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Exclusive: Black Mountain Video Director Talks Canadian Summer, Young Love, and Running Away from Home

Specimens of psych-rockers
Specimens of psych-rockers

Canadian psych-rockers Black Mountain recently released a video for "Hair Song" off their

their much-lauded new album Wilderness Heart which hit the streets yesterday on Jagjaguwar. The Zoe Bower and Simon Chan directed clip, captures being young at the end of summer, and the search for love on a sun-drenched afternoon. The video traces the path of a skateboarding, scraggly-haired Black Mountain fan who crushes on a girl, tries to meet her at a show but can't get in because he's underage. The dejected kid jumps on his board, skates to the forest and... well, you'll have to see for yourself.

L.A.-based director Zoe Bower traveled to Ontario, Canada to shoot the video and enlist real Black Mountain fans as the characters in the video. "I wanted real kids, real Black Mountain fans, not professional actors," she says, "[so] I put a casting notice on Craigslist Toronto for a 'Shaggy-haired, skateboarder metal kid.' I wanted the video to reflect those warm, hazy memories we all have of being an awkward loner kid in a small town, and that first summer you first discover rock 'n' roll, find love, and through music, realize there are others out there like you."

Download "Hair Song," watch the video and read more behind the scenes stories by Zoe Bower here:

How did you get involved with Black Mountain?

Zoe Bower: I met Black Mountain frontman Steve last summer when I wrote a feature on Pink Mountaintops for LA Record. I interviewed the band over breakfast, and Steve and I bonded over our shared love for obscure punk records and krautrock, I invited him to see the ponies at the Sunset Ranch (by the Hollywood sign) and he basically never left. Black Mountain came to LA to record "Wilderness Heart" at the infamous Sunset Sound (the studios where Neil Young and the Doors recorded), Steve and I fell in love, the band and I became friends, and the rest is history.

When you first heard the song, what kind of visuals immediately came to mind and how did you come up with the treatment?

When I write a treatment, I listen to the song on a pair of headphones a couple times and write down the first impressions that come to mind. When I first heard the "Hair Song", it was nothing like what they have done before. It had a nostalgic, summertime vibe and I knew immediately I wanted the video to reflect those warm, hazy memories we all have of being an awkward loner kid in a small town, and that first summer you first discover rock n roll, find love, and through music, realize there are others out there like you.

What videos/art/movies did you look to for inspiration?

Of course, the video is inspired by the classic teenage outsider movies and coming of age films: Stand By Me, Almost Famous, Over the Edge, and Paranoid Park. The locations came entirely from my own memories of growing up in Sonoma County, and hanging out by bridges, caves, reservoirs, tunnels, abandoned buildings, and in the woods. These are the places you hang out when you are a punk kid and you aren't old enough to go to the club or don't have any money to see your favorite band play. Like many kids, I used to sneak in shows through the back door, and sometimes if we were lucky, our friend's bands would play in illegal shows out in the woods.

Where was it shot and what was the production process like?

I found these amazing locations-- caves, bridges, and ruins-- in Canada. The video was shot entirely on location in London and Wiarton in Ontario, Canada using real local kids.

I produced the shoot entirely by myself with the help of the wonderful folks at Jagjaguwar Records who flew me and Simon Chan out to Toronto to shoot the video. I found the locations, hired the crew, cast the kids, and designed the shots. My director of photography, John Hoare and his crew, did an amazing job lensing the story. We shot it all on Canon 5D and 7D. John was able to capture the exhilarating, continuous camera movement I wanted by using a Glidecam system and risking life and limb by hopping on a skateboard to get those fast moving skating shots. It's all captured in the behind the scenes video that Outside Records did if you'd care to check it out.

So all those people are real kids?

When I cast the actors, I wanted real kids, real Black Mountain fans, not professional actors. I put a casting notice on Craigslist Toronto for a "Shaggy-haired, skateboarder metal kid" and as soon as I saw Nicky Young, I knew I found my guy. Nicky Young is a 19-year-old skateboarder from Toronto and had never acted before. Crystal Hutcheson, who plays the girl, is a lovely Toronto-based photographer, flight attendant and my personal friend and muse. I wrote the part with her in mind.

How does this video reflect your own life?

I grew up poor in the middle of nowhere in Northern California, so I filled my days with books and daydreams, and became obsessed with cult movies and the outsider films of Gus Vant Sant and Alison Anders. I started running away from home and writing punk rock fanzines under a psuedonym at age 13. My writing caused scandals at school, so I did everything to get kicked out of public school.

By age 15 [I] left home, hitchhiking to Portland to retrace the steps the characters in Drugstore Cowboy and hang out under the bridges where my idol Kurt Cobain once slept and write about my travels. I wanted to document everything that I saw and felt, and give a voice to society's outsiders, then I decided the best way to reach a mass audience was through film.

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