[5 June 2014]
PopMatters Assistant Editor
The jury is still out on whether or not the so-called “emo revival” is truly the revival that it claims to be. But for Canadian rockers JPNSGRLS (“Japanese Girls”), emo is a key but not irreducible component of their sound. Energetic frontman Charlie Kerr’s vocals are cut from the same cloth that spawned countless a pop-punk band, but his fellow musicians bring a garage-rock intensity to counterbalance the cutesiness of his delivery and some of his lyrics. On “Smalls”, a track from their forthcoming Circulation LP, Kerr sings about “kitty kats” and references the kid-favorite The Sandlot over a fast, rockabilly-esque delivery. (He does, however, get some great one-liners, including the choice “There’s more to life than getting used to death”). The rest of the band, meanwhile, is ripping into some stellar riffs, all the while guiding the tune in directions a run-of-the-mill rock outfit probably wouldn’t.
The video for “Smalls”, directed by Nathan Boey, captures the schizoid quality of the song, all the while adding some left-field images that include the band in corpsepaint, a strange sort of garbage chute, and shadows creeping along dim-lit walls. Boey explains, “We wanted to make a video that captured the dark, haunting lyrics and the buzzing, raw and gritty textures of the song.”
Kerr says of the tune, “‘Smalls’ is a song written about being on various drugs. The first half is written about the young, fun experience and the second half is about an adult dependance on anti-depressants that my friend struggles with to this day. Everyday he wakes up and hardly recognizes the person that drugs have made him, which worked out visually with us becoming unrecognizable symbols of darkness in the latter half of the video. The video turned out incredible; to me, it feels like Tim Burton or David Lynch directed Scott Pilgrim vs The World, so as a film nerd I was just smitten with the result.”
Guitarist Oliver Mann goes into further detail, saying, “Right from the treatment, I was very excited because it was obvious that Mario [Forero, executive producer] and Nathan are really talented and creative people. The only concrete aspects that had been discussed before arriving on set was that the video would revolve around the theme of death—‘There is more to life than getting used to death’—and that we were going to push the visuals to that end. We felt they could produce something really amazing when given a relatively blank canvas and that they deserved to be trusted.
“The video shoot itself was interesting. You might assume, looking at the video, that the majority of it was filmed in front of a green screen but that was not the case. It was actually filmed in complete darkness except for the few lights that were on the subject. Originally, Nathan had wanted to film the video in an abandoned warehouse, but, being unable to secure one, I found it quite hilarious that the next best thing was local hipster club The Cobalt.
“Mario and Nathan did a great job at translating the energy and chaos that the band tries to bring to each performance to the spasm that is ‘Smalls’. Beyond the performance the visuals are really engaging and it was fun to see how the tricks that we did on set were realized in the final video. My favorite part is when Charlie sticks his head out of the drawer each time to sing. It would be great if we could all fit into drawers. It would allow for more room in the tour van which is a bit cramped as it is.”
The result of all of this is a video that’s every bit as kinetic and infectious as “Smalls” itself.
Circulation is out on July 15th through Light Organ.