Wednesday, 9. April 2008 - 3:35 pm
Roisin Murphy is no ordinary pop star, and pop is really the opposite of what Jaron Albertin does. He is, after all, the master of weirdness and creeping disquiet. We’re talking about his marvellous videos for Emily Haines, Junior Boys, Death From Above, Circlesquare, Dave Gahan and more…
But Jaron’s video for Roisin’s You Know It Better does work as a pop promo. It’s glamorous and commercial – but unsurprisingly there is something else going on here too, underneath.
Roisin plays different characters – or rather different incarnations of herself, in different guises. On one level this is a woman struggling to establish an identity, and/or choosing to lose her real one in her varying looks. On another level it is eye candy, a fashion show.
“The idea of Roisin playing different characters came from the song, which is saying her partner knows her better than she knows herself,” explains Jaron. “The biggest reference was Cindy Sherman, in particular her book Centrefolds, which we referenced for the look we wanted. But I’d say it was inspired by rather than a recreation of Sherman. We didn’t dive really deep into character development.
“When Roisin trusts a director she lets them do their thing,” he adds. “But the biggest thing for me turned out to be dealing with an artist where how she looks really matters. That was something I’ve never had to think about before.”
But a third person besides Roisin and Jaron was absolutely crucial to realising this project, and fulfilling that ‘looking good’ requirement: stylist Claire Edmondson. Claire’s previous credits include Feist’s 1234 – the now-iconic blue spangly trouser suit worn by Leslie Feist in the video was her’s – but this is something else. She built up a strong rapport with Roisin making this video, and with its combination of high fashion and vintage, this is styling to make the fashionistas swoon.
The location is also hugely important. Shot at an ordinary suburban home in Snaresbrook, with a considerable amount of retro features and décor, the house is Roisin’s playground in the video, but it also confines her. There’s a real sense of claustrophobia. “We chose the house because we were looking for something normal, but which added something to it,” says Jaron. “I guess it has an American Fifties feel but its not – there’s a bit of modern British in there too.”
But he also reveals that after the shoot the video moved away from its originally-planned narrative structure. “There’s hardly any lipsync in the original cut,” he says, “And I do like the first cut we did. But it really didn’t reference the song well enough – and it is a pop song after all. To be honest it was hard to grab emotion from what we had.
“Ultimately it needed a more conventional edit: the more we cut it, the more it moved in that direction, and we ended up changing the editor. I’ve never done a re-edit before and let my editor go, But I think its better as a video.
“Roisin knows her stuff. But it’s almost like a tug and pull. She wants to do a creative thing, but the songs drive you to the pop side and it was the way the video had to go.” However, Jaron Albertin has still made a pop video with a psychological undercurrent – to be enjoyed best over repeated viewings.
You Know Me Better (EMI)
Prod co: Rokkit
Director: Jaron Albertin
Producer: Malachy McAnenny
DoP: Denzil Armour Brown
Art director: Gregg Shoulder
Wardrobe: Claire Edmondson
Editor: Amanda James at Final Cut
Telecine: Simon Bourne at Prime Focus
Online: Prime Focus
Commissioner: Katie Griffiths
Watch online: Quicktime movie
Claire Edmondson on the styling for Roisin’s You Know Me Better
“Roisin is really inspiring, she brings so much to the table. Usually at a fitting you pull out things and everyone gets really scared. But I’d show Roisin something and she’d say ‘yeah its amazing, and what about this?’ She was embracing everything I had and wanting to push it further.
“It was one of those projects which kept morphing as it went along. Cindy Sherman was definitely one of the references, but although Cindy Sherman’s book Centrefolds is very character-driven Roisin is very fashion-driven. We had to do a take on that but bring it into a fashion world.
“Basically she really liked the Louis Vuitton spring/summer collection, so we had some of the pieces from the collection. It was a lot of pastels, and its slightly old lady-ish actually, but it with a definite modern fashion twist. That’s where we started.
“We got really high high end designers to lend clothing, and then I did massive amounts of vintage shopping. It’s all high high end designer stuff or vintage – there’s no middle high street stuff going on. We had two different fittings because there was so much to do – basically we had a big dress up party and had a good time.
• “The green dress and pink hotpants, that’s a vintage look. There were so many costume changes you can’t really plan them ahead of time. I just did a massive, massive shop basically and then you start building outfits from there. That green dress I knew would be great somewhere, I just didn’t know in what context, but it would end up in the video. And it turned out to be a really strong look, I really like that one. And the ruff again is by a local designer.
• “In the hallway when she comes out in a yellow and gold dress and a giant tuille bow on her head (above) – she looks kind of confused. That’s Louis Vuitton – and I think that was the only piece we used in the end.
• “I know Jaron was trying to create an old lady look, with her actually looking like an old lady, but I don’t think that was really ever going to happen… But he kind of got in the hallway when she has the big ruffle thing on her head. She’s wearing an old vintage coat, and we added a big hot pink tuille bustle added to the back of it – you can just make it out in one of the shots – and then a neck ruff that we wrapped around the head.
• “That’s a vintage nightdress from the Sixties or Seventies. I think Jaron wanted something that could be like a housecoat while she’s lying on the kitchen floor because that was a definite Cindy Sherman reference. But I knew Roisin wouldn’t go for a housecoat. It had the blue ruffle around the neck, I knew she’d go for that.
•”We had this vintage dress and realised we could make the shoulders really big – Roisin and I are both really into big shoulders right now and we thought it was fun. Then at the last minute the hairdresser did her hair like that. Then some gold jewellery was added and it became this Alexis Carrington character. We didn’t really mean for that, but all of a sudden it was, ‘okay, that’s good too’…
• “Ruffs are a big fashion item right now. In the last shot of the video where she lands on the couch, she has one. We were basing that on the pierrot-clown look and the ruff came from a local designer called Poltock & Walsh. And that was a vintage jumpsuit with that piece, and then Balenciaga heels. A bit of a mismatch – but it works.”