En Masse “Break My Heart”

2001-en-masse-break-my-heartThe En Masse story goes a little something like this. A couple of Christchurch businessmen noticed the success of overseas boybands and their successful managers. They fancied themselves to be the Lou Perlmans of the South Pacific so they put together a boyband called En Masse.

There’s an amazing promo video of the group, that seems to have been created for potential investors, rather than music media. We meet Whaaka, Reuben, Howie, Rychalo and Matt (as well as managers Brynley and Peter) and hear of their big dreams for the future. “We truly believe that we’ve got something unique here,” enthuses Brynley. “Quincey Jones said the next big thing is going to be Polynesian music,” asserts Peter, seemingly oblivious to the existence and successes of Te Vaka and Moana and the Moahunters on the world music circuit and the need for such a group to have more than just Polynesian members.

The group also say they want to “portray high-class music with a high-class look.” And “we wanna wear suits and look real styley when we get up there and perform.” So, a classy New Zealand boyband aiming for global success. What could go wrong? Hey, it kind of worked for Purest Form.

The video begins with the boys dressed in nice suits (a quality product; not street) in the gardens of a palatial home. While they hang out with the topiary, a pretty blond woman arrives home. She doesn’t notice the boyband on her front porch, and after they suddenly disappear, I can only conclude that they are ghosts.

The boys spend a lot of time performing the song in the house’s living room. But they’re very stiff and awkward. They can’t really dance and they all have different performance styles – some are highly expressive and camp, others are understated.

For a group with ambitions of having a high-class look, the video actually looks really cheap, like they’ve just showed up at this house wearing fancy suits, set up a tripod and swayed around in front of the camera for a bit.

Even though the house appears to be very large and posh, its blandly decorated, so anything other than a wide shot looks like the band are just standing in front of a blank, anonymous wall.

The heartbreaking conclusion of the video sees their dream girl going off on a hot date with a middle-aged businessman in a fancy car. If that’s the kind of guy she’s into, how can these young guys possibly compete?

It’s like a metaphor for En Masse’s career. They showed up on the doorstep of the music industry with their fancy suits, but audiences weren’t having it. The New Zealand public wanted to drive off with cool dudes like Craig David, Afroman and Uncle Kracker.

En Masse had funding for a second video in February 2002, but the follow-up single and video “Crazy Baby” never eventuated. Boybands weren’t cool anymore. It wasn’t until 2012 that a manufactured New Zealand non-comedy boy band actually made it to the top of the charts, with Titanium’s #1 single “Come on Home”. And in the world of the X Factor, Moorhouse (also from Christchurch) are making the girls scream – something the ordinary boys of En Masse never quite managed.

Best bit: the creepy family portraits in the billiard room.

Director: Paul Sparkes

Next… a two dimensional farewell.

The Ross Brothers “Yippie Ki Yay”

2001-the-ross-brothers-yippie-ki-yaySometimes the world of NZ On Air-funded music videos throws in some real gems. Presenting the Ross Brothers, a high school band from Oamaru. Their big break was from winning a song competition for a national Coke ad campaign, and soon after came a profile on the Holmes show. This got them the attention of Universal, and soon enough they had some NZ On Air funding to record their single and make a video.

“Yippie Ki Yay” is about Hollywood, with charmingly adolescent lyrics. As one of the brothers explained on the Holmes interview, “It’s kind of questioning Hollywood, and if it’s really all its cracked up to be.” But in this video the elegant Edwardian streets of Oamaru stand in for Hollywood.

The video centres around a red carpet event. We see Oamaru’s most glamorous A-listers piling out of fancy cars and making their way through hoardes of screaming fans into an old bank building. This is what they did for fun in Oamaru before the whole steampunk thing happened.

While all this is going on we find the Ross Brothers playing in an old building. They’re no Evermore. Lead singer Dylan sings with a strong American accent, putting a lot of effort into doing the gravelly grunge voice that was trendy in the ’90s. It’s odd hearing him sing “nice to see you, to see you nice” – the catchphrase of English variety king Bruce Forsyth – in that voice. The song also namechecks another Bruce (Willis) as well as Jim Carey, and is packed full of cinematic references.

The crowd and the A-listers are drawn to this young band of non-celebs, and abandon the red carpet to rock out with the boys. A tardy starlet, furious at the empty red carpet, storms in and scowls at the band who have stolen her thunder. She’s learning the hard way that being world famous in Oamaru is not all it’s cracked up to be.

I really like that this video exists. The Ross Brothers don’t seem to have done anything after “Yippie Ki Yay” – not even as individuals. But their short pop career was worth it for this video. Oamaru doesn’t usually feature in music video, especially not in ones where it seems like the whole town has been involved.

Best bit: the 13-year-old drummer giving the gladeye to a glamorous A-lister lady.

Also: Here’s the Holmes profile from 2000, and there’s a video for the demo version of the song made from the Holmes footage.

Director: Paul Sparkes

Next… she’s leaving home.