We get a lot of great music videos from Mick Cullen over at Subterranean Radio because Cullen has the best nose for tracking down incredible underground music in the country. His latest offering to us is a Canadian band called the Rural Alberta Advantage and the video for their song "Muscle Relaxants."
The song itself is an incredibly upbeat indie rock offering. If you gave Bob Dylan an unwise amount of laughing gas then this is the song we would probably turn. It's delightfully jinglingly, and even has a decent dance beat if movement is your thing.
But it's the video that really stands above the crowd, and we haven't seen the like of it from anything less than a major mainstream act
Filmed in a beautiful black and white, we follow the group as the cavort through underwater photography that is half Dicovery Channel, half elegant ballet. A collage of ecstatic writhing bodies bearing grins of pure joy meshes with the constant rain of musical instruments into the depths of what appears to be a very deep, very black body of water.
That's the triumph of the cinematography in "Muscle Relaxants." Each shot is framed perfectly to let the viewer recognize the enormity of the underwater setting, and even on our tiny laptop screen we can't help but feel an almost endless abyss beneath the lightly kicking feet of the band as they swim.
Every moment we expect to see the Loch Ness Monster meander on by, dodging the outflung limbs and gently falling tambourines. The wonderful, optimistic catchiness of the song and the sheer simple brilliance of the video make anything possible. Check it out below.
We fired off some emails to Rural Alberta Advantage to ask them a bit about how such a great piece of work came about. Continue to page 2 to read it.
Rocks Off: Can you tell us a bit about filming the video? Where you did it, how you got such beautiful underwater shots, and what all was involved?
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Rural Alberta Advantage: Our director, Jose Lourenco, did a great job dreaming up the treatment for this video and really wanted to set a moody tone with everything in near-silhouette, so things looked otherworldly and elegant. Of course, the magic to create that included some insane logistics like an Olympic-sized pool that was deep enough to allow for those kinds of silhouette shots and staying up all night to do the shoot at the pool since it was already in use during the days! Multiple pieces of dark tarp were hooked on around the sides of the pool to make it look more like a lake. Obviously, the camera and camera-woman were both submerged as well so the set up for each shot was a lot more complicated since we all couldn't readily communicate with each other either- there was lots of hand signals and messengers swimming back and forth!
RO: Is the whole thing a metaphor for feeling medicated?
RAA: "Muscle Relaxants" is one of the more upbeat songs on the album, so putting that energy against a visual that's so calm and sleek was kind of a cool juxtaposition for the track. We were really focusing on the feeling of "weightlessness" suggested by the track.
RO: Were any of the instruments you used still playable afterwards? Did the cymbals and drums end up at the bottom of the pool or were they recovered?
RAA: Ha, thank goodness no official gear was harmed in the filming of this shoot! All of the pieces that we used in the video were actually thrift store purchases or toy instruments, and I think it's safe to say that they were all casualties of the video.
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RO: Wasn't filming an underwater video dangerous?
RAA: It certainly felt that way at 4am when we'd all be soaking wet for a number of hours already and were still jumping into the water for more! The underwater shoot was definitely a challenge in itself and required a lot more safety precautions naturally. Things like extra protection guards on the lights that were placed around the pool and having divers on hand with oxygen tanks in case anyone need a hand. One of the main challenges that you forgot because it's so natural, is that your inclination is to float in water so just trying to keep ourselves down for long lengths of time to get the filming done was really exhausting. We tried a bunch of different solutions for that, ultimately ending up with a combination of weighted belts that we wore and putting weights in our jean pockets.
RO: Is this the sort of thing you visualized when you wrote the song?
RAA: One of the great things that comes from these video processes is reading the different treatment ideas from directors, and seeing all the different perspectives on the one song that we've written. Those tones and moods of the video ideas can really change the entire way you listen to a song. That was definitely the case with "Muscle Relaxants"; I don't think anyone was anticipating this sort of vibe for the video.