Montreal’s Chevalier Avant Garde is Eurozone expat twosome, Dimitri and Filip. Mostly. Their knowingly trashy darkwave jams come shrinkwrapped in trailblazing music videos and on-point live visuals, calling for a supporting cast of resourceful brainiacs. VHS-hacking music video director Rob Feulner warps, loops, tears and ‘fingers’ obscure (often erotic) tapes like a horny poltergeist.
In keeping with his international man of mystery persona, guitarist and production aesthete Filip is M.I.A. on the unseasonably warm night that kicks off in Chevalier Avant Garde’s apartment before their Pop Montreal show. This is OK. Their sound, inspired by "euro-sleaze, sexy goths, smoke from Turkish cigarettes and the dark leather seats of an old Benz" may be bringing sulky back, but I’m there to talk about Dimitri and co’s skills in the black art of the music video.
Welcome to the weird wide world of Chevalier Avant Garde. Press ‘play’, or whatever – and if you like what you see, check out the previously unreleased track "Cold Purple", which has only just come out as a special track on a limited edition, 50-tape run of Resurrection Machine.
Dazed Digital: You just made a brand new video for "Killing Fields" (off your new album Resurrection Machine). What was the process?
Rob: The original footage is a snippet from The Terminator. It’s a really gorgeous scene: this passionate embrace, which gets interrupted by a robot. It worked so well with the atmosphere and lyrics: two damned souls, love won't save them; but desire and co-dependence are a good distraction.
DD: Found footage music videos are often sourced from online, digital references. You work with analogue sources a lot – is that a bitch, technically?
Dimitri: Rob’s really into VHS manipulation. Cutting it up live on the spot.
They grew up on Euro-sleaze, myself on French-Canadian sleaze
Rob: This video mostly consisted of three or four back-and-forth dubs of increasingly damaged VHS footage of that scene. When I finally reached the level of noise that I wanted, I juxtaposed it with a much cleaner DVD-to-VHS dub. The ending of the video, which is the clean version, with my finger lightly rubbing against the VHS head, is much more visually coherent than the rest. I tried to convey that, while things in the past were still kind of bad and noisy, it could always be so much worse.
DD: Your invasive approach to erotic sources, like the naked desert babe in the "Rose Rider" video, gives everything this illicit quality. It channels the sexual charge going on in CAG’s music.
Rob: They grew up on Euro-sleaze, myself on French-Canadian sleaze. And we're both trying to capture the feelings – confusion, excitement, fear - of catching something on television that you shouldn't see as a child. There’s definitely a mimetic connection between us. Or serendipity. Or we're just creeps!
Dimitri: He collects VHS like old porn. Like I found him some old medical nursing instructional videos. I’m sure we could do something with those.
DD: What are some your favourite video finds?
Rob: The Lycos Guide to the Internet starring John Turturro and The Law Enforcement Guide to Satanic Cults. The latter was incredible and I lost it. I think about it every day.
Dimitri: The first time I went to London, I went basically to get videotapes of the Smiths early shows. That was my thing: live tapes. I was just such a huge fan of the Smiths. I’ve watched Chris Issac's "Wicked Games" way too many times. Also, Sade's "Ordinary Love", because she's a mermaid reading a magazine underwater.
DD: What’s the name Chevalier Avant Garde about?
Dimitri: It’s like trying to be this cool gangster and picking up girls with a cool name. Filip knew this Polish guy who used it - Chevalier Avant Garde – like, in bars, to be cool. Filip would use it and we’d laugh about it. And then it stuck.