In the form of a new photo archive, Static Dress have revealed how they managed to make their latest music video despite being stuck in lockdown. We chatted to frontman Olli Appleyard about how it all came together and how important it is to make sure your content doesn't suffer just because of a change in circumstance.
Since bursting onto the scene last August, Static Dress have been slowly but surely unveiling their art to the world. The next step in their intricate timeline was the video for "safeword", their third visual and the moment they tie up the loose ends left dangling from previous releases 'clean.' and 'Adaptive Taste.'.
Though with the introduction of lockdown, the band's plans in terms of filming were flipped on their head. No longer able to be in the same room as each other and unable to film any of the narrative b-roll footage they originally planned, they set about adapting things.
With only one person being allowed on set at any time, the band figured out a way to frame, film, edit and grade the video remotely over FaceTime and Team Viewer.
This was the result:
The process has been documented and saved forever in the form of a special photo archive, showing off how much effort the band put in to keep their vision a reality as well as showing how just because things have changed doesn't mean the quality of your art should be affected.
You can view some of the photos below, interspersed with a conversation we had with frontman Olli Applayard. Enjoy.
How did this situation affect what you had in terms of plans for this time of the year?
“The thing is that every single thing we do, we need to be together to do it. So whether it’s taking promos or making something, we would all be involved and sat next to each other sorting it out. Without that being a possibility now, every single action you could possibly think of is 30x harder. To a lot of people it won’t be like that because you can just jump on a Skype call, but for us we physically need to be in the same room to make something. Now we can’t be.
"It does open a new box for you, because it means that you have to start thinking further and thinking harder about how to do things in a certain way yet retain what you’ve already built up. All of those conventional methods are thrown out the window. Going and playing a show was so easy in the past. You used to just have to contact two people and you have a gig. Now you have to build an entire live rig, reroute two people’s Internet, figure out a broadband scheme, buy a new router because someone’s is shit. It took three weeks of planning for us to be able to put on that one livestream session we did.”
Though the result was something incredibly special, it’s not exactly been enjoyable trying to reach that point…
“Yeah, absolutely. Like even trying to sort one of the routing issues, if I was in the room I would be able to press the right button or flick the right switch. Having to figure out how to tell someone how to do it is so much more draining. That’s what we’ve been dealt though and we’ve just got to figure out ways around having a completely different thought process in order to get the results we need.”
It must be so much more challenging when you have already set such a high bar for yourself. With the launch of the band and everything up until now has been so meticulously planned, when everything changes trying to reach that bar again becomes a much bigger hurdle...
“Oh yeah, an absolute dickhead move from me! When this is the best it can be, that’s what you have to keep up from then onwards. We had so many plans set in stone, such as new video rollouts, which were just diminished simply because I couldn’t physically stand in the same room as the person who needs to film it.”
So when you first set out to film the video for "safeword", how drastically did things have to change from the original blueprint when you realised it wouldn’t be possible?
“The original concept that we were running on was seamless transitions between everything and there being so many loose ends [from previous videos] that you would be able to tie up.
“So I had a storyboard and script completely written out. I think it was a ten-page document front-to-back. We had put out a casting call and got a cast. So the plan was to do it all of that stuff two days after we had filmed all the band performance stuff and get all of this b-roll footage to tie all of the story up. Then it will all make more sense about what we were going to do next.
“We were on the first day of performance shooting and quarantine gets announced. We realised from there this was bad, especially considering we were filming in a location attached to our drummer’s house. His mum works in a hospital so in the back of my mind I was thinking about who we were putting at risk.
“We managed to do a bit more performance stuff and then lockdown was initiated. From there tour was cancelled, everything else we had planned had gone out the window, recording deadlines disintegrated. Then the reality that the actors we had will no longer be attending the shoot hit. So we started contemplating whether we even put this video out, but I thought we had been sitting on it for so long I just wanted it in the world.
“So from there I set about rewriting the entire script, working out what we could bring back and what elements we could leave open to be unfolded at some point in the future.”
How did you set about finishing out the performance filming now that you weren’t allowed in the same place?
