“Isn’t it exciting,” Andrew Fagan asks, kicking off two and a half minutes of psychedelic glam pop. We find Fagan playing with his band Swirly World (a name that more famously also belongs to the small yacht he uses for his solo voyages). It’s revealed that bars separate the band from the camera, but who are the bars for? Is the band kept locked up because they’re just so exciting?
As well as this performance footage, we also get quick flashes of random things. The cover of Fagan’s current album “Blisters” pops up a few times, as do gig posters. There are also glimpses of the band on the road, various photos and objet d’art. There’s a even a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it naked lady boob. Series of words pop up, spelling sentences. “It’s… completely… subjective” announces one message. Hey cool! So’s this blog.
While Fagan has plenty of rock star swagger, his Swirly World band just looks like a fairly ordinary bunch of musos, getting down to business in jeans and t-shirts. Isn’t it exciting? Er, no, not really. But maybe that’s what the shots of the random interesting thing are. Throw in a nipple or three (Mr Fagan’s are also on display) to add some excitement.
Best bit: the background whiteboard with some sort of mathematical workings written on it.
Moana teams up with Andrew Fagan for “I’ll be the One”, a big, fast soul-infused rock number (or is that a rock-infused soul number?). Moana’s bold voice dominates the song, perhaps better suited to the genre than Fagan’s punky drawl. Nonetheless, they’re both in the video together.
It’s a high energy song and the video builds on that with an almost manic pace. Moana and Fagan are joined by an array of colourful characters. There’s a cute little girl, drag artistes, b-boys, an old lady, kapa haka perfomers, modern dancers, rock dudes, and of course the Moahunters. Everyone is happy as they dance around in front of different coloured bright background. A few people seem to be reacting to a “do something crazy” direction, but mainly it’s people dancing and having fun.
Meanwhile, Moana and Fagan are wearing black skivvies (she’s accessorised with a red hat, he with fingerless gloves) and there’s a choice chemistry between them. Moana even gets to pull Fagan on a leash, which manages to be more comedy than kinky.
The video is directed by Fagan’s missus Karyn Hay and the colour and energy reminds me of other videos she’s done – like “Hey Judith” and “Arm and a Leg”. It looks like a low budget video but the simple concept is executed well and it matches the tone of the song.
Best bit: “DISPARITY” chalked on a wall, possibly a first for a New Zealand pop song.
At the end of this video, there’s a clip with James Coleman interviewing Karyn Hay about the video. She explains that the Verlaines’ American record label weren’t happy with the video because it didn’t contain enough “pop-star lip-synching”.
And indeed it’s a very non-commercial video. Despite being a lively pop song, the video goes for quite an abstract treatment. The video starts off seeming like a standard pop road video, with footage of rural New Zealand. But it’s shot in grainy black and white, with bleak scenes of lifestyle blocks. Even a trip to the beach in a bang-up old Valiant is stark, not sunny.
Later there’s colour footage of the back backstage at a gig, but it’s blurry and dimly lit. Hey, let’s throw in some kaleidoscope effects to make it even less pop.
But it’s not all bleak. Suddenly and unexpectedly there’s a drive-by on a field full of cherry trees, bursting with their brilliant pink blossoms. This leads to a live performance at the Glue Pot, where the band play to an almost empty pub, with a lone dancer grooving under a strategically placed pink spotlight.
So if you look at it in pop terms, yeah, it’s not a great pop video. But it is a great pop song with a cool video that has plenty of humour lurking within.
Best bit: The seven seconds of actual lip-syncing.
Note: keep watching after the video for the chat with director Karyn Hay.
Let’s Planet was the next project of former Chills drummer Caroline Easther. She played many instruments in the band and the Karyn Hay-directed video shows that, using rotating line-ups within the video. This was the only Let’s Planet song to have NZ On Air funding
Being a work of the early ’90s, the video makes liberal use of green-screen effects. Most of it involves Caroline or the full band against a wondrous backdrop, such as cows, flowers, a suburban street and ducks. The video also uses the grid digital effect, with lots of tiling, making the video look like the output of a Japanese photo sticker booth.
This video leaves me feeling a bit stuck. Nothing really happens in it, it’s just the band playing the song. Did the giant flowers have more impact in the ’90s when this sort of effect was new? Should the video have a bit of dirt amongst the flowers?
