The young L.A. band Wounded Lion has put up a new music video online for their song “Pony People,” ahead of the release of their first single on S-S Records. The video was directed by Brian Bress, who just finished a stint at the Getty as part of the “California Video” exhibition. Considering Bress and the Wounded Lion members Brad Eberhard and Raffi Kalenderian are all LA Weekly Biennial alums, and the video has the clear patterned, repetitive, and disorienting imprint of Bress’ other fine art work, the video skirts that gray area between music video and video art, like Target Video, also in the Getty exhibit, and Michael Reich’s Videothing (you can read more about Videothing here: https://www.laweekly.com/music/music/michael-reichs-videothingcom-captures-the-essence-of-las-underground/19032/). Bress answered a few of my questions about the video today.
LA Weekly: You know Wounded Lion through college?
Brian Bress: I know Raffi through UCLA—he was in undergrad while I was in grad school there. I went to undergrad at RISD.
Ok Go commissioned you to make their “Television Television” wallpaper video. Did Wounded Lion commission you to make the “Pony People” video?
No, we had been discussing collaborating on a video for a while when I saw them around at parties and stuff. It wasn’t a commission, it was a pro bono thing. Ok Go had a budget—a small budget, but there was a budget. The “Pony People” video was made more like I make my other videos—very much on a shoe-string budget.
There’s some contemporary history with overlap in music videos and video art—Target Video in the Getty exhibit and Videothing’s work, among others. How does this video configure into that crossover?
If I had to, I would put it in a music video category. But it’s funny that you ask that, because one of the first things video art teachers will tell you is, “Don’t make music videos.” When I’m working, one of the first things I’ll do on set is make a music video, just to warm up. Not even to show to people—just to introduce music into the process. But I don’t often end up making music videos. I think I made a remake of the “Rock Your Body” video.
That process is tangible because your videos “Under Cover” and “Over and Over” have musical elements.
It’s true they do. What I consider a music video is a situation where the music couldn’t change—if the music is the lead and the video is there to serve the music. Music is important to me, but when defining the difference, it’s more about which is the focus. The imagery in “Pony People” is meant to go along with the song—the picture was the supporting cast member while the song was the primary element. Hopefully the imagery doesn’t overpower it.
But at the same time, the “Pony People” video was collaborative. I felt responsible to the band to make an image which reflected what I interpret the band to be about. I couldn’t just pause the song midway and put a segment of me dunking my head in water or something like that. An art video, just like any fine art, wouldn’t need a set purpose. The goal doesn’t need to be so clear.
Why did your teachers tell you not to make music videos?
I think their logic is that music is someone else's art, and it’s pretty powerful. You could take the same shot of a baby crying, and you could put it over heavy metal music, and then you could put it over classical music, and the meaning will change drastically. When starting out with video art, it’s tempting to use music to smooth over your images, to use like a handy cap, when you really should be focusing on the picture. I think my teachers were thinking we would do better to develop work without music for that reason.
Do you feel more comfortable making music videos now that you’ve exhibited your fine art?
I’ve always thought it was okay to make music videos. Even if it were the first video I’d ever made, before the Getty show, before all that, it would be okay. Obviously there’s overlap aesthetically about the way the videos are put together. If I was listing videos I’ve made that have the most personal resonance, I wouldn’t put the “Pony People” video in there, but some of the imagery is very personal. There are images of people who are close to me that aren’t in the band: the two dancing girls are close friends of mine. When I shot some of the earlier footage, when the set up was still in the forest, before we shot in the studio, I didn’t even know that content would be used for a Wounded Lion video. But as soon as I put the band in stripes I knew I had to use it.
Wounded Lion- Pony People