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Focus Creeps: anarchy in the USA

The LA-based duo behind the videos for Starred and Smith Westerns give us their top five inspirations

Taken from the December issue of Dazed & Confused:

Since 2009, LA-based Aaron Brown and Ben Chappell (aka Focus Creeps) have become the go-to team for post-new-wave cinéma-vérité-style music videos for artists like Cass McCombs, Girls, Smith Westerns, Starred and King Krule. Often featuring children of all ages (including senior citizens) partaking in illicit activities such as drug use, breaking and entering, stripping and shoplifting, their videos depict an explicitly anarchistic world in which breaking rules is the impetus for existing. In their hands, cult icons of the past are the foundation for a singular aesthetic of the future. Here, Brown elaborates on their biggest inspirations.


“They were my first addiction. Addictions have to do with what you’re not allowed to do, and when you’re a kid, scary movies are all about finding ways to watch them without your parents finding out. The dark side of things is more seductive, but you have to use the language of darkness for good. That’s the riddle in life.”


“I really like how he values stupidity, ditziness, mistakes. I relate to that a lot. He writes about the baddest things. It’s so disgusting, it’s addicting. How do you read anything else after? And he writes with the most jaded, lacklustre tone, it all seems so normal that these kids are doing this stuff. One of his stories in Ugly Man is called ‘Knife/Tape/Rope’ and it’s based on a transcription of kids who murdered their friend. He gets this perfect language, it sounds like a Gregg Araki film.”


“Heroin users lie a lot, maybe because they’re still in that perpetually adolescent, womblike bubble. The video for Cass McCombs’s “County Line” was footage I amassed from roommates in college in Chicago, and there was a lot of drug use. It goes back to the whole ‘bad is good’ thing. In movies you wanna find the scariest movie, or the grossest, or most suspenseful. Or in books you want to find the most transgressive... It’s the same with people.”


“I met Karen in Oakland. A filmmaker friend of mine had invited her to a screening and asked if I’d pick her up at the airport because she was my favourite actress. Our friendship was a game, kind of. She never encountered things head-on. There was lots of lending and borrowing books, we’d go to the movies, I’d buy her tea, she’d tell lots of stories. I’d help her with things and when I asked if she would sing on Cass’s record she just said yes. She was the greatest voicemail-leaver ever. I still have her voicemails filling up my inbox. If you call and try to leave a message you can’t, it’s full. She lives on in there. I’ll never delete them.”


“It’s best when you can work with bands with personality, not just a made-up image. That’s what’s most important in music right now, no matter which genre. I think we’re best at getting across a band’s id, their sex drive, as Freud would say. Ideally you’d just always make that "March of the Pigs" video (by Nine Inch Nails) for every band forever.”