trouble hands make marvelous music videos
Meet Jason Evans, one third of the collective making aesthetically compelling and thought provoking work.
Still from Ben Browning's 'Friend of Mine' Music Video by Trouble Hands
Watching a good music video is easily one of life's true pleasures. The idea that these mini movies, which tend to be created in a relatively lawless universe, will remain forever as cultural landmarks that reflect and reinterpret culture is important and exciting. Besides, Saturday mornings would be significantly more dull without them.
Trouble Hands are a New York based collective consisting of Jason Evans, Jordan Redaelli, Andre Wiesmayr and a tight roster of influential collaborators who together make these pint-sized visual narratives. Having previously made videos for Cut Copy and Waldemar Schwartz amongst others, their work is thoughtful, brave and beautifully shot. Their latest is for Ben Browning's catchy new song Friends of Mine and, typical of their work, it finds the beauty in the ordinary. We spoke to Jason Evans to find out more.
When and why did you begin Trouble Hands?
We started working together on music videos last year as a way to test ideas and bring to life various spontaneous conversations we'd had in the past.
What are some of the key projects you've worked on?
Taza De Oro was a fun one, we worked with this twelve year old kid who had so much energy, we just let him loose. I'm always rethinking concepts to the last minute, pulling references and random images, but in the end spontaneity rules. The best shoots are the ones when you never know what you're going to get.
Waldemar Schwartz - La Taza Do Oro
Can you tell us about making the new video for Ben Browning?
Ben sent us his album and after listening to it for a week I asked if we could make a video for Friends Of Mine. I'd just reread this book Remainder, which is about a kind of repeating, looping logic that some trauma victims take on as a way of dealing with the after effects of an incident. So I was thinking about this idea of repetition and re-enactment, and performance, which somehow made sense for this. Then once we found the location—a claustrophobic, six-room, 500-square-foot 1920s beach bungalow out in New York's Rockaways—the circular camera movement came into play, mainly because there was no other way to shoot it. Somewhere along the way we sent clips back and forth of shared-house classics like Dogs In Space and Withnail and I, which all have come from a similar claustrophobic space.
Should music videos visually tell the song's story? Is that their key purpose?
No not really. We make things out of personal necessity; to express ideas, ask questions, etc. I'll make a music video which reflects my own personal reaction to a song, but everyone is different, each person has their own focus and emotions and once a video is out there it's open for interpretation.
In an ever changing music industry where do you see the role of the music video?
The good side of making music videos at this level, in such a shoe-string way, is that you can get away with a lot. Everyone has the same tools these days, the same platform to get things out there, so if you aren't pushing for something you really believe in you're just adding to the noise.
Would you agree that your music videos have an overarching aesthetic sensibility and off beat sense of humour?
I'm interested in performance. There's absurdity in everything but especially the roles we play, our every day performance—the friend, the lover, the father, the daughter. What we say, what we post, all of our quixotic efforts to gain approval or feel security. In the video for Friends Of Mine he's performing an 'act of remembrance'. Cut Copy's Meet Me In A House Of Love is obviously about performance too.
Cut Copy - Meet Me in a House of Love
You also have an amazing blog thislongcentury.com, which is like a linear shout-out to the (often obscure) artists you love. What is your intention with the site?
The idea with This Long Century was to create something unmediated that would serve as a direct line to the contributors; shine some light on their everyday lives and uncover new ways in which to interpret their work. There's no hierarchy, no front of book or well, no page restriction, no censorship. Most the time I don't even know what I'm publishing until the contribution turns up.
Are you an avid movie watcher?
I'm back in Australia for August and I just laid out 3 weeks of MIFF screenings, most of them from the Psychedelic program - Vera Chytilová and Albie Thoms. In New York I plan my week around this site www.screenslate.com
The Body - At the Mercy Of It All
What was the last film you saw you truly loved?
There was a Fassbinder retrospective in NY last year that was epic. Ali: Fear Eats The Soul and Third Generation on 35mm, mellow-drama at its best. I've also been watching films by Lodge Kerrigan again on repeat for another project, so there's much love there. Of the newbies: Stinking Heaven, Tangerine, and Jauja come to mind.
What are your all time favourite music videos?
1. New Order - Run (by Robert Frank).
The best thing for me is to walk away from something with more questions than when you began.
2. Chemical Brothers - Star Guitar (by Michel Gondry).
A benchmark. The conclusion to MTV editing and the best film Gondry has ever made.
3. The Feelies - Away (by Jonathan Demme).
Jonathan Demme makes concert films like no one else. Here he puts his spin on what's really a simple performance video.
4. Unkle - Rabbit in Your Headlights.
Total indifference. A testament to everything we've become.
5. Alex Chilton - My Rival (by William Eggleston). Home movies are the best movies. This is where you find the greatest performers.
6. Sonic Youth - Sunday (Harmony Korine).
As sweet and restrained as the tune itself.
Text Briony Wright