Crafting stellar music videos on a shoestring budget has gotta to be one of the hardest tasks in the filmmaking game.
But when director Han-Su Kim was called upon to create the visual for LA four-piece Altar Egos, he made it look easy. Consisting of multi-instrumentalists Jake Styne, Andrew Giurgiun, Brendan Snyder, and Keveen Baudouin, Altar Egos’ distinct blend of pop, krautrock, shoegaze, progressive, and psychedelic rock comes to life in addictive track “Mate In Check”, taken from their upcoming EP release. In the clip, figures lurch out from walls and struggle to burst through opalescent surfaces in a throwback to Peter Jackson’s 1996 film The Frighteners, with the gradually shrinking space generating a heavy dose of claustrophobia. We wanted to hear more about the mood-infused clip straight from the source, so we asked director Han-Su to give us a behind the scenes look at the concept and creation of the tactile clip, below.
A few months ago, a close friend of mine, Brendan Snyder, a multi-instrumentalist in Altar Egos, hit me up and asked if I’d be interested in making a music video for a single coming out called “Mate In Check”. Even though I hadn’t heard the song, and there wasn’t the slightest hint of a budget, I said yes.
At first listen, the song blew me away. The lyrics paired with the musicality of it blew me away even more. When we met up, he told me that his anxiety was the focal point of the song; the erratic ups and downs of mental chaos, a feeling that everything is spinning, everything is closing in, even though the mind is somewhat open. A dream within reality, within a box.
The song itself had such a cinematic feel to it, and the bridge really evoked strong visual imagery and colours. I kept thinking blue, grey, black, and cityscapes, empty alleyways, rain, a hint of sadness, frustration, confusion—all things that in my mind connected with anxiety. After listening to it several dozen times and jotting down all those moods the song put me into, I gave Brendan a call to plan it out.
I wrote up a treatment about anxiety, with Brendan as the main figure who’s taking a journey through a collection of different rooms, with arms reaching out for him and the rest of the band. The walls morph from a standard four-walled room to a three-sided room, to a hallway, physical changes signifying the uncertainty of reality. With anxiety, somewhere in your mind you know you have control and you can tap into it, but in most cases, it’s not up to you because your physical space is what triggers the change in mood. The space is alive, thus the faces in the frames.
The biggest limitation was budget. When it comes to writing a treatment, there’s always a clash between what one wants to do versus what’s possible. Luckily, I had some great friends who helped me on this. Photographer Buddy Bleckley allowed us to use his studio and his gear for as many days as we needed, and another creative Joe Mitchell helped me out through the entire process—getting a truck, renting lights, building the walls, whatever we needed to make this happen. We shot for two days, with incredible cooperation from the dudes in the band and their friends who lent their arms, and after spending about $400, getting dozens of splinters from the wood, and a few days of editing, we landed on this.
On paper, this seemed like an easy idea. A few walls, a few frames, some cloth, lights, simple. Hell no it wasn’t. But there’s nothing greater than the feeling you get when an idea is brought to life. $400 ain’t shit for how happy we all are.
See more from Altar Egos on their website or Insta @altar.egos