'Travel Treats Music Video' / Close Counters
Close Counters are unusually fully formed for a young electronic act- Finn Rees and Allan McConnell’s fusion of boogie, soul and deep house sounds carefully contrived, as if it were developed over decades. The Tasmanian duo, after years supporting Oz electro behemoths like Peking Duk, arrived with their own bag of tunes last year on their debut LP SOULACOSTA. The 12 track record was built off a nostalgia licked collection of 70s groove records, collected on their gap year travels across Europe. The LP is a kaleidoscope of groove and a sampladelic aural experience from start to finish. The music video for ‘TRAVEL TREATS’ arrived yesterday, as the pair continue to ride the wave of SOULACOSTA’s success. Verve caught up with Close Counters and makers of the clip, Sanjiv Gopal and Nathan Guy, to talk about the process of shooting, nostalgia, deep house and more.
DIRECTORS (SANJIV GOPAL & NATHAN GUY)
Tell me about how this collaboration came about with Close Counters.
Sanjiv: Back in 2016, Nathan and I made a short film [The Troglodyte] at Swinburne and we needed a composer. Nathan knew Allan [McConnell] from Close Counters from his time in Tassie, and Alan had just gotten to Melbourne, so we hit him up and he was really interested. I had to make a music video for uni the following year, and so I just asked if they wanted a music video. That’s how I made the first clip that I’ve done for them, for SOULACOASTA. And then Nathan and I were just pretty bored. Nathan had, like, a really clear idea of a visual style that he wanted to suit, and we didn’t really have any projects coming up, so we asked if they wanted another one and got started on it.
How did the music video process differ from narrative film?
Sanjiv: Because the first one was at uni, that was a little bit stricter in what we could do. There were a lot of processes to follow, and scoring the film, as well – a lot of it was already really complete. But with this one, it was kind of loose. It was a big collaboration. Because it was outside of uni, we had a lot of freedom in what we wanted to do, and same with the concept, which was making a portrait of Melbourne’s youth. We pitched that to the band and asked them if they knew people that might want to be involved — particularly that they look up to, or collaborate with a lot. They were really great with organizing a lot of people that we hadn’t even met, who ended up being really perfect. In a way, some of them are a core part of the music video.
Nathan: For me, the biggest difference between the narrative stuff and this stuff was that when we first started working with Alan, he was making music that suited our visuals, but for this music video, we were making visuals to suit their music. So it kind of flipped on its head, which is very interesting to do for me.
The video has a very loose and relaxed vibe, but music videos like that often require rigorous planning. I’m interested in what the pre-production process was.
Nathan: For me, it was like, “I want to make something that looks like what ‘Travel Treats’ sounds like,” and then in some conversations with Alan, particularly, he was talking about how that style of music has this appeal, where it’s like partying and a reckless kind of… not too much depth to the culture. He was very interested in this honest representation of people who are in their style of music and their little Close Counters bubble. And so from that came the idea of the portraits, and then we just cast people that were close to the Close Counters boys.
Did you have visual influences, references and inspirations when you were working on this?
Sanjiv: Yeah, we watched a lot of stuff. What was the biggest one?
Nathan: It’s a while, now that we did this. Probably a year ago that we were…
Sanjiv: ….looking at influences and so on. Nathan did a really good job of finding a lot of content — a lot of it was, like, branded sports content, because it kind of matches the energy, but also had that kind of feel where it’s very stylistic, with a lot of characters that are really dressed for representing a certain mood or an energy quite well, which is something that we wanted to match. We cut up a mood reel of that, and so we knew what it was going to feel like; what it was going to look like. We had a really, really clear idea to pitch to the band and to the actors before we got to work.
This is co-directed, right?
Nathan: I would say Sanjiv directed it.
Sanjiv: I would say that this music video’s ours, but I directed it and Nathan shot it.
Nathan Guy: Yeah.
Sanjiv: But it’s as close to co-directing as you can be without it being co-directing. [laughs] It was very organic. We hadn’t shot anything together since 2016, but I think we just had this real need to pump something out that worked out really well.
Do you have any upcoming collaborations planned?
Nathan: We’d love to do another clip for Close Counters, that’s for sure. They’re working on a lot at the moment. I’m not sure if we’re allowed to talk about that. But hopefully there’s a single there that needs some visuals.
Exciting! Is there anything else you would like to say about the video on Verve?
Nathan: It was a great experience for us, personally, ‘cause we got to work with a lot of friends, and it comes through in the final product — but also, we made a lot of friends.
Nathan: I think there’s, like, 50 people credited as appearing. It was a great experience to be involved with a lot of people, and collaborate with a lot of people. It was quite wholesome.
