We’re all giant movie nerds. We’d often have something projected on the wall while we were recording Age Hasn’t Spoiled You. While writing, I would often play a certain movie on mute, and as it played on repeat, different scenes would stand out to me. I would do this for hours alone in my apartment, and the colour scheme of each movie created a sonic or lyrical palette in my head that I would pull from for each song.
I wouldn’t go as far as to say it’s a synesthetic thing, but it definitely made me approach writing our music differently than I had before. The movies we were particularly obsessed with over the year we spent making this album all have tonal similarities to the songs we recorded. They’re all tense, slow, and somewhat paranoid with not a lot of dialogue. They all, in their own way, have a psychedelic quality to them, colourful and surreal.
I wanted to apply those elements to our record to give it a more widescreen feel than anything we had done before. Sure, a lot of the songs still have big, loud guitars, but I wanted to incorporate them more purposefully, more dynamically, like if Sonic Youth were to score a dystopian sci-fi movie, or if Paul Thomas Anderson directed a skate video. Saying this out loud really makes me sound like a crank, so here are a few examples of movies we watched that inspired our new album.
I probably watched this movie more times than any other over the past couple years. Something about the greens and blues that PTA used really spoke to me. All the shots of the ocean and the desert — these vast expanses that represent the void inside Freddie Quell (ugh, film school much?) — made me want to dive into them. We’re big Radiohead fans, and Johnny Greenwood’s score here lends itself to the themes of alienation and abandon. I wanted all our guitar feedback to echo those dissonant string sections.
One day on tour, years ago, we had a day off in Chicago and we spent it at our friend Marcus’ house getting very high and watching Akira. It is one of the happiest memories of my adult life. Akira is one of my favourite movies and its central theme of brotherly love reveals itself more and more with each watch. Everything about it speaks to me: a group of punk teenagers who ride stolen motorcycles through a futuristic city and encounter a psionic force capable of ending the entire world? Stick it in my veins. The post-apocalyptic, dystopian punk vibe definitely made its mark, and you can hear that on songs like “Arc Light” and “Kill Appeal” if you listen close enough.
There is a scene in Mandy in which two characters’ faces keep fading in and out of each other and it is one of the most visually arresting things I have ever seen in my life. The movie is unrelenting in its intensity. For some reason, the air conditioner was broken when the four of us went to see this with a large group of friends. Imagine ten extremely stoned dudes, sweating profusely, white knuckled in their seats watching this movie. It was an experience. The film’s use of reds, pinks and purples directly inspired the colour palette for our “Arc Light” video.
Annihilation came out right around the time we went into the studio to start tracking the record. The synths that come in during the ending scene are so disorienting. The movie itself is lovely and haunting. The last song on our record, “Static Beach,” was written while watching this movie on repeat. I had the crystalline trees and burning lighthouse in mind while writing the lyrics about the end of the world.
Under The Skin
Very similar to Annihilation, in some ways. A deep sense of foreboding. Colin called the record “deeply pessimistic” when it was finished and I would be inclined to agree. Certainly, the murky textures on tunes like “Constant Pose” might have been inspired by the black water that Scarlett Johansson’s victims find themselves in here. Mica Levi’s score is just fantastic, as well. Totally nails the mysterious and brooding quality of the film.
Obviously the inspiration for our song “Shelley Duvall In 3 Women.” The song is largely about her character, Millie. Something about her uncomfortable performance really fit the tense vibe of the song. This is my favourite movie of Altman’s that I’ve seen, and it sort of works like a horror movie in some ways. It’s deeply unsettling at times, and we wanted to convey with in the disorienting feedback drones in the bridge. Unrelated: Her outfits in this movie are terrific!
The Ninth Configuration
Colin discovered this one. It’s a movie directed by William Peter Blatty, the writer of The Exorcist, who also wrote the book on which this is based. It’s a little hard to explain, but the plot frequently dips into surrealist bits, never confirming whether the characters are actually experiencing what is going on or if they are hallucinating. That blurred line between sanity and insanity as well as the stability of one’s own identity is present on tunes like “Aphantasia.” A lot of the record has to do with confronting your own idea of yourself and this movie is… literally about that!
I was on a big Tarkovsky kick. Solaris and Nostalghia could be on here too, but Stalker is the one I went back to the most. Every shot is just perfect. It’s so slow and still for so much of it, but there is so much going on in every shot. I wanted the album to sound the way this movie looks – muted and washed out, but so carefully detailed. And, you know, big guitars over everything.
Two Lane Blacktop
Road movies are my favourite type of movie. Easy Rider, Apocalypse Now, Beavis And Butt-Head Do America… All the greats. This one is super underrated and features one of my favourite actors, Warren Oates, along with Dennis Wilson and James Taylor. It’s just killer. I wanted the album to flow the way road movies do, from one distinct locale to the next, feeling like you ended up in a totally different place from where you began but having an overarching tone that ties it all together. Did we accomplish this? Carpark Records is betting… we did!
Okay, it’s obvious, whatever. We all love this movie and are obsessed with its score. It’s maybe my favourite movie of all time. I even love the sequel. I could watch this movie a thousand times, and I have. I wanted our song “Tangerine” to sound like if Vangelis produced a Spacemen 3 tune. There’s nothing I can say about this movie that hasn’t already been said but its mix of dystopian imagery and film noir techniques is literally my favourite god damn thing in the world and I don’t care who knows it! Bye!
You can check out their track “Kill Appeal” below. Age Hasn’t Spoiled You drops tomorrow on Carpark Records.