lines on a black background, with the occasional bit of colour for emphasis. Going with the theme of the song, the video shows different situations involving a journey home. There’s a prisoner counting off the days till his release, a homeless man and his dog and an ant on an epic adventure, among others. And trains, planes, boats, cars and shopping trolleys all feature as modes of transport.

Wellington features in the video, with a skydiver falling down onto the familiar outline of the inner city coast, and a scene of cars streaming along the motorway, towards the city of hills, the spiritual home of barbecue reggae.

The animation has a nice rhythm to it, but the video itself is really low-key. It feels like neither the song nor the video really want to stand out. It seems like a video that’s content to play in the background while other things are happening. But for a listener who’s feeling a bit homesick, maybe that’s the best way to portray a New Zealand homecoming – a chilled-out place with a freshly grilled veggie sausage just waiting for you.

Best bit: the Cook Strait ferry’s feet.

Next… vacation, meant to be spent alone.

Savant “Underground”

2002-savant-underground“Underground” is a serious rock song, but Savant go for a lighter treatment, with the video showing the fake making of a music video for the song. The group wake up and are shown in a four-way split, just like Betchadupa’s “Awake” video. But the early morning lie-in is interrupted by a phone call from the music video director, played by comedian Brendhan Lovegrove.

The boys quickly get up and, after initial car trouble, they get a ride from a slightly creepy guy with a van. (When you’re in a band and someone has a van, you don’t ask too many questions.) The van stops at an intersection where it is suddenly surrounded by a hoard of Asian fangirls. This is the third video with the “crazy Asian fans” trope. Was it not believable that a group of, say, Pakaha or Maori teen girls would go crazy over Savant?

At this point, the van driver (male, Pakeha) reveals himself to be the craziest Savant fan of them all, and encourages the band to ditch the video shoot. Instead they load up the van with boxes of beers and take off to a party at a flat. There they party hard, surrounded by lots of young women in short skirts in a slightly strange, Lynchian setting.

Rightly annoyed at this slack-arse band, director Brendhan ropes in actress Sara Wiseman and three guys to play the band. Later Savant sit down and are shocked to see their new music video, with an woman lip-syching the yarled man-lyrics. They have no one to blame but themselves.

There are some valuable showbiz lessons to be learned here:
1. No one likes boozers.
2. No one likes time-wasters.
3. No one likes divas.
4. No one is irreplaceable.

Best bit: the lame non sequitur running gag of the neighbourhood power-walker.

Next… a homecoming.

Rubicon “Yeah Yeah (Rockstar)”

2002-rubicon-rockstar“Yeah yeah! Just another rock star,” sing Rubicon. Are they singing about themselves? About their place in the fickle world of popular music? Despite having 10 funded videos, it was pretty much downhill after video number three, Bruce. But our three heroes still rock on with the colourfully explosive “Rock Star” video.

It’s a very similar concept to Nurture’s “Did You Do It All For Love” video – the band, dressed in white, perform in front of a white background where they become covered with paint. But while Nurture were the victims of the sadistic music video character, Rubicon are masters of their own splattering.

The video starts with a young woman giving the pristine white set a final check before giving the camera a pout of approval. Then the band turn up and start playing in what looks like a living room where everything – including their musical instruments – is white.

But all is not what it seems. The bass player takes a white pear out of the fridge but he doesn’t like it (probably because it’s been stored in the fridge and couldn’t ripen) so he hurls it at a wall where – whoa! – it explodes in a burst of blue paint.

Ah, so it seems everything in this white world is secretly full of red, blue or yellow paint (the band’s album was called Primary). The lads engage in stereotypical rock star behaviour, which involves throwing things around because, raaaargh, that’s what rock starz do.

While things get pretty messy by the end of the video, there is a lot of restraint so for most of the video there’s more white than colour, with large splats of paint, rather than lots of messy dribbles. I really appreciate that a lot of thought has gone into the execution of the paintstravaganza. It’s not just a random freak-out and the video looks good for that.

Best bit: the appearance of green after some extreme blue-and-yellowing.

