Best known for his work as a music video director for the likes of Grizzly Bear, Beck, The Rapture and Sia- Kris Moyes is a 34 year old director and producer based in Australia. His innovative, glitchy and often unnerving music promo films act as a hypnotic and incredibly intriguing counterpart to the tracks. With an interesting take on modern culture and the work of artists gone by,
ShufSounds' features editor Angus Harrison FaceTimed Moyes to agree on a list of songs (and in this case films) that should be celebrated forever. They chatted too.
Can you tell us how the gun-shy video is structured?
The video is divided into two sections. There is the medical extraction process using both eastern and western medical practices and then there’s the tangent into alchemy and metaphysics. The first half of the video is ‘here we are, a band, this is where we get our creativity from’, whereas the second half is the effect the band has on their environment.
I showed the video to a few friends, some of whom found a lot of the physical infliction quite disturbing - how did you achieve such vivid effects?
To me it’s not so important what effects were there and I’m not sure how interesting it is to talk about effects! What inspires and interests me is a solid idea that resonates with people and has the capacity to tap into some sort of emotional state. It’s interesting you telling me that when you had shown the video to your friends, some of them would grimace or wince. I think that change in facial expression is really good feedback - isn’t that why filmmakers do what they do? To evoke some sort of emotional response? Sometimes you just need the effects to present the idea and get that response.
What drives your interest in making music videos?
I’m still very early on in my career. I’ve only been doing this for 7 years and I don’t see myself settling down as a music video director, yet I think there is something exciting about using that format to create something interesting and new. What I try to do to is separate myself from my peers and create original things. I never start planning a video with an image, that’s the wrong way round - taking an image or a vibe and trying to add meaning to it. I try and start off with the base, kernel concept or idea, that I am trying to evoke with this bands music. The great thing about a band like Grizzly Bear is that they’ve got such a massive fan base and it is exciting to know that my idea would reach a wide audience - why not use that opportunity to make people think a little bit deeper.
Have you ever had that intent compromised during the process, working with bands and managers?
The line is blurring even more about what a music video is. Even though it is designed to sell more records there is no statistic proof that a good music video sells more records. You have to have a good song. A good song and shit music video doesn’t do any damage to the song. Have there been conflicts of agendas? Yes, that happens, but generally through experience you work it out. I have a screening process now where I talk to the band and the record label about what our mutual expectations are. My work to this point has largely been people contacting me for my vision, I tend not to do projects where there is a brief. I like to encourage a bit of trust and confidence in my capabilities. That’s how it was with Grizzly Bear; they approached me, were really excited by my idea and from then on were very respectful throughout the entire process. There was no moment where they wanted to change a shot because ‘it made them look fat’ - I’ve had videos shelved in the past because of that reason!
Do you have a clear idea of what you want to do beyond music videos?
I see myself as part of the arts field - be that theatre, film, choreography, commercials. I don’t want to limit myself to one of those fields. I think ideas can be explored in much more interesting ways by not limiting the platforms you use to express those ideas. For instance, I just did a collaborative show at the Forum theatre in Melbourne with Kirin J Callinan and we came up with the idea of having an audience member suffer from an epileptic fit - without telling anyone. The show was going to be us ‘inducing’ a seisure with some strobe visuals, which would cause the show to stop and from then on everyone would have to pull together to help this guy we had planted. This shared traumatic experience would bring everyone together for the final song of the performance. However the organisers weren’t comfortable with this idea, so instead I came out on stage and talked the audience through our idea. We showed the audience some rehearsal footage of the seisure and the audience went quiet - then a really intense discussion developed about the moral implications of watching an adult willingly submit himself to this. It raised some amazing questions about what we did, whether it was real or staged, Kirin got into a fight and some people even broke up over it! I wouldn’t be able to do that as a music video.
So how does audience engagement change when you put a video online and your audience is purely a virtual one?
It’s an interesting question, because we are consuming so much information now. Constantly - on the phone, watching a youtube video, reading an article with music on in the background. With that people are natural being very critical about what they choose to watch with their limited time. So as a creative thinker I am trying to find a way to put something in their head that they think about, long after the initial consumption of the information is over. That’s really challenging but its possible! One of the disappointing realities is that people are being lazy in the way that they create stuff. People are looking at stuff on tumblr for example - really beautiful images - and they are just creating a moving version of that. Its a shame to see my contemporaries doing that - there are moments of genius in a lot of work out there at moment but the movement as a whole is getting quite lazy.
Who are the filmmakers you admire?
Raoul Ruiz. He made some incredible films. Its a testament to a great filmmaker when you see other people copying him. For example if you watch a music video Paul Thomas Anderson directed around the release of Magnolia and then watch Ruiz’s film Time Regained you see a wicked trick of the scenery sliding out of shot being recycled. But really and truly Ruiz is a great filmmaker because his films have such solid ideas at their core.
You occasionally lecture when you’re not directing - where does your interest in that come from?
It’s kind of a selfish pursuit! When I first thought about giving it a go I was thinking only about helping students but I’ve found that in doing it I’m able to solidify why I do what I do. It’s something I’ve done consistently for the last few years when I have a bit of down time. Although when I got the gun-shy video, I was in the middle of lecturing around 500 students who must have been like shit what are we going to do now! It’s important for me to surround myself with academia in order to discover the depth of my capabilities. You can absorb information, like we were saying, but you have to be really disciplined as to what you take in. It goes back to the laziness of recycling images and ideas. Some people think that true originality is dead - but maybe if we pretend it isn’t and are optimistic about it we will discover that in fact there is far more to be discovered.
ANGUS HARRISON : FILMS
- "Punch Drunk Love" (Paul Thomas Anderson)
- "Ladri Di Biciclette" (Vittorio De Sica)
- "The Apartment" (Billy Wilder)
- "Adaptation" (Spike Jonze)
- "The Sleeper" (Woody Allen)
KRIS MOYES : FILMS
- "The Treasure of the Sierra Madre" (John Huston)
- "La Ronde" (Mark Ophüls)
- "Les Diaboliques" (Henry-Georges Clouzot)
- "Salvador Dali - A Soft Self Portrait" (Jean-Christophe Averty)
- "Predator" (John McTiernan)
ANGUS HARRISON : MUSIC
- Led Zeppelin- Moby Dick
- Department of Eagles- Herringbone
- Sebastien Tellier- Draw Your World
- Mac DeMarco- Boe Zaah
- Cat Stevens- Lady D'Arbanville
KRIS MOYES : MUSIC
- Thomas Bloch - Formule
- Chamkila & Amarjot- Dhokha Nahi Kamai Da
- Mzo Bullet - Casablanca
- Kendrick Lamar - Swimming Pools (Drank)
- Tatsuro Yamashita - Merry-Go-Round