Will Lovelace and Dylan Southern - aka thirtytwo, when they direct music videos - have made a wonderful promo for Eugene McGuinness' s new track Godiva. And in the process they have managed to fulfill a long-term ambition.
On one level the work they have also called Guitar Face is all about guitar-playing, even if we never actually see a guitar being played. On another level, it's about what happens when people - particularly men - are losing themselves in the moment. And, captured in slo-motion, it's not only funny, it's also touching and ultimately inspiring.
So we spoke to Dylan of thirtytwo, to get the lowdown on the idea behind Guitar Face, and the making of the video...
DK: How did you come up with the ‘guitar face’ idea? Do you guys play guitar yourselves?
DS: It was an idea we really wanted to do years ago. I guess we’ve always appreciated the intensity of a good guitar face. But it had sadly been forgotten until recently. I read a chapter in a book that jogged my memory. It was talking about how the human brain comes to recognize the tools we use as extensions of the self. So in the same way that some people can’t help mouthing the words as they bash out an email, really good musicians can’t help but physically emote music as they play. I (Dylan) play guitar, but if I had been filmed the expression wouldn’t have been as emotive, more a look of confused concentration a bit like Father Dougal.
It’s presented like a film with a Eugene McGuinness song on the soundtrack – is that how this came about?
Yes, this is an ongoing project. It was a project we were always going to make (either as stills or film) and something that we plan to extend. We are going to do another round of portraits next time we’re in LA. The shots play out amazingly as much longer takes - it’s mesmerising watching the faces run the gamut of expressions with less edits - so it’s our intention to create a longer film. We’d talked with Eugene about the idea in the past and he had a new record coming up so it seemed like good timing to get going.
It’s such a great idea - were you surprised that no-one had thought to do something like this before?
Yeah, obviously there have been some great portrait videos shot on phantom before, and we were convinced someone must have approached this subject previously. So when we researched and realised it was unchartered territory we couldn’t wait to get going.
How did you find your guitarists? Anyone among them we should know?
Various different routes; we went out to some guitar nights in Camden, put adverts in guitar shops on Denmark Street, approached people on Youtube, and got some from a music college. It was an amazing response.
It's got a great rich filmic look. Presumably you shot each one the same way, in the same place?
Yes. We had limited resources so the whole lot were shot in one day. We wanted it to have a really stylised, photographic look. That felt more appropriate than doing anything naturalistic somehow. Our references were all portraits from the 50s and our DoP Ray Coates lit it beautifully. Simone Grattarolla at Rushes did an incredible job on the grade.
How good (or bad) was their playing? Did you have to ask anyone to stop?
Honestly, to a man they were incredible guitarists, playing various genres. One of them, a young guy called Aaron Keylock, was the best guitarist I’ve ever seen, I think he was 17 and had a proper John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers style. Amazing to watch. And Sal the guy with jheri curls was an absolute legend.
It was hard to call 'cut' sometimes because everyone was so talented and you just wanted to listen. But we had a green room/kitchen with a backlog of guitarists all day and had to keep moving.
Did you give them direction to ‘do’ a guitar face – did it come naturally?
That expression wasn’t used and the title was added later. The most important thing for us was that the musicians weren’t self-conscious in any way, and that there was no affectation or mugging for the camera – just natural performance. We deliberately gave no specific direction or instruction other than to play the music that they enjoy playing the most. The rest just came naturally.
The sexual connotations are pretty unavoidable. So is playing good guitar like making love to a beautiful woman?
I can only talk from personal experience, and for me playing guitar usually involves a clumsy fumble through a very limited repertoire, which generally ends in disappointment and embarrassment. So yes.