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We first encountered Los Angeles band Harriet through their quirky, cinematic video for last year’s single “Burbank.” They seemed like a band with a purposeful aesthetic sense and a taste for bizarre humor. Their latest video for “Up Against It” continues this trend in completely different fashion, replacing the cinematic surrealism of the band’s past videos with an odd, single image: A man playing basketball alone at night.
Watch “Up Against It” above and read a short conversation with frontman Alex Casnoff below.
The video for “Up Against It” is almost unsettling. Particularly set with that song, you’re watching and waiting for something terrible to happen, but nothing ever comes of that dread. What was the inspiration? Was that part of the intention?
Now that you say that I can see it, but for me I think there is more of an almost comical loneliness. Especially with the way he misses almost every shot. We found the court in Encino and I grew up going to school in the valley, so it has a lot of nostalgia for me. There was definitely a conscious decision to shoot it voyeuristically which is I think where that anxiety comes from. Basketball is obviously not a shameful activity but there is definitely a feeling that maybe we shouldn’t be watching.
This video is a vast departure from “Irish Margaritas” and even “Ten Steps,” which were both sort of surreal in their way. Is there a thread that runs through all your videos?
We made this video on a whim. The entire budget was 1 wig ($35) and 1 pair of LA Gear shoes ($29.99). We borrowed a friend’s camera and just had Henry [Kwapis, Harriet’s drummer] shoot. We didn’t really think of it as a proper “video.” We didn’t have a plan honestly. It was just sort of a vibe piece. There was one really terrible take, where Henry basically missed every shot and there was something about that had a really sad humor to it that we liked.
I think our other videos all have a trajectory. The characters develop. Even [“Irish Margaritas”] has sort of a visual narrative. The guy in this video is sort of stuck in the same place the whole time. The backwards stuff starts to look like this really elegant ballet, but it’s not real. What’s real is him missing and running to get the ball when it rolls into the darkness.
Are you guys David Lynch fans?
We’re actually driving through the Pacific Northwest right now, on our way to play some shows at Reed. I went on a run with Pat (bass) this morning about 4 hours outside of Portland and he couldn’t stop talking about how much it felt like Twin Peaks. I haven’t seen it, but I want to. Blue Velvet is one of my favorite movies. And he’s obviously very connected to the strange loneliness of Los Angeles in Mulholland Drive and Inland Empire.
What are some of your favorite music videos?
Pretty much every video by Romain Gavras. Especially “The Age of the Understatement” video, for how insanely cinematic the tank and ice skating shots are. That was the first of his videos I saw, but M.I.A.’s “bad girls” video and the justice videos are incredible too. There’s also just so many incredible videos from the 90’s when people had insane budgets for them. Chris Walken in the Fatboy Slim video by Spike Jonze is pretty magical.
What are you guys working on next?
As soon as we get back from Portland we’re going back in the studio to finish our record. We have to decide which song our next video is gonna be for. It will probably be more back in the direction of the “Burbank” and “Ten Steps” videos. Something larger scale and more cinematic.