I’m not a big fan of performance videos per se, as they’re so often so predictable. Person hits drum, person plays guitar, person sings. Fine. Shot and edited nicely with a great song to hang it all of they can be a good introduction to a band, but as someone who prefers to tell deeper stories through my visuals I’ve never really seen the artistic merit. I like there to be a twist. Plus of course, I don’t have a band, do I?
Early this year I started plotting and scheming for ways to make April’s ‘Little Battles” album release show more spectacular than anything I had done before. I had a great venue sorted - The Half Moon in Herne Hill - I knew what songs I wanted to play, I was excited to unleash the new album on the world and I felt like presenting the songs differently for the first time. Cue The Olympians, my special guests band made up of a shifting cast of creative characters.
Laura Ward - www.lauraward.co.uk
This is an idea I had been playing around with for a while. I knew I didn’t want a permanent band as I love the independence of playing solo and don’t feel it’s right to impose one’s songs and parts on others without either paying them or letting them get creative in return. But I had so many talented musical friends I wanted to collaborate with, and I just knew we could do something great together.
So, The Olympians line-up #1 made their debut in November 2010 recording some live versions of “Little Battles” album tracks on Lightship95, a recording studio in a pink boat on the Thames. The four tracks were beautifully filmed by Ed Christmas, a DOP I had discovered online and found to be the most amenable, helpful and talented person I’d had the pleasure of working with in my time making videos, and the footage currently rests in the SMW archives but will see the light of day soon - I have big plans!
Michael East http://www.flickr.com/photos/michaeleast/
So, the real life in front of people debut of The Olympians (line-up #2) was at my April album launch and they were absolutely fantastic. My sister-in-DIY Dana Jade and new found firm friend Cajita played guitar and sang, I played bass, Lesley Spiers was on backing vocals, Tom Gardiner (The Hysterical Injury) played drums, Mishkin Fitzgerald (Birdeatsbaby) played piano, Milly McGregor (Gabby Young & Other Animals) and Erica Nockalls (The Wonderstuff) played violin and Kat Arney (Sunday Driver, Talk In Colour) played harp. It was the first time anyone had heard songs off my debut album “Disarm” played in band form, a lovely way of introducing some of the newer tracks and a great excuse for a fabulous party on stage.
Since April various Olympians have turned up in different groupings at SMW sets at Ladyfest Bristol, Hoxton Hall and back at The Half Moon for my Breakfast With Apollo community and collaboration nights, and all this fun made me decide to invite them to get involved in “Minefields” too. Ever working to a DIY budget I arranged a skills swap with Stephen Gilchrist (Local Girls, Graham Coxon) whereby he kindly gave me time in Brixton Hill rehearsal room in return for my shooting some footage of Local Girls (thanks again Stephen!!), and Dana Jade, Cajita and Ben Murray agreed to be the band for the day.
I got Ed Christmas back on board as DOP extraordinaire, was lucky enough to bag super talented actor/model/drummer (in ace band Zoetrope) Zoe Grisedale for bomb squad duty, invited some of the most die-hard London fans along to stand in the rain (sorry again, guys!) and popped to Halfords for some hazard tape. It was shot in one day using a Canon 5D Mk II for the bulk of the shots and the 550D for the slow motion section and yes, there’s a steadicam and some tracks involved, as the more eagle eyed of you will spy.
Then I spent all summer editing the darn thing! Around sofa surfing, housesitting and eventually moving house, “Minefields” was edited on trains, coaches, sofas and kitchen tables in Herne Hill, Peckham, Camberwell, Folkestone, Suffolk, County Durham, Paris and Bristol, and I’m so proud of it. It’s one of the most complicated music video edits I’ve attempted in eight years of working in film, partly because I wanted to balance out the band evenly (they’re special guests, not just a backing band!) while supporting the narrative and partly because Ed Christmas’ footage is so good it’s tough to choose what to cut out, and I think it’s now my joint favourite SMW video alongside “Slow Puncture”.
Disregarding the time I spent on it in pre- and post-production, the total cost of the video was around £500. I’m a firm believer that being on a budget doesn’t mean not paying people - you can save money in lots of areas like doing your own hair and makeup, arranging skills swaps in return for location, inviting fans and friends to get involved for fun etc but I’m in this for the long haul with the aim of keeping everything sustainable, so I never quibble with skilled people over their fees and I think the results speak for themselves.
Now it’s time to start planning the next one!