Director: Gareth Edwards
Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Next… lessons in slack.

Rhombus “Clav Dub”

2002-rhombus-clav-dubThe “Clav Dub” video plays tribute to the legendary New Zealand film “Goodbye Pork Pie”. With the group filing out of a local WINZ office, they spy a familiar yellow Mini that the original Blondini (Kelly Johnson) has left while he pops in to a dairy. Enticed by a big-arse speaker in the back, the trio take off in it. Blondini seems a but miffed, but, well, he’s experienced worse.

Rhombus are rather excited with their new wheels, and go for a good hoon around downtown Wellington. (And they even go past my old Wellington flat, which is the fifth video to feature a former abode of mine.) As they drive around, they drop off flyers to an event. Blondini finds one of these. He’s on their trail.

It’s a very Wellington video. As well having as cameos from Fat Freddys Drop and Trinity Roots, the video takes in scenes from central Wellington, including Courtenay Place, Cambridge and Kent Terraces and a bit of Wakefield Street. There’s no attempt to dress it up as New York or a random cool city. This is Wellington.

The group end up at the Centennial lookout atop Mt Victoria, ready to have their big party. Everyone shows up, even a few comedy policemen (and this is exactly the sort of adventure that has dancing cops). Blondini also shows up and take back what is rightfully his – the Mini; laughing in to the night.

This was Rhombus’ debut and the song made it to number 16 in the charts, with the video winning Best Music Video at the 2003 bNet awards. The video takes the cheeky humour of the original and plays off it, creating their own original adventure in Wellington. It’s a bold introduction to a group that would become a popular live band around New Zealand.

Best bit: the legendary Embassy cinema advertises a screening of Star Wars.

Director: Chris Graham
Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Next… primary colours all over the place.

Pine “Beaten Again”

2002-pine-beaten-againSo here’s the concept of the “Beaten Again” video: Stephen from Pine gets soaked with a torrent of water. Just to flesh it out, he’s standing in front of a nondescript block of flats and is wearing a blue raincoat. But that raincoat doesn’t provide much protection. The water just keeps on coming, but he is occasionally allowed a little reprieve when another band member kindly towels off his hair.

“Torture the band” music videos seemed to be a thing in the early 2000s, but the video for this cute indie pop number does it a bit differently. For a start, the lyrics talk about overcoming adversity. He’ll never be beaten again, even though he’s getting sprayed with water. And indeed he seems to be enjoying it, often looking like a little boy laughing his way through the fun experience.

But there’s a slightly darker side to the video. When it starts, he’s already wet – so the soaking has obviously been in progress for some time. And when the video finishes, after being towelled off by his two laughing bandmates, he is sprayed again. This suggests a never-ending cycle of wetness, like he’s ended up in an inner ring of indie-pop hell. Lulled into a false sense of security by his towel-wielding diabolical bandmates, he is never allowed to dry off.

And yet there Stephen is, usually smiling. The occasional dark look flashes across his face, but mostly he seems to enjoy this water torture, rather then be annoyed by it. Yeah, he won’t be beaten again, etc.

Best bit: Stephen’s look of relief at being towelled, like a puppy.

Next… we’re taking this bloody car to Te Aro.

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.

P-Money feat. Scribe “Remember?”

2002-p-money-rememberOh, remember those days? When life was a bit easier? P-Money and Scribe do. The video has a bit of set-up to do before the song can start (a whole minute of set-up). First we see Scribe doing some freestyle rhyming with his circle of mates, as director Chris Graham’s camera circles the group. I get the feeling this was a spontaneous thing that happened on the day of the shoot.

Then the proper set-up starts. P-Money and Scribe are sitting at a park bench watching some kids playing, remember the halcyon days of their youth. Their dialogue seems improvised and as a result it doesn’t sound too clunky, and conveniently ends with Scribe saying “I remember…” as the song itself starts.

Scribe has some issues with a friend of his, who has evidently betrayed him. They’re engaged in a tense stand-off on Queen Street, but we also see a flashback of the pair play-fighting as kids. Scribe also spies a pretty lady in a record store, so that’s setting up a triangle of drama.

