A look at Convenience Store 'Carousel'
Forever West Zine had the pleasure of sitting down with Jack and Nick from Naarm-based band, Convenience Store and director/producer, Jamie Barry, to learn about their most recent project 'Carousel'.
The “Convenience Store - Carousel” Music Video follows the stories of 5 individuals told in intercut vignettes. They are all lost and directionless, however all ‘fixated’ on their own specific desire. Each character is looking for some way to make their lives different, with their approaches unorthodox. A cold, industrial, urban backdrop of the video feeds into their psyche and how they’ve been led to the certain points they’re in.
Firstly, please introduce yourselves and tell us how you connected and started collaborating together.
CS: We are Nick and Jack and we make music together. We met Jamie after we played a support show for Big Words in 2021; we started working on music videos together after that. We have similar taste to Jamie and it’s great to have someone else assist on the music video front, so it’s great to work together and be friends. The first video we did together was the video for our song ‘Peas’.
J: My names Jamie Barry and I’m a director from Melbourne. As Nick and Jack said we met after their support show for big words. After watching their set i messaged them the next day wanting to collaborate on something in the future. They sent me a few songs with ‘Peas’ really sticking out to me. We didnt have much money to work with but i knew with the atmosphere they create in their music that something as simple as a camcorder could do the job.
What made the ‘Carousel’ project come about? Can you share the song’s background and tell us about your creative process?
Jack: We made this song last year, during some of the gaps between the more intense lockdown rules. It started with just some chords Nick had and after recording those on a cheap Yamaha synth we just added more elements from there. The main other instrument is an accordion that we borrowed from a friend. We were going for something kind of Brian Eno-esque with the sound of the whole thing but also kept referencing Nick Cave and Warren Ellis’ recent album/s because we like the compositional electronic sound that they achieve. There’s a synth sound that comes in about halfway through the song that oscillates in and out of time with the music; it’s a simple idea borrowed from Steve Reich’s music where you have different looping elements go in and out of phase with each other. It produces this interesting feeling of the sound being alive and kind of spontaneous – it makes for a constant pushing and pulling that’s kind of random or automatic.
In the outro section of the song we used an effect where Nick’s vocal part stretches and glitches in a way that exploits the computer’s (‘failed’) attempts to ‘smooth out’ the stretched audio. I always liked how this Belgian producer Ssalvia did the effect with these ‘riri stretchd editz’ on Soundcloud where he’ll take a Rihanna song and digitally slow it down with the same glitched ‘smoothing out’ of the audio occurring. It causes all these stuttery little loops of really short ‘frames’ of the audio transients that seems to reflect a computer kind of ‘hearing’ the audio differently and interpolating it in an obtuse but mesmerising way.
J: I was introduced to carousel before it was mixed or mastered by Nick who had big plans for the song. He wanted this one to be bigger than anything else theyve done and knew Ive been hoping to do something large scale with them from the get go. I fell in love with the song immediately and me and Nick met up for beers and a brainstorming session. The idea of vignettes for an array of different characters was one of the first things we came up with and the ball got rolling from there.
In a statement made about ‘Carousel’, you talk about the concept of the ‘fog’, why did you chose to focus on this idea, and what do you think its importance is to society.
Jack: ‘Fog’ is just a provisional catchword we like to use to encapsulate two interconnected ‘fogs’: firstly of memory (and the way I use my memory of the past to construct some idea of my identity and life) and secondly in culture: the inability to see outside the repetitions of life under consumer capitalism, the way the paths and structures of our life seem banal, procedural, automatic, unchanging. It’s to do with something that Mark Fisher had termed ‘capitalist realism’, where a “pervasive atmosphere” conditions the production of culture and the kinds of art that people feel capable of making. I’ve always felt some fraternity between that kind of cultural ‘fog’ – something we’re really conscious of whenever we work on music – and the other kinds of ‘fogs’ of memory and self-identity where the past and the future are difficult to understand as real or meaningful. Of course, principally we make love songs.
Throughout the video, we meet five characters; the driver, the clown and their observer, the drifter, and the consumer, can you share why you choose these specific characters to depict in the video?