Sanjiv: Yeah, I’ll definitely echo that statement. I just want to highlight, again, the good work that Alan and [fellow Close Counters member] Finn [Rees] did, as well — not only making the track, but also helping us organise a lot of the people. There’s an authenticity to that clip that we really wanted to strike but wouldn’t have been able to manufacture. So many different people from different walks of life that are represented in that clip, and that’s purely come from getting so many different people from the scene in to represent themselves. So, hats off to the boys for that one.
Interviewed by Ivana Brehas (Film Editor)
CLOSE COUNTERS (FINN REES & ALLAN MCCONNELL)
Both of you are currently Hobart based- did you guys grow up there? What was your musical education/experience when you were younger?
Close Counters: We are both born and bred Tasmanians- at one point we lived on the same street in the suburb of Taroona. For Allan, piano lessons started at age 9 and throughout high school he played in a string of bands, usually formed with the intention of entering the Amnesty Battle of the Bands competition. Finn also had piano lessons from a young age, starting out classical and developing into jazz later in school. His gigging experience ranged from playing in high school rock bands similar to Allan or playing accordion in a gypsy jazz/folk band at Cygnet Folk Festival (Frumious) and now in several soul/jazz/alternative bands around Melbourne.
Are samples the genesis for most of your work? How do you build your beats?
CC: SOULACOASTA was actually our first project experimenting with samples at the forefront. Our writing process changes every time, but usually it’ll start with a strong idea in the form of a looped beat, chord progression or bass line. The entire form of a piece is almost always decided on at the end of the process. We mix our own songs and generally add little pinches of flavour as we tighten it up, such as percussion fills and delay/FX that make transitions smoother and more musical. We’ve enjoyed collaborating with other artists and producers and seeing how the approach and workflow changes between people.
What have you learnt about recording with SOULACOASTA that has changed or informed your approach for the future?
CC: It was our first time completing an LP’s worth of songs - SOULACOASTA has 12 songs and then when it was uploaded to Spotify & Apple Music four months after its initial release, we added 5 remixes and 2 bonus tracks. A positive response [we received] was that most people would happily run the whole record from start to finish, which makes the prospect of creating another long play album/mixtape very appealing.
Your upcoming music video for ‘TRAVEL TREATS’ is a visual feast- a Big Beat style, mish mash of fashion and dance- conceptually, how did it come about?
CC: After completion of the film clip for the title track off SOULACOASTA with director Sanjiv Gopal, we decided we wanted to back it up with another visual and add to the mix a long term friend of ours from Hobart, Nathan Guy for Director of Photography. Nathan has shot many of our gigs and even a series of press shots of us outside the opera house in 2014 but this was our first time working with him on a film clip.
Rare 70s groove records found on your gap year travels inspired the development of the music on SOULACOASTA. What role does nostalgia have in your work?
CC: There’s something about the production quality in 70s groove records that always makes the perfect sample. Many house producers would probably relate to this. A lot of these records were new discoveries for us, but had a hint of nostalgia in their production quality and texture as a lot were released when our parents were young. A fun fact is that the main sample on the track ‘SKATE OR DIE’ on SOULACOASTA is from Finn’s auntie’s psychedelic band Canterbury Glass that recorded in the 70s in the UK.
You've been listed as Australia's answer to Disclosure- do you draw from similar deep house influences also?
CC: We’ve been big Disclosure fans for a while and have been lucky enough to see their live set twice - some other deeper housey acts we like include KINK, Ross From Friends, Jitwam, Jamie xx and Melbourne’s very own Horatio Luna. We also dig into late 90s/early 2000s house from UK, particularly influenced by Finn’s older cousins who were DJs in Brighton around that period.
What's the ideal venue/atmosphere for a Close Counters show? Are you happy for punters to turn up and dance rather than stand and listen?
CC: Dancing is ideal! Any venue that has a good vibe and sound system suits. We just finished doing a run of shows with Mickey Kojak at Workers Club in Melbourne and Oxford Arts Factory in Sydney which was great fun, and we also recently did a full six-piece band set at Strawberry Fields Festival in Tocumwal. Perhaps one day we may experiment with some special intimate shows with more stripped back music, but for as long as we’re making house influenced music we love to see punters having a boogie!
What does the new year have in store for Close Counters?`
CC: After finishing promoting the ‘TRAVEL TREATS’ video we’ll be working towards some new releases with Exist. Recordings. These will showcase a bunch of collaborations with new friends that we’ve met through gigging in the Melb and Syd. We’re also looking forward to working on more visuals - hopefully we can take what we have learned from the process of making ‘TRAVEL TREATS’ and use this to help produce our next film clip. Finn will also be working on animating content for our videos and live visuals under this Piewack alias. We will also be working with a booking agency to be revealed soon, so keep an eye out for a Close Counters live show coming near you in 2019!
Interviewed by Josh Martin (Music Editor)