Odd Hours — “SWTS” (video) (Premiere) (interview)

Detroit art-rock quartet Odd Hours unveil captivating video to coincide with release of new EP.

Odd Hours mine the darker territories of art rock, championing a mash-up of genres. Equal parts post-punk, industrial, and glam rock, they are experimental to the core, but pepper their songs with myriad earworms. The Detroit quartet — singer Natasha Beste, guitarist/multi-instrumentalist Timothy David Jagielo, bassist Clint Stuart, and drummer Randy Hanley Jr. — is out there enough to be compelling, but not so far beyond to be baffling.

On Wednesday, July 15, this group of nocturnal provocateurs is releasing their third EP, entitled norepinephrine + dopamine. Coinciding with the five-song record’s unveiling is a music video for lead track “SWTS” (an initialism for “Sleeping With the Sun”), filled with images of needle-punctured Voodoo dolls, tinsel slurped liked noodles, smashed fruit, and lipstick-smeared phone receivers.

In anticipation of the video’s release, Beste — who served as its director — took some time to speak of its concept, its execution, and what listeners can expect from the new EP.

Tell me about the inspiration behind the song.

“Sleeping with the Sun” (“SWTS”) was inspired by feelings of depression and anger, and trying to navigate those feelings by indulging in things that feel good or that may just distract me for short periods of time, even though I could be hurting other people. It’s also about wanting constant attention and instant gratification but then getting bored with too much attention.

I sing, “I thought someone told me / Like Christmas / I would get to make a wish list,” to “I thought someone told you / To obey” is a perfect example of how my mood can change from bratty and sensitive, begging for everything that I want, to an evil hurtful monster who is cold and bossy.

How did the video’s narrative form?

It’s funny to me because I could even link this song and relate it to the relationship I have with my sister, or even in some ways my grandma, but the natural fit for the visuals really made sense to interact with Tim. So with that in mind, we developed the narrative around us. But Tim’s and my ‘characters’ aren’t really characters at all. I mean, he’s wearing red lipstick and I’m sticking pins in a Voodoo doll, making Tim do things he doesn’t want to do and feel horrible, but it’s kind of what happens in real life. I push him and I’m mean to him but I also love him and need him around, like to brush my hair and put crystals on my back. Ha. We are just having fun with it.

What influences factored into the video’s concept?

I’ve been collecting items for music videos since I was eight years old. Twenty years later, I finally have been using them! So for “SWTS”, each scene was inspired by objects that I already had in my own home or my grandma’s house and since my whole family also keeps all our dead relatives’ belongings, I honestly have a museum of props to be inspired by.

Any funny or interesting behind-the-scenes stories you want to share about the video’s making?

Gold House Media is my video production company that I run with my partner Kevin Eckert. So I wrote and directed it and Kevin was the cinematographer while Tim was everything else from lighting to set dresser to Monster Energy drink maker; I mean seriously we should all be sponsored by them by now.

It was just the three of us shooting over seven months pulling overnighters on weekends. But I kept coming up with new scene ideas and we’d think we’d be done but then I’d text the guys with something like, “Sorry, we have to shoot me putting make-up on a banana,” and they’d be like, “Alright... let’s do it.” We were shooting in our own home and would rearrange our furniture and decorate with the props. What is funny is that most of the props never got packed up and are still all over our house.

Like your music, the video has a suggestive, menacing, and at times intriguingly unsettling vibe to it. Were there other themes you hope the video and/or song conveys to viewers/listeners?

Ongoing themes in my lyrics have always been about power, lust, mental health, boredom, depression and disgust — so I think “SWTS” fits very well. It’s interesting to analyze your own work after you’ve produced it and to notice that the patterns keep repeating is scary, but maybe comforting in a way too. I mean, at least I know I’m not faking it!

Regarding the EP as a whole, how long was it in the making and how do you consider it a progression from your previous output?

When Tim and I started the band, the whole point for having all live members was for us to be able to be really loud and raunchy, and get really raw with emotion — and we do that but something else was always missing for me. I needed an electronic element and honestly fought with Tim for years about adding any sequences or drum machines. When we were in video production for “SWTS”, we would be listening to a high energy crazy mix of different artists from Mykki Blanco, Zebra Katz, to NIN, Marilyn Manson, to MØ, MIA, IO Echo, and Fever Ray. I mean, the amount of music we listened to without electronic elements was ridiculous - like zero, and I think after begging and yelling and screaming, Tim just was ready for change and we both started getting excited.

Production happened when we started mixing our tracks with Jon Zott. It was a really cool experience and JZ is so talented and quick, it never disrupted our creative flow. He’s not only an electronic music producer, but he’s worked with live sound with live bands so he understood what we wanted. Matching three professionals’ schedules made it so we could only meet two to six times a month so it took a year to produce, mix, and master the album but we also created backing tracks and designed an entire light show with JZ.

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