Why Manchester is the new creative epicentre of neo-soul and hip-hop
Gabriel Stebbing has been involved in three music projects that you might have across – Metronomy, Your Twenties and now the enigmatic and infectious disco-pop alias Night Works. Under this new guise, Stebbing has seemed bold and liberated in his creation of pure, unadulterated and occasionally wistful disco-pop. From the teasing first video I Tried So Hard to the ridiculous Parisian jaunt that is Modern European, he’s also put out some of the most fun and poignant visuals we’ve seen in recent months. The aesthetic of the whole project hangs together so well because it was all created in collaboration with director Daniel Brereton. Having worked together to form a vision that weaves its way through four colourful videos, the pair sat down exclusively for Dummy to talk about why they chose to work together, how their vision was dreamt up and what they had to do to get the final results. Read their chat, and stream all four videos (one of which, Long Forgotten Boy, was just released today) below as you wait patiently for the release of Night Works’ debut LP next month.
Daniel: Let’s talk about how we came to make these videos together.
Gabriel: We had been trying to make a video together for about 3 years. I met Daniel when I was in Metronomy– he made 3 videos for them: Radio Ladio, Holiday and Heartbreaker.
Metronomy – Holiday
I wanted to work with him again and we kept meeting up while I was in Your Twenties – our first meeting would have been in early 2009 – and working out treatments but something always came up – we’d have no money, or no release date, or one of the band would cancel on the day of the shoot. It got quite funny in the end. And exasperating. In the end Your Twenties did two self-made videos and it took until October 2011 before me and Daniel made I Tried So Hard.
Night Works – I Tried So Hard
Then it all happened really easily, we made 3 more in less than a year. Daniel, what was the idea behind I Tried So Hard?
Daniel: I think that it was Gabriel’s idea to slowly move closer to a person drumming who gets sweatier and sweatier. At first it was going to be for the song Share the Weather but that track would’ve been too long for the idea. But it seemed to work for I Tried So Hard. Gabriel asked his friend Sidney to be in the video as the drummer and I asked my friend Mattias if he would be the director of photography. We shot it in my studio and I think we were both really pleased with the way it turned out. From doing this video it sparked lots of ideas about videos for other tracks and we came up with a narrative that involved the succeeding three videos.
Your songs to me all contain stories, are they personal?
Gabriel: The album is very personal to me. Even though there are characters on the album, there’s quite a lot of people in it, they are all really parts of me. Or my friends or people I’ve met. Long Forgotten Boy and Long Forgotten Girl are important ones. They represent inhibition, lack of confidence, feeling things are over and finished; and letting go, giving in, and losing yourself. Sort of like winter and summer. Once we started thinking about the next three videos, it seemed natural to have them star. Once we finished I Tried So Hard, even though we hadn’t planned it that way, it looked like a weird room in a house party at 5am or something, you open a door and this scene is playing out. So we thought that in The Eveningtime, we’d show earlier on in the night, and think about how we could meet Long Forgotten Boy and Girl. We had a party in the middle of the day in a warehouse in Manor House, and the actor who plays “Long Forgotten Boy”, Andrew Hardwidge, also choreographed the whole thing. Him and Valene Kane, who plays “Long Forgotten Girl”, were just perfect for the roles.
Night Works – The Eveningtime
The mood of the first 2 videos is quite slow and atmospheric, then in Modern European everything sort of bursts into Technicolor. We thought of it as an “excursion” from the narrative of the other videos. Did you enjoy making it?
Night Works – Modern European
Daniel: Yep I loved making Modern European, it was fun to be shooting in Paris, and being the cameraman for the first time in ages was liberating. I usually get someone to film the videos I make, but for this one I did it myself. We put in little nods to French films we like such as The Red Balloon, below
The Red Balloon
It was funny how we made these videos fit, like Gabriel talks about. It was like they were all rooms in the same house, or snapshots from a “day in the life”, The Eveningtime was the party, I Tried So Hard was the end of the night.
And so what was Long Forgotten Boy?
Night Works – Long Forgotten Boy
Gabriel: We had the idea for that song quite early on. It was going to be a walk – a journey from the party out to the edge of the Thames estuary. After I’d fled the party at the end of The Eveningtime, I get all these flashbacks as I’m impelled to make this quest of my own making. In the end I meet “Long Forgotten Boy” by the river and there’s a reconciliation. It’s about making peace with aspects of yourself and your memories after nearly losing your mind, after coming close to the wire. I wanted us to shoot Long Forgotten Boy literally the next day after The Eveningtime, and do the whole walk – 20 miles or so – and make it a process video. In the end we cheated a bit, it was about 3 days later and we had a car! But it was on a brutally hot day in May and that shot of me on the DLR, right after we see the group on the hill, on Beckton Alp (which was completely unplanned, they were just there, singing, when we turned up to shoot) just sums it up. I was fried.
There’s also a few little clues we put in The Eveningtime and Modern European that make a kind of sense if you watch Long Forgotten Boy closely. I’m not going to tell you what they are, but the videos reward careful repeated viewing.
Daniel: We wanted to leave the narrative to the videos loose, so that the viewer could put their own impression into them. We left some questions unanswered. For me it was great to work on a series of videos for one artist, as usually that doesn’t happen.