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Simon York (Luxury Stranger) Interview
Dominion scribe Piers Sixx chatted to Luxury Stranger vocalist Simon York about their recent music video, his fear of water and love of real ale.
Luxury Stranger have recently filmed a video for the single Empty Men. How did that come about?
Well, it was something that’s been on the back burner for some time now – to do a video for a song or at least make a film and put music to it. With Empty Men, it felt like it was the right song and the right time to start making videos to help promote the kind of songs that are not on our long players.
Surely everyone loves a single?
This is the thing, even though iTunes reportedly “saved the single”, people seem to wait for albums rather than buy singles (although b-sides, remixes etc which feature on singles and not albums are surely a bonus for fans) and we’re a band that likes to release songs that may not feature on albums… allowing us to continue releasing material before having what we’d consider putting together for an album and also to give a ‘something in between’ look at the band. Anyway, I digress… I have some friends who work in various parts of the film industry and I’d been chatting with one of them about doing a video. They have experience working on music videos and so ideas were thrown around, with particular restraints put in place to make sure the video didn’t come across either cheesy or stereotypical. We wanted to make, and want to continue making, films of a particular quality – I studied and made a few films when I was at university and so I feel have a good/qualified idea of what works and what doesn’t and to have people around me who understand and work within that same ideas and similar aesthetics, be it Chris or the people we worked with on this video, is a great breath of fresh air and allows ideas to flow, change and grow very comfortably…
Where was the video shot?
The video was filmed at two locations over three days – one location was a country manor in Derbyshire and the other was a large stretch of land which resembled a quarry, not far from an old church in Derbyshire. This site reminded me of some of the locations used in Doctor Who in the mid-seventies… I kept expecting to see one of the sea-devils or something of that ilk!
Hide behind the sofa time! Who directed the video?
It was suggested we work with a director named Owen Tooth, who worked with Anton Corbijn on the Control film. He had a particular view on things which reflected a lot of ideas we’d thrown in for this shoot and he understood our restraints and the reasons behind them.
Was it fun? I understand you had a hairy moment in the lake.
It was a lot of fun but yes there was one point at which I thought “oh bugger”. I have a ‘bit of a fear’ of expanses of running water… and to top that, I can’t swim either. When we went over to the quarry area, I was told I’d be running around being chased by who we’d dubbed as the ‘empty men’. My brief was to follow a path along a grassy area and then make my way down into the main quarry – “easy” I thought. Then I was told I’d have to run through the water – I thought I’d be running along the ‘shore’, however it was explained that I would be running through the supposedly shallow part of the river. After a walk through with Owen, I felt confident to do this but when it came to shoot I lost my footing and the empty men came running straight into me. This was by no means the worst part… I was then told I was going to be dunked in the water! I had to have a bit of time to myself to prep for this as I knew what I was getting into – then I thought “sod it, let’s go” as I’m of the mind where you have to do things you’re not fully comfortable with to make something right. And down into the water I went – this was when I realized the intensity of how cold the water was and I started having a panic attack and when I tried to get back up, I once again lost my footing and ended up going into a much deeper part of the water – I think it’s actually this part which made its way into the video and it looks great as it looks ‘real’ as opposed to acting!
There is a fantastic sequence in the video where you‘re playing instruments seemingly made of shadows. How was that done?
The shadows bit – actually this was my favourite part of the shoot. This was filmed in an attic space in the stables part of the manor location. It was a pretty haunting atmosphere in there – moths, bats and spiders everywhere. Dust and the smell of what could have been a dead animal were in the air! The sun was blazing through a small round window and so the window had to be blacked out so we could get the right kind of shadows in the right places. There were two rooms in the space in which the gaffer had set up two really strong spotlights to create the shadows, then it was just a case of Chris and I being in the right place. The ‘floating’ bass was hung from a cross bar by rope to give the illusion that Chris’ shadow was playing along to the music.
Speaking of illusions – the parts where Chris is watching the televisions and drinking… that room was part of a large ballroom but the gaffer sectioned parts of it off and used lighting to give the illusion of a small seedy space somewhere… I didn’t get to see the finished result until I saw the video – I was really impressed!
How can we see the video?
Well the main point of a ‘pop video’ is to promote another product – be it a particular song or even the band itself. Ideally, this single will encourage people to buy the Empty Men single and also bring traffic to the Luxury Stranger website at its new domain – www.luxurystranger.net. I’d rather not have it sit on Youtube for free access for people to just listen to the song there or post free links on Facebook to just direct people to a Youtube account. I know the video is being put forward for a few cinematography awards in Europe so that could affect how public we can make the video until the awards selections have passed. We’re planning on showing the video at another special event which is currently being organized to take place in Newcastle… I’m thinking of setting up a special page on the LS website so it can be viewed on the internet there – not sure when I can do that yet though.
That was the point of inviting people who wanted to see the video to the showcase in Sheffield, to get people all together for an event, have a few drinks and chat, listen to some decent music from the DJ set and more importantly to see a music video on a big screen – something I can’t remember happening since… well, technically/possibly since U2′s Rattle and Hum was on at the cinema… I’m sure actually that the Pet Shop Boys showed one of their videos at cinemas. The idea of the event, and I suppose the next one we’re arranging, is to try and make band events and gigs a bit more special again – rather than it either being too much trouble or just another trip to the pub and there happens to be a band on.
You‘ve mentioned that the video was premiered in Sheffield. How did the audience react?
Yeah, the premier was good fun – and well populated too… although not just by fans of Luxury Stranger. There was a mix of other film directors, various film students and their families and a couple of music industry types as well as Nigel from In the Nursery – which was a very nice surprise. The video seemed to go down really well – I think it was the quickest three minutes of our lives.
I understand there was a new Luxury Stranger ale at the premiere. Will this be on your rider from now on?
The Luxury Stranger ale went down well too – it’s been hinted we might be allowed to have another barrel at another event we’re currently planning.
You‘ve recently parted ways with drummer Neal Unreal, how is the search for a replacement going?
Yes, Neal left us in June to enable him to put more time into his art and studies. We’ve auditioned a few drummers – and we’ve found someone (Tim Smith)! The period of time while we were looking for a replacement enabled us to experiment with artificial drum rhythms – in fact we performed several shows using the drum machine and we’ve written some new material using the drum machines. One of the songs to come out of those sessions is Nothing Holy. Chris and I have recorded it using a drum machine and we’re currently in the process of finalising the mix.
Obviously the new single Empty Men is available. Any new material in the pipeline?
Nothing Holy will be the next ‘non-album’ single to come from Luxury Stranger and it’ll be backed with another track which will not feature on an Luxury Stranger album. Meanwhile, we’re working on material ready for the third album and also planning the video for Nothing Holy…
Lastly, you were involved in organising the Dark Waters Festival in Nottingham this year, will there be another next year? Do you have any acts lined up yet?
Ah yes, Dark Waters. The next Dark Waters will be in happening in 2012 and yes, we do have some great acts lined up already – that’s all I’m allowed to say at the moment.
To find out more about Luxury Stranger and see the video visit www.luxurystranger.net
To see more of director Owen Tooth’s work visit www.toothpix.co.uk
Video images courtesy of Owen Tooth.