VIDEO PREMIERE: DEAP VALLY – “JULIAN” ++ INTERVIEW WITH DIRECTOR ERICKA CLEVENGER
Wouldn’t it be great to live in a land of colorful daydreams, where weirdly is normal, humans look more like cartoons than apes and magic rules supreme, all the while, maintaining productive member of social status, and meeting the trials & tribulations of adulthood head on? Ericka Clevenger has figured it out, and then some. This life long creative and avid music fan, turned actress and director, wants to create a world where the colorful, innocent wonder of childhood and those fearless teenage years, can exist within an adult narrative and transport you to a place where “puppies can talk and people with giant eyeballs for heads exist”. In her solo directorial debut for Deap Vally’s “Julian”, a slimy, no good manager character, played by Max Baumgarten, doesn’t stand a chance against band members Lindsey Troy & Julie Edwards Pirrone, along with their fantastical gang of oddballs, clowns & misfits. I asked Ericka to dish the deets on her origin story and the things that fuel her as a creative machine—
Tell me about your journey from Nebraska to the music video director’s chair, was it a long and winding road?
We always had a video camera in the house when I was a kid. I was always making up dances, and shooting little skits and home movies with my sister. When I moved to Los Angeles I fell into the Northeast LA/ Echo Park music and art scene and it was just a natural progression. All of my friends were musicians or filmmakers and it was just all around me. Music sort of consumed me and was the backdrop to most of my twenties. I started a very short lived band with my friend Max and made a little music video with a camera I had purchased. That was the first time I was in complete control behind the camera as an adult and it felt great. It’s been really cool following my artistic path through so many twists and turns over the past few years; switching from directing to acting. I really feel like I found my voice with this last music video and I’m looking forward to exploring my voice through video further.
We all absorb the world around us & the art that came before, in order to come to our own unique conclusions. What are some of the key ingredients in your idea soup?
A lot of my ideas come from my dreams. I dream wild tales almost every night, and a lot of my characters and worlds come from a mix of magic, animals, and people that I meet in my dreams. My parents let me watch some pretty trippy stuff as a kid. My favorites were Pee Wee’s Playhouse, The Wizard of OZ, and Home Alone, so a lot of my art has that rambunctious, colorful, otherworldly vibe. I’m super obsessed with John Waters. He’s my hero in so many ways. I love everything Studio Ghibli, Tim Walker, Cindy Sherman, David LaChapelle, Tim Burton. etc. That fearless teenage feeling; that’s the heart of all of my work.
How would you describe your voice, your brand, your aesthetic?
I like that crazy outcast psychedelic vibe with a sense of innocence, like if John Waters and Pee Wee’s Playhouse had a baby that would be how I would like to describe my work. I love Harajuku fashion and Japanese Kawaii vibes too. My ultimate dream is to get the opportunity to work in Japan. Here’s to directing crazy J-pop videos someday! I love bright colors, eyeballs, stickers and glitter. I love children, grannies and puppies. I make art for the experience. I put a lot of thought into every prop and the art direction is half of my vision. I love staying up all night for a week with a small crew and making super weird crafts like bouquets of eyeball flowers or covering an entire car with stuffed animals. I want you to feel like you have been transported to another world where puppies can talk and people with giant eyeballs for heads exist. My videos are silly and hopefully will be fun for anyone to watch. I want babies rocking out to my video. If you have a baby please play this video for them.
Walk us through the narrative concept for Deap Vally’s “Julian” video— is there a message in the madness?
I wanted to make something fun that had some messages of equality and girl power in a very light hearted way. It was important to me that although Julian was the bad guy there was enough camp to still make him likable. I wanted to make a video where most of the crew members were women. My producer and DP were women, my beauty team and most of the misfits too. We need more women in film period and I wanted to bring all of the smart and talented female filmmakers I knew together. It’s important to me that we hear more female voices in film and I love that I get to be a part of that. I live in such a loving community of vibrant and interesting people. I’m very lucky to have that sort of support and inspiration around me. Girl Power!
The video’s basic story is that Julian, Deap Vally’s manager, tries to screw them over with a shitty contract. When the girls realized what is going on, they use their minds to tap into another world where powerful misfits await to help restore power and order in the world. Using their trusted stuffed animal mobile, they transport themselves to planet earth via a giant bubble (obviously inspired by Glenda the good witch from the Wizard of OZ).
Kidnapping Julian, they bring him back to their lair where they torture him in childlike ways using barbies and nail polish until he realizes his evil ways and decides to join them. They turn him into a misfit with the help of some magical glitter pills. There’s a twist at the end and you’ll have to watch the video to find out. Did they kidnap and torture their manager? Or was it all a dream?
Story / Brenna Cheyney