J: All these characters represent different spaces of an unproductive, repetitive loop, some more literally than others. They all seem to be stuck, unable to leave, either on their own accord or by another force. Each character represents a different force in society, such as the over-absorbtion of schlocky media through the consumer character or the forced projection of how one should look and act in the clown vignette. With the drifter and the driver, the exploration of consumer capitalist ideals are also looped, such as the after work 9-5 transit home or not wanting to face whats on the other side if you do leave the roundabout and actually reach your destination. Every character has two underlying qualities of tragedy and relatability, keeping each vignette loose and ambiguous to create those feelings.
‘Carousel’ is not your first project together, is it? What other projects have you collaborated on and do you intend to continue this partnership for further projects?
J: That’s right! As we said before our first collaboration was with ‘Peas’. We all got along immediately and had very effortless collaboration. We all just “got” each other. From there, we’ve worked together on every video since, except for ‘fan death’, which they filmed and devised in Greece. Nick and Jack have been releasing a new single every month and with each single there is a video to go with it. We’re already planning out two more videos which I'm sure the partnership will continue even after those.
Jack & Nick, you’ve been creating music under the Convenience Store project for five years, can you share some history, highlights, and how the project has evolved or changed throughout the years?
CS: We’ve always been interested in music and used to make songs together when we were 13. We made a song called “Insane Man” which was a garage rock type song about an schizoid unreliable narrator guy bar-hopping in Paris. We continued having different projects – including a Neutral Milk Hotel cover band and a film thing called ‘Gobsmacked Films’, all during high school – from then until Convenience Store, which itself has changed a bit over time. The changes essentially reflect a move towards not caring about pleasing an audience as much and just doing stuff that we think is true. The highlights are always the moments when we’re happy with whatever we’ve made and feel like it’s complete in some way. We’re just getting started though so looking forward to more opportunities to do this.
You seem to draw from a plethora of influences when creating your music, do you seek inspiration from environments outside of music?
Jack: I think I’m mainly inspired by other music that I listen to. It’s inspiring seeing other artists do something that feels new. Beyond that a lot of things I read give me a sense of what I think is important. I’m not sure if I really believe in ‘inspiration’ though – it usually just feels like a matter of putting time into an idea and whittling at it until it feels done.
Jamie, what got you into filming and directing?
J: I started to really take an interest in films around 13 years old and absolutely fell in love with my media class in highschool. I would watch movies any chance I could and was obsessed with ticking off all of the must sees before my taste became more refined and personal. From there, working in the film industry has just been something I can’t imagine not doing or striving for as a full time career, with directing being my main focus. I find the role extremely fulfilling and there’s nothing better than working with super talented people and turning something from our minds into reality. When I turned 18 and started going to music gigs that’s when my love of the Melbourne music scene really strengthened. It was just a matter of time I would combine my two loves of music and movies and really hone in the music video directing space.
You’ve worked with a range of artists creating music videos, capturing live content and still image, what’s it like working within this space at the moment? What do you think the future of contemporary music, locally, looks like?
J: This space has been more creative and fulfilling than ever. I think with covid and everyone stuck inside for so long, there was a lot that people needed to release creatively. Gigs are no longer taken for granted and you can tell theres an energy in every room I've filmed or photographed in. Music videos have also taken a positive turn and people want to go bigger and not waste any time. I think its only going to get better for Melbourne.
CS: Keep releasing music forever: we’re releasing a single every month and intend to keep doing this. Also working on doing more live shows.
J: What’s next for me is to continue filming for bands and artists that excite me. I’m also in the stages of writing more narrative with a feature script and a few shorts on the way.
Convenience Store - Carousel
Producer: @j.pho_ and @project_tran
1st AD: @project_tran
Art Director/BTS: @clairegiuffre
Makeup Artist/SFX: @sazzmua
Cast (in order of appearance):
Consumer: Ivan Zhang (@yivanz)
Driver: Mark Raffety (@mark_raffety)
The Clown: Mia Tuco (@miatuco)
The Clown's Observer: Daniel Agar (@daniel_l_agar)
The Drifter: Copper Taylor-Bogaars (@coppertb)