“So if you look on the archive there are FaceTime screenshots of our drummer setting up the camera so I could see what it was seeing on a tripod which was then filming him doing an action while I’m directing him over the call. It was painful at points. There were moments where we had to change the angles by like 10 degrees, and I would have to get an object from my room and frame a shot with it. Something like ‘This book is you and this stand is where the light needs to be’. I had to map out entire scenes from my room for him to see how the shot should look. Every single little detail had to be recreated in my own small space for him to understand how it should work. We spent four days trying to frame b-roll and for us to get about 30 seconds of usable stuff.
“We shot on the whole thing on to DV tape, the sort you would use with your Handy Cam back in the 90’s, and we had two things corrupt on the way in. So that was 17gb of import, and two hours worth of work, completely gone. We had to recreate absolutely everything all over again. We hadn’t even got to the editing stage and I just wanted to put what we had out.”
Though looking at the video now and how it fits into what you had planned for this period of the year, it still tells a story and fits into what you had been working on up to now in rather an effective way. How do you feel looking at the video as it is now?
“I’m not going to lie. It is disheartening. Especially knowing that it was all completely out of control. Before when we made mistakes we had to rectify them and it was on our backs. But this time it’s completely nothing to do with us and with me knowing where the story should now be, I feel like we are another two months of work away from where I want us to be. It sets everything back. I am glad that people can resonate with the video and enjoy it, but there is still so much that it was supposed to give that we just couldn’t. There are still a lot of hidden details in there that people are still spotting and messaging me about. Though they were supposed to be one of about 50 things we had hidden in there. We’re currently planning on the next few releases and I know that when we are able to get back together everything is going to be stepped up.”
Despite things having to change around you, when you have people responding in such a way to what you’re putting out it must give you so much drive and excitement for when that puzzle all comes together...
“We have this weird drive where once something is done we’re ready to move on to the next bit. I never really sit there and go ‘Wow, this is great’. As soon as a video or piece of content is out, I don’t watch it anymore. As soon as we are past something, I’m ready to get onto the next thing. Being stagnant and almost celebrating what you’ve done is, for me, one of the biggest downfalls you can have. You will get caught up on the good things, and when things aren’t so good you’re completely blown away and knocked off your pedestal and will feel fragile and weak. It can completely throw you."
So, how drastically has the timeline for Static Dress in 2020 been affected?
“Because this one thing has happened, it has ricocheted onto other things as well. Coming out of this I’ve realised that you need to have a Plan C as well as a Plan B. If the world did another front flip and landed on its head again, what have you got? I always think about if Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, YouTube and Spotify all deleted themselves. It probably won’t ever happen but what if it does? What have you got and where is it? People are so consumed within the Internet these days, what if it disappears and with it so does your band and all your art? That’s why I want to drive home the fact that you should own everything you do. We own our own websites and our own uploads on those websites. No-one can ever take that away from us.”
Having created something as vivid as this archive that pulls back the curtain on this side of band life in such a unique way, is it something that you plan on adding to as time goes on?
“It’s always going to be there and we will always been adding to it, but it will be in very different phases. When I was younger I would watch all of these videos of bands from behind the scenes and I would always be so engrossed in the process even more so than the actual result. There was a stigma that we were an “industry” thing to begin with when we started, and I can see why people would think that because we have executed it to the absolute best of our ability. I just really want to prove that it’s all us. We are physically painting sets built in our drummer’s garage with our bare hands. We’re not paying someone to do anything, which is the case for a lot of bands now.”
Though that’s the care and consideration and effort that everybody should want to put into their art. If you’re not on that level to begin with, why are you even doing this?
“Exactly. If you don’t care about something, why should anyone else? For me, that’s a massive thing. I genuinely don’t think there is any mystery in music anymore, because people get caught up on wanting to show off or gloat or flex that they forget what they are actually doing. You’re making art at the end of the day.
“It’s really disheartening watching some of my favourite bands produce something really lame from inside lockdown just because they want to stay relevant. You lose all self-respect and credibility just to stay in someone’s radar. A lot of bands are forgetting that once you put something out there, it’s out there forever. This excuse of saying something was made during lockdown is absolute shit. It looking crap just because it was done during lockdown just doesn’t cut it.
“What you put out is a permanent stature of time for what your band was doing at that point in your career. Every photo and every post can be deleted but it’s still been seen. You need to look more at how something can be the best that it can be no matter what time period it’s in. Having respect for your art, no matter what format or what medium it is, is the biggest thing for me.”
You can check out the full archive right HERE