Interpol - Beneath the Lights

Dazed Digital get an exclusive behind-the-scenes look at the eerie and alien world of Interpol’s video for ‘Lights’

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A short film vividly documenting the imagined ritual of pheromone production within the body of a three-horned rhinoceros beetle seems a compellingly offbeat choice to make for an eagerly anticipated comeback video from one of New York’s favourite sons. Alongside The Strokes, The Rapture and Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Interpol personified the exciting era of New York rock at the start of the decade. Arguably only Yeah Yeah Yeahs have had a smooth ride of late, with The Rapture keeping on the downlow, The Strokes plagued by rumours of inter-band friction and a continually delayed new album and Interpol receiving lukewarm notices for 2007’s ‘Our Love To Admire.’ Following the exodus of bassist, Carlos Dengler and the entry of indie icon, David Pajo to the lineup; the band are ready to reveal their self-titled fourth album to the world in September. But first, a surreal detour into an alien landscape where kinky, rubber suited courtesans prepare a “doe” for an arousal ceremony, courtesy of artist-director, Charlie White. Dazed Digital got an exclusive behind-the-scenes look at the making of the video, alongside interviews with White, stylist, Marjan Malakpour and the band.

DD: How did you come up with the concept for the video of the ritual of pheromone production in a beetle? 

Charlie White: I have always been interested in pheromones in insects. They are what cause locusts to swarm, they can alert other bugs to stay away, and of course they play a role in procreation. They are a critical component in insect socialization. As for the Three-Horned Rhinoceros beetle, this was an aesthetic love affair; I have always been very attracted to its blackness, its evil shape. The three-horned rhinoceros beetle is one of the most dramatic as well as demonic-looking insects. The male beetle has a heavy black shelled form with a helmet-like cranium bearing three enormous horns. The beetle was the creative starting point for the video, and a complement to the dominance of black within Interpol's aesthetic language. The beetle became the muse, and from it the video's sets, wardrobe, and palette emerged.

DD: You previously directed the video for ‘Evil’. How would you characterise your working relationship with the band?
Charlie White: Remote, respectful, and real. We have never met, we really admire each other's work, and we have never had any bureaucracy between us, and that has kept the entire process grounded and real. We have only spoken at length, and this may be the most important part of our relationship: it is purely about ideas The hypnotic space of Interpol begs for fantasy, and perhaps that is why so many people have loved them since ‘Turn On The Bright Lights’—because they have the ability to allude to intense moods and scenes without suffocating the listener's personal responses to the music.

DD: Which artists have been influential to your aesthetic?

Charlie White: Artists have more of an effect on my thinking, not my aesthetic. Aesthetics shift. Again, the tension I feel—and this has happened standing in front of a Tony Smith, looking at a Balthus painting, moving through a Bruce Nauman. Photographers and thinkers such as Jeff Wall and Christopher Williams helped me understand how to create a photograph after photography; however, this was no more or less important to me than painting, sculpture, or film. 


DD: What themes do you often return to in your work?
Charlie White: 
In very broad terms, I am interested in tension; visual, cultural, and libidinal. In my photography, I am focused on an investigation of these tensions, and this investigation has shifted in theme as I have gotten older. Most recently in my work I have focused on adolescence in film, photography, and, as a side project, animation. The Interpol project was very much a vacation from this thinking and a window into things I am a fan of, such as science fiction, minimalist forms, and pornography.

Marjan Malakpour
LA based stylist, Marjan Malakpour has music in her blood, mixing styling the likes of Beyonce Knowles, Shakira and Smashing Pumpkins with designing a much coveted shoe line, Newbark alongside her sister, Maryam. Here, she gives an insight into the concept behind the rubber-and-PVC suited aliens in the video.
“I have always had a fascination with the avant-garde.  When I started this project with Charlie and reading through his treatment I felt the design elements needed to be strong and sexy.  I wanted to create recognizable characters, but portray them in a different way.  Working with “fetish” gear and attire is not new to me.  I wanted to incorporate elements of that without being overt.  I feel using “fetish” subtly enhanced the characters and the dynamic relationships between them. Working with Charlie was a pleasure.  He had a very strong vision and that is very helpful when determining a creative direction.  We definitely played with different ideas to create this world.  He is very ambitious and that allowed me to push the limits to create a provocative and exciting video.”

Interpol’s Paul Banks on the video
"We wanted a striking film clip above all else for 'Lights' - and that it be strange.  So Charlie and I got on the horn to discuss his ideas. He said he was obsessed with sex and death. I said, "Good, good." He said he had a vision of rituals, beetles and pheromone production. I said, "Yes, yes, certainly." He seemed supremely motivated and rearing to go. So we unleashed him. Et voilà.”

Special thanks to Revolver Film Company. Hair and makeup by Pamela Neal.
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