Yours Truly on how Young Turks hit Tulum

The directors talk about the ultimate tropical NYE party, with images by Laura Coulson

Young Turks in Tulum
"9am swimming in the Cenote" Photography by Laura Coulson

Yours Truly have been creating mesmerising video portraits of almost every emerging musician you’ll have been excited about since 2009. Delving into the index on their site unearths a catalogue of beautifully captured glimpses into the worlds of acts like: Grimes, Nicolas Jaar, Kendrick Lamarr, Chromatics, Julia Holter, Mac DeMarco, Rustie and Tame Impala. San Franciscan best friends William Abramson and Babak Khoshnoud began the project with filmmaker Nate Chan after being inspired by La Blogotheque’s live music video series however they quickly developed their own signature style whilst essentially bestowing every artist’s film with the loving care and editorial nous to ensure that each was faithful to its subject’s music and personality. This summer Yours Truly travelled to London to shoot a piece with one of Young Turks’ rising stars, Sampha, the thoughtful producer with a heart-melding voice. The video is a perfect example of Yours Truly’s work, portraying artistry via an exquisite audio recording supplemented by a very human intimacy radiating through the lens.

So there couldn’t have been a better-suited outfit than theirs to document Young Turks’ New Year’s Eve party in Tulum, and Abrahamson and Khoshnoud more than delivered, creating a film that brings the viewer right onto the beach alongside the thousands of beaming partygoers. Naturally whilst hanging out in paradise with so many exceptional musicians they just had to shoot a couple of stunning performances too. These videos of Chairlift’s Caroline Polacheck and Twigs are now live on Dazed.

Dazed also has an exclusive gallery of images from Laura Coulson, the only photographer to be allowed backstage throughout the festival. Coulson, a friend of the label said "It was a very special event, people just seemed to leave behind the egos of London – it brought out a new side in people. I felt truly honoured to be there, taking photos of some of my favourite artists and friends in one of the most beautiful place in the world." Taking over 35 films over the 10 days, Laura will be releasing a limited-edition zine through Young Turks of all the photos taken, set for release next month. Until then enjoy this special selection of photos from Coulson's collection and read on as we chat with Yours Truly to find out what exactly was going on behind the scenes at the tropical party.

Dazed Digital: Did you approach Young Turks about documenting its New Year’s Eve party, or did it come to you?

Will Abrahamson: We've been fans of Young Turks forever, and I finally had the chance to meet Molly (Hawkins, the label’s creative director) in Los Angeles a few months ago. She told me to bring my swimsuit, so I stopped at a second hand shop and bought the ugliest one they had because it fit. We got along swimmingly (zing!) and talked about various ways to work together. This was one of them.  

DD: Did you get to head out early to plan the shoots? 

Will Abramson: Nope. We finally got the go ahead to shoot about a week before the event, so everything happened super fast. We booked the very last flight available and made as many preparations as we could, then the first couple days were just scouting locations, hanging with the Young Turks fam and eating tacos.  

DD: What made this event feel different from other parties to you?

Will AbramsonThe Young Turks are a real clan. There was this amazing thread of respect and camaraderie that ran through that crew and extended to the audience. People were there because they wanted to be, not because it was the place to be.  

DD: Who chose to place Caroline Polachek in the water, and Twigs in the ruins for their films? Such perfect settings.

Will Abramson: Caius Pawson (Young Turks’ founder) took us on a tour which included a walk along a jungle trail to a cenote (a natural sinkhole used as a site for sacrificial offerings in Mayan worship). We knew we couldn't leave without shooting something there so we took Caroline to see it the next day. Of course she loved the way it looked, and agreed to come back after soundcheck to sing for us. By the time she was free we were losing light fast, but we got this amazing performance from her in the very last moments of daylight. It was meant to be. 

We've been dying to shoot something with Twigs since 'Hide' first hit the web. When we met in Tulum, she told us she would only do it if she got to perform in front of local people.  Her idea was to play in a church in the town, so we went there to see if the pastor would let a stranger take over the altar, but he wouldn't budge. So we were pretty much dead in the water until about 8am on the morning of the New Year’s Eve party.  Koreless was playing, the sun was up, and we met a group of natives who were tripping on acid. We explained how we had to find a place for Twigs to perform, and one of the guys, Pepe said, 'No problem, I will take care of it. Call me tomorrow and we will find the place.' I didn't have the highest hopes, but when I called the next day, he answered. We agreed to meet in town for breakfast at an amazing place with no menu, and afterwards we drove into the jungle. About 20km out of town we stopped at a cute little restaurant on the side of the road. Pepe spoke to the owners, and they agreed to let us film in the abandoned Mayan house behind their property.  Walking back there for the first time was creepy. The destruction was everywhere. History was right in all of our faces and we knew it was exactly what Twigs was after. 

DD: The Sampha film has a remarkably delicate feel to it. Do you still find it easy to avoid visual cliches and repetition for every act now that you've been doing this a while? 

Will Abramson: We never approach a shoot thinking that we need to do it a certain way. The goal is to help artists tell their stories, and since every story is different, every shoot should be different. For Sampha, spending time in his house was amazing. The smell of his mum's cooking, his family piano in the parlor, the posters on his wall reminded me of my own bedroom. All we did was make him feel comfortable enough to share with us.

DD: I love that you keep the camera handheld, and allow little imperfections to stay in the edit. Have you got more confident in using a naturalistic eye as you've developed?

Will Abramson: It's all in the imperfections! When we first started, we were students of La Blogoteque, who made those imperfections work for them. Our styles have since diversified, but we both embrace a raw, intimate manner that doesn't push to polish over the humanity inherent in observing another.  

DD: Why do you think it's important to still shoot these experiences professionally when so many people record things for themselves on smartphones now? 

Will Abramson: I don't think our films are any more important than the ones people make on smartphones. Those films are personal too. Most of the time we're recording our personal experience with an artist, just with nicer stuff.  

DD: You must have seen hundreds of musicians perform up a mere few feet from you by now, do you still get goosebump moments?

Will Abramson: Almost every single shoot there is a moment where we look at each other, and acknowledge how lucky we are to do what we do. 

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