“When I first heard the song, I was floored by how immediately its mood connected with me,” Harris writes. “I love how it depicts inner struggle, and how gradually it builds to a dramatic crescendo. To me, it mirrors the way someone could spiral into a dark place, until eventually breaking through to the other side, dejected and numb but self-aware of their own catharsis. I can personally relate to this process, and so the vision for it unfolded quickly.”
With the video arriving after several months of development, Buchner describes that the song itself was one of the first that the band wrote together. Initially considering it for his solo project, it was later fleshed out by the band, who helped expand on the structure and sound while retaining the personal themes Buchner explored in his writing.
“It’s quite a personal song, the lyrics are about trauma. I wrote them at a time when I was a very anxious and mistrustful person. The song is dark, yet acutely self-aware of its own darkness. The chorus is almost like a taunting response to that, and writing it provided a sense of emotional release. It’s about feeling like you’ve lost yourself, but relishing that you no longer have anything to lose and accepting the ‘rebirth’.”
First approached by the band in late 2018 to produce a video for a song from their first EP, Harris explains how they built on themes of inner struggle, isolation and catharsis to present a layered and specific exploration of how these themes relate to a critique of the dysfunctional discourses that underpin hegemonic masculine presentation.
“I feel that a lot of people, and particularly those most privileged, are finding themselves at a crossroads, needing to reconcile the ways we have excluded and erased minorities in the past, and join newly founded communities created and led by self-empowered minorities in favour of social equity. I felt it important to touch on how narcissism in men tends to perpetuate and intensify feelings of isolation, and if left unchecked can result in self-destruction; by-proxy, they stunt their own communities who are in need of good examples of masculine integrity and solidarity.”
These tensions are explored in the video primarily through the menacing back-and-forth that occurs between the Lead Man (PXLS lead guitarist and producer Ruan Vos) and the Shadow Man, (Dylan Rooibokkie – singer and lead guitarist of Black Lung) an enigmatic and foreboding presence that seeks to destroy the self-esteem and nurture the alienation and worst impulses of the Lead, who finds himself an outsider in an inclusive and sex-positive space. Tensions escalate and eventually lead to a violent confrontation.
“The Shadow Man represents that voice born out of insecurity which perpetuates both self-doubt & entitlement,” Harris concludes. “He embodies qualities of people we all know, and though we may be able to shake them off and out of our lives, there is no stopping them from influencing the next insecure soul that crosses their path, in order to feed their own false sense of superiority. The Lead Man, whilst on the more passive end of the spectrum of insecurity, possesses the potential to go down that same road as the Shadow Man. I wanted the video to take on a fable-like structure that warned of the dangers of creating space for and legitimising insecure voices – whether external or internal – and specifically how that dynamic pertains to straight white men in these changing times.”
Buchner says he feels that the video does a brilliant job of capturing the dichotomies central to the conflict he explores. In collaborating with Harris, a mutual appreciation of certain visual media – particularly the works of David Lynch and the aesthetics of lo-fi productions – provided a template for creating a video that captured the mood of the song seamlessly. Harris’s personal inspirations for their work on the video include Paris, Texas and Westworld, and the respective histories that Western genres and neo-noir have of glorifying the violence, bravado and bigotry of their white male protagonists. For Buchner as well, the role of the television is central to expressing the state of near-dissociation that such conflict leads to.
“Later on when Ruan gets trapped in a TV, escapes and faces Dylan, I interpreted that to represent the process of acknowledging and accepting the darker parts of yourself and, through that process, realising that you will never be that which hurt you.”
Watch the video for PXLS’ I Spy below
Meet the PXLS I Spy Music Video team at the end of the post.
Behind the scenes photographs of the video shoot
All photos by Joshua Stein.
Meet and follow the team:
- Nicola Harris – Director
- Ruan Vos (Judy) – Producer & The Man
- Dylan Rooibokkie – The Shadow Man
- Joshua Rijneke – Director of Photography
- Joshua Stein – Behind the scenes photographer & plug shot
- Louise Bruwer – Editor
- Alex Andipatin – Colourist
- Esethu Khanbule – Styling & Makeup
View full credits at the end of the video.