Scribe falls in love with her, leading to a rather nice shot of the couple cuddling on the cool old benches on the K Road overbridge, with the colourfully painted concrete and the city lights in the background.

It turns out that the girlfriend had an unpleasant childhood in the form of a dodgy uncle who molested her. This is a pretty heavy topic to have in a music video, but I think it’s handled well, with more implied than is actually shown.

But I’m most interested in how much of the video is filmed in parks. It’s like a park is a place where kids can go to escape their family home, but also a place where the adults can get away from all the pressures of their complicated lives. And while the city scenes are always full of drama, it seems that only good things happen in the lush green parks.

Best bit: Scribe’s pash – a most unexpected occurrence in a music video.

Director: Chris Graham
Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Next… a casting call.

Nesian Mystik “It’s On”

2002-nesian-mystik-its-onThere’s a thing with Nesian Mystik that their all songs sound like they’ve been written to showcase the specific talents of the individual band members, but yet at the 2002 Silver Scroll awards, Colliding Traits managed to turn “It’s On” into a lite metal number, redeemed only by guest vocals from Lavina Williams. But the original still has a feeling of freshness and coolness that Aucklandness that it first had back in 2002.

The video is just so Aucklandic. It’s filmed around the city in locations chosen to both give things an urban edge and to represent Nesian Mystik in their home turf.

The star of the video is a young boy on a bike. Seemingly inspired by the group having a jam outside their house, he takes off for an epic journey around the city, heading from Kingsland to the tank farm to Victoria Park and up to City Road – all places that have a gritty urban look. And that’s an impressive ride with plenty of hills in the way.

In between the side, we see Nesian Mystik in other places around the city. They’re hanging out on the marae atea of AUT’s Ngā Wai o Horotiu Marae, driving around the city, before all coming together on a K Road rooftop for some breakdancing. And then the video ends with the kid on the bike heading down that really steep street behind Real Groovy.

It’s such an Auckland video that I was compelled to map its many locations. Which in turn makes me want to do a tour of the “It’s On” locations to see how they are a decade later.

View Locations used in Nesian Mystik’s “It’s On” music video in a larger map

Even though the music video has used locations that look really cool and urban, it still feels like ordinary Auckland of 2002. This is not a slick metropolis or a dangerous urban landscape. It’s just Auckland, a place where a group of friends can get together and make some music, watched from a distance by a boy on a bike.

Best bit: Awa’s tino rangatiratanga t-shirt, just casually making a statement.

Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Next… a lot of looking back.

Lucid 3 “Fluid”

2002-lucid-3-fluidThe “Fluid” video is based around a fluid – specifically, a tureen of piping hot soup, served for a family lunch on a grey rainy day. The meal is attended by lead singer Victoria Girling-Butcher’s actual family, gathering for lunch at the family home in New Plymouth. It comes as a surprise how alike the Girling-Butcher whanau look – there’s even a resemblance in photos of ancestors. But given that most families we see on the screen are played by unrelated actors, perhaps it shouldn’t be all that surprising that there’s a family resemblance.

The dining is filmed with a relaxed camera, focusing on small details – a slice of bread, a sip of soup, a child’s animated conversation. It’s very cosy and nice, with everyone smiling and enjoying themselves – and there’s no drunk uncle being a dick.

Alternating with the meal is footage of Victoria sitting at a window singing, next to her mini-me niece. Rain falls outside the window, which just makes the indoor goings-on that much more comforting.

The dishes are done and people start leaving. Fortunately the rain seems to have stopped. And the video ends with Granny and Gramps (or Great-Granny and Great-Gramps) at the door, seeing off their offspring.

In a way this video is a fantasy, the family dinner where everyone is loving and peaceful, where the grandparents live in an old homestead in the Taranaki rather than a pensioner flat in Howick. And the video lets the viewer feel like maybe they can be a guest at this comforting family lunch.

Best bit: the soup – it looks pretty good.

Director: Nic Finlayson
Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Next… on yer bike.