FRAN LOBO's ‘WAR’ is a feminist dream produced by women

The singer's latest music video, which externalises an internal battle, was made by an all-female crew

FRAN LOBO is a one of a kind. The London-based singer songwriter is currently carving out a niche of her own, creating music that all at once manages to be ethereal, empowering and perfect for a sing-along, and conjuring up comparisons to artists as diverse as PJ Harvey, Grimes and Rage Against the Machine. It’s no surprise then, that an artist who is impossible to categorise and put in a box has created a music video that spans influences across film, music, dance and beyond. "WAR", her latest music video, sees the musician collaborate with director Charlotte Lowdell of Sorta Kinda Maybe Yeah collective and a crew of some of the best up-and-coming female talents in film, including videographer Mahalia John (singer Ama Lou's sister) and gal-dem’s video editor, Ifama. We premiere it here, exclusively, before it is aired on Channel 4 tomorrow as part of the second season of Random Acts.

Lowdell wanted to work with an all-female crew on the film, stating that “There were a few women I had worked with before that were encouraging and came on board (Martha, Beatriz and Daisy). Catherine Bray (Random Acts) and Juliette Larthe (Prettybird) are well known for championing underrepresented female talent”  she tells me. LOBO, who stars in the video alongside dancers Aishwara Raut and Sanea Singh – a music video with only women behind and in front of the camera – agrees.

The experience “literally created an army of women, a powerful group of people”, LOBO says, and she found the shooting of the video extremely emotional at times. “It just felt so magical, all of us women coming together”.

As is so often the case in this day and age, Lowdell and LOBO connected over social media. It was the fact that Lowdell was a fan first and foremost that attracted Lobo to her: “It felt like she really knew the themes of my music,” she states. Lowdell had been saying to her friends that she wanted to make a video for FRAN LOBO, and one day messaged her on Facebook. As luck would have it, Lobo had been dreaming about shooting a music video in the Rivoli Ballroom, famed for it original 1950s decor, (but without any budget) and the pair managed to secure funding from the Random Acts scheme, which supports young filmmakers, to make the video.

The art of the music video is ever-evolving in popular music, to a point where the lines are beginning to blur between music video, short film and art – just think of the work that artists like Kendrick Lamar, Rihanna and Beyoncé have been putting out over the last few years. In "WAR", LOBO and Lowdell’s influences ranged from David Lynch to Pina Bausch, creating a lucid, captivating short. But unlike the work of Lynch, whose recent season of Twin Peaks has been dubbed by some as sexist, Lowdell maintains a wholly feminist vision.

The film opens with a shot of LOBO bathed in woozy red lighting, reminiscent of Gaspar Noe’s Irreversible, casting concern through a viewer’s mind about LOBO's fate, before being overlaid with the lyric “you think you find me in darkness”, which sees LOBO bathed in light, looking down the camera’s lense and completely in control. The war that rages in the video is an internal one – but one that LOBO seems determined to win.

There’s a sense of unity to "WAR", from the synchronised movements of LOBO, Raut and Singh, the serendipity of Lowdell and LOBO’s Facebook conversation, to the close-knit nature of its crew. Lowdell claims that the best part of working as part of a crew is “putting your dreams into someone else’s hands and seeing what they come up with”. In their collective project, Lowdell and LOBO have created a film that’s a testament to the power of collaboration. While the lyrics of LOBO’s song suggest war and conflict, this video is quite the opposite, displaying a harmonious meeting of minds. 

FRAN LOBO headlines Corsica Studios on November 1st.