Maybe it’s ok for the video to be like this. Let’s Planet don’t seem to have an edgy rock side to them. They’re a sweet indie pop band who write thoughtful lyrics like “your indecision is costing everyone”. They almost seem to exist outside the realm of the regular world of music – a bunch of people who quite like making music, who recorded some songs and came up with an album. And they still appear to be doing stuff.
I am utterly charmed by this band. They are a five-piece folk-rock band, with a 100% geek membership. Their lead singer has a cherub-faced androgynous look going on, and they all look like they’ve been taking music lessons since they were kids.
The band play the song in a slightly shabby looking Vulcan Lane, in front of a wall of band posters (one for an Elvis impersonator). It seems like they’ve chosen an inner city location to make up for their own lack of cool, but they should have just owned their geekfulness. I meaan, they’re so geeky, the chorus ends with the hilariously anti-BJ line “stop going down”.
There’s one great bit where a band member steps up on a park bench, then almost immediately steps down, as if he knows that standing on a bench is not what a good citizen does.
It’s obviously low budget and a bit repetitive, but it captures the charm of the band and is a good debut as any.
Best bit: a brief shot of an old man enjoying an ice cream.
Note: this video has since been made private so it can no longer be viewed. Booo.
My introduction to Shona Laing was her angry phase in the ’80s, with US college radio hit “Soviet Snow” and “Glad I’m Not a Kennedy”. So when Shona grew out her punky mullet and returned to her barefoot folk singer roots, it was a bit of a shock to me.
“Mercy of Love” is a pretty song about how love comes along and changes your direction, makes you do stuff you can’t control, and there’s nothing you can do to stop it.
It’s a bit of a cafe song, and the video is a simple performance of Shona singing the song, with some symbols drawn on her face. At other times, the kinder, gentler Shona shrinks into a tiny box in the middle of the screen – about one-third of the screen size – and performs in front of green-screen superimposed static and some more symbols.
What do all these symbols mean? Oh, where is Professor Robert Langdon to crack the Laing code?
“Courage” is a brilliant song, though it has always felt like an instrumental song that’s had vocals written for it as an after thought. The video knows it’s a great song, and so the video doesn’t try any dumb tricks. It’s a simple performance video shot in high-contrast colour as the band play in front of a crinkled silver backdrop.
Using a really simple setting, it looks like the focus has then gone on the production – good lighting and a few post-production tricks to make it look cooler.
It manages to capture the finesse and serious tone of the song, and is probably a good example of making a good looking video on a budget. I mean, there’s a major label behind it, but the sole location feels like a budgetary decision.
But you know what? Simple videos are really hard to write about. It’s much easier when random crazy stuff happens. Videos with a subplot are even more awesome.
Rather than set-dressing a New Zealand beach to resemble Israel, Andrew Fagan and his director/wife Karyn Hay went all the way to Israel and filmed the video out in the Middle-Eastern heat.
Sensibly dressed in the heat-reflective colours of white and rock-star silver, he wanders about playing his guitar and basking in the golden Middle East sun. It’s all very rock, as if the sweeping landscape exists for the sole purpose of highlighting how brilliant Andrew Fagan looks against it.
A video effect is used, where two images are overlaid with one flickering like a flag. I think this was done by using the clear blue sky as a natural blue screen. Otherwise it’s a really simple, good looking video.
While the video received funding in the February 1993 round, the video wasn’t shot until October 1993, and wasn’t released until 1994. That’s a lot of planning.
From a suburban state house to K Road, “Hey Judith” is a sunshine in a music video. Matthew Bannister, all gussied up in red lipstick, has a minor meltdown as he sings for the love of his life, covering the wall in lipstick kisses.
The video also includes a musclewoman, dog poo, a cardboard replica of K Road, Auckland suburban trains, the old yellow ARA buses, the old Auckland CPO, complete with the bank of public phones out the front.
I’m intrigued by a brief shot of a pillow booth at the train station. I assume this was something made for the video, but I like to think that back in the ’90s, there was a booth at the train station that gave people pillows for their train journeys, or for carrying around town in search of their special honey.
And just to prove how ’90s it is, the video ends with the band donning virtual reality googles. (Remember virtual reality? Remember how it was going to change the world?)
It all leaves me thinking that I’d like ’90s-era Matthew Bannister to be my boyfriend.
Best bit: the Ken and Barbie cardboard K Road adventure.