Madam West Premiere Music Video For “Anxiety Palace” | Q&A With Directors
“One of my favorite Brooklyn bands of the genre-stewing variety: Madam West are out today with a visual treatment for their song “Anxiety Palace.” The video is a play on the timeless Lewis Carroll Alice In Wonderland tale, except a trip down a washing machine spins our Alice, (played by Mandy Nicole Moore), out into some twisted hobo hell! With the use of plenty of eye-catching visual movements dancing about in wild coruscant hues, and fast cuts, the twisted scenarios reveal our “Brooklyn Alice” is hardly in any wonderland. She storms out into the hallway, down the elevator, makes her way into the dank and dark basement of her apartment after a note ominously slides under her door says, “Tonya has been kidnapped.” Alice enters the washing machine, and all bets are off.
Madam West are a Brooklyn based band that have played an impressively event-filled May leading up to NSF dates. While they’re releasing brand new material for their only gig listed thus far in August on the 12th at Bed-stuy’s C’mon Everybody, I love it when bands give a project its due before moving onto the next one. Their blend of smart-pop has hypnotized me over and over at live shows, and now that they finally have a visual element that compliments that, it had me wondering how this process all came together–turns out it wasn’t exactly how you’d expect it.
The video was directed by Daphne Gardner along with Taylor Hebden, who together created this concept believe it or not originally for a now defunct band (that was probably swallowed into the Hudson), i’m sure that’s where we put all the bands that break up in New York.
Through the use of animations by Janna Hochberg and clever re-imaginations, a happy marriage between Madam West’s “Anxiety Palace” and Gardner’s creation came together in a big and unexpected way. So we took a minute to dig around in their noggins and we’re joined by Daphne Gardner and Taylor Hebden.
1) For those that aren’t privy to the work you do, can you describe your backgrounds and what you do?
DG: “Taylor and I met in high school in Baltimore and bonded over our mutual love of dark comedy, horror films and going to parties where we were not invited. We both ended up studying film in college, and helping one another with our work; Taylor’s documentary on our friend’s metal band and my backwoods horror film. Then I moved to New York and like all romantic comedies, we tried to make long distance work, (and it actually did)! We each make our own films but we work together often. This is our second music video. I normally direct and Taylor normally shoots, but we end up helping one another with all the aspects of the process.”
2) Daphne, this process has been unpredictable, from what I understand this footage was originally for another project that went defunct after it was filmed. Can you walk us through the story, timeline, people involved, how you came to learn about the footage no longer being usable, and how that changed when Madam West walked into the picture?
DG: “We originally shot this narrative intending for it to be a music video for a different band, but then that band broke up, so we were left with a visual story that needed a new song. We put a lot of time into the shoot, filming in Baltimore and Brooklyn and keeping our brave actress Mandy from freezing by stuffing her into a sleeping bag between takes. For us there was never a question of this video not coming out, we were proud of it! We just kept our ears open and bugged our musician friends.
I was taking guitar lessons with my friend Dara Hirsch, member of the amazing Operator Music Band, and told her about our situation. She had worked on Loves You by Madam West and after I showed her the video without music, it took her all of five minutes to put Sophie and I in touch. Dara is an excellent match maker. I went home and laid the song under the cut and Taylor and I watched our video take on an exciting new feeling, it was wonderful, it completely clicked. Then once we had the cut reworked to their song, we began the exciting process of animating the piece.
We had an incredible team in that department, with the animation concepts designed by Jaime Justen, and then animated by Janna Hochberg. ‘Anxiety Palace’ has this amazing beat that informed all the animation movement. One of my favorite parts of this process was sitting with Janna and watching our video really come to life, filled with all these bouncing, spastic colors.”
3) As a director, what are you looking for during the process? Are there styles you abide by, or aesthetic family’s you come from that shape that process?
DG: “As directors our main goal is pretty simple, we tell female-centric stories. During the process of directing I know that first and foremost I am looking for a willing collaborator. Someone who trusts me and is one hundred percent in on the day, and that is definitely Taylor.”
TH: “Daphne and I grew up making films with whatever resources we had at our disposal, which wasn’t much, and Daphne was always the star of the show. So our style is, “Shit I hope this works and you don’t run over my foot while I’m shooting you driving away!” It’s the high stakes environment that makes us trust one another.”
DG: “Even when we disagree it’s great because we’re both coming from this extremely dedicated place, intent on capturing what we fantasized about making. I also know we’ll hug it out later when we’re unpacking gear and just make fun of each other.”
4) Or are you personally avid music consumers and/or live event attendee’s? Is it inevitable editing filming and directing creative visual content, that artists knock on your door?
TH: “We both work in post, but not in the music world. But we have been filming friends’ bands, live shows, tours, and making music videos for a while, so music and film go hand in hand for us.”
5) Now that Madam West and your team were on board to rehash the footage to fit another theme and another song by way of “Anxiety Palace,” what was organic about this process, what were the challenges if any?
DG: “I can’t explain how some songs work under some visuals, but they just do. I used to work at the best video store ever, Video American in Baltimore. One night we put on Nosferatu on the TV and played a Depeche Mode CD. It was the best combination ever, but you never would have planned it. That is what it felt like putting ‘Anxiety Palace’ under our video.”
6) Top art directors, media makers you’d like to make mention? Anyone in the shadows you know that catches your admiration?
TH: “I was really blown away by a film I saw at the MD Film Festival this year called The Love Witch. It was a thriller inspired by American and European sexploitation horror films of late 60’s and early 70’s. Anna Biller wrote, directed, produced, edited and designed the production, the costumes and composed the music. And it was shot on 35mm film!!! That is un-fucking real. This woman should be on everyone’s radar.”
DG: “Agree! I loved that movie, go see it. I would also like to shout out our amazing animation team Janna Hochberg and Jaime Justen again, and our actress Mandy Nicole Moore! We could not have asked for a better group of people to make this with, everyone brought insight, excitement and did amazing work.”
7) Is there an indie film scene in New York?
DG: “Yes, I’m sure there is, there must be. I think people I know, know about it. I’d like to be a part of it one day.”
TH: “Does the time we saw Julia Stiles at IFC count?”
8) Any exciting projects in the works next?
DG: “Yes, I directed a documentary web series called Her Room, which came out last year. There were six episodes in the first season, and the second batch of episodes is coming later this fall. Taylor joined the project as an editor and filmed one of the episodes. We’re really excited to share the new season with everyone.”
TH: “I’m in post on a few shorts at the moment, one of them is a music video for a Baltimore based band.”
DG: “Also we’re going to the beach next month, I’m really excited about that.”
TH: “Me too.”
The freak-funk indie vibes of Madam West’s music and the wacky visuals all come to life (again) in an unexpected but ultimately perfect coalescing harmony thanks to Daphne and Taylor. You can still purchase Loves You by Madam West, watch their video over and over again pondering if going down the rabbit hole was ultimately the right thing to do, then see them playing live for the rest of the summer, because if this shows you anything, it’s that anything is possible.”
“Alice laughed: “There’s no use trying,” she said; “one can’t believe impossible things.”
“I daresay you haven’t had much practice,” said the Queen. “When I was younger, I always did it for half an hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”
Official Site // madamwest.com