Dirty Projectors’ Olga Bell Impersonates Tom Vek in an Identity Shifting Collaboration
“Tom was meant to sing in the choruses of the track,” says Olga Bell of recording today’s art-rock earworm “Oyster” with Tom Vek under the name Nothankyou. “I wrote the lower parts specifically for him, but he liked my goofy pitch-shifted mockups so much he convinced me to leave them in.” As well as doing her best impression of his vocal, Russian-born, Brooklyn-based Bell dressed up as the London multi-instrumentalist—as well as donning a blonde wig—for the self-directed video she shot in a 19th-century former school house in Bushwick. The video’s aesthetic owes a lot to the photography of Richard Avedon: “particularly In the American West, as well as lots of 90s Calvin Klein ads and that iconic morphing sequence at the end of Michael Jackson's ‘Black or White’ video.” The pair first met online, when Bell pursued Vek on MySpace after he released 2005’s floor-filling debut, We Have Sound. “I actually think it might have been discussing ‘Single Ladies’ and the merits of its production,” says Vek of what clinched their collaboration. Since then, classically trained Bell has forged her own solo career—she is working on her second solo record following her 2011 debut—and last year joined the Dirty Projectors, Dave Longstreth’s freeform indie outfit, while Vek followed up with his second record Leisure Seizure in 2011. Look out for a forthcoming album from Nothankyou, made out of necessity via Dropbox and Skype.
Do you have any particular memories from filming today’s video?
Olga Bell: I got up at 7am to get fresh oysters! I was going to use shells from the restaurant around the corner, but the idea of cleaning other people's slurp and soaking shells in detergent the night before the shoot was too much.
Are you fans of the seafood delicacy? If so, how is it best served?
OB: I like small, briny oysters on the half-shell with lots of peppery mignonette.
Tom Vek: My best oyster-related experience was when I was touring my first album. We went to a restaurant in Seattle that had a girl swinging on a trapeze in the middle of the room. We thought it appropriate to order the oysters and they came on this bed of pink vinegar-infused crushed ice that you scooped on.
What made you devote the song to this particular mollusc?
TV: Olga wrote the words, but to me it's about the metaphor “The world is your oyster,” though thinking about that it's quite an odd one—like There’s all this slimy shit to go through with the slim chance of a pearl. Maybe there has always been a smarmy sentiment attached to it, which I always like in a lyric.
OB: They are the best. What else cleans up a dirty harbor, makes pearls, and is an excellent source of iron? The humble oyster.
A Day at the Bon Vivant’s Ettore Sottsass-Designed Pop Paradise
Entrepreneur, art collector, snapshot photographer, and streetwear designer Jean Pigozzi lives large, as filmmaker Matthew Donaldson discovered at Villa Dorane, Pigozzi’s residence-slash-playground in the jetset Cap d’Antibes. The villa is a monumental testament to his long-term collaboration with late Italian architect and designer Ettore Sottsass, who played a significant role in the design of Pigozzi's seven homes. He inherited the house, built in 1953 by neo-classical architect Tomaso Buzzi, from his father Henri–who founded Simca cars–but it was postmodernist Sottsass who “pimped it out.” A member of the Memphis Group, Sottsass’ playful provocations are evident in the clash of off-kilter geometric furnishings and flamboyant colors, accessorized by Baluchi carpets, kitschy ceramics, and giddy light fixtures. “Ettore would say it was boring to have a normal house, you have to change things around all the time. He was not scared of funny colors and funny things,” says Pigozzi. The jubilant décor is enhanced by pieces from Pigozzi’s extensive African art collection, including photographs by Malick Sidibé and an entrance hall hand-painted in bold motifs by Esther Mahlangu with her trademark chicken-feather brush. Around the hall’s perimeter stand four life-size sculptures of notable R&B singers, including Aretha Franklin, by Ivory Coast artist Nicolas Damas—Pigozzi jokingly calls them his “cousins.” Sottsass makes his biggest impact here with the guest quarters, a blocky architectural feat in multiple shades of green paint and even greener balustrades, the interior kitted out with boxy sofas, chairs and beds in hues reminiscent of 80s-era Esprit fashion. Though the pair would collaborate on every aspect of the design, shapes and colors were strictly down to Sottsass. “He was a complete genius [at those],” says Pigozzi. Villa Dorane attracts a steady stream of “friends, venture capitalists and pretty girls” and Pigozzi’s annual Festival de Cannes party is the stuff of legend. “My main idol in life is Howard Hughes,” he says. “I like how he lived all alone with airplanes and girls, but on the other hand I’m a social animal.”
The Pop Prodigy Debuts His Smokin' New Video
A cast of bright young things gives new meaning to conspicuous consumption in Tom Vek's latest video "Aroused," directed by Saam Farahmand. "It's a nod to the way in which smoking is used heavily and quite innocently
in art and fashion," says the indie music anti-hero. "In the video, it represents feelings of being
overwhelmed and extremities—both of which tie in with the sentiment of
the album." Released earlier this year, Vek's sophomore effort Leisure Seizure marked the end of a five-year mysterious hiatus for the self-taught multi-instrumentalist, and sees him hone a more controlled interpretation of the much-adored inventive pop that marked his 2005 debut, We Have Sound.
How did the concept come about?
It was a blank canvas for Saam, and ironically it is an idea I wished I'd had, so I'm pleased it was for my track.
Why did you choose to collaborate with Saam?
We are friends and we argue about films a lot, so it seemed a good idea to risk destroying our relationship and invite him to direct a music video.
What is the connection with the song and the words that feature?
Saam has preoccupations with fashion's self-awareness in the 1990s and how it forced personality and character to the surface. He asked me to develop "couture propaganda" that harmonized with the song and the album's sensibilities, which is where the text in the video comes from.
What makes a music video stand out?
I've always maintained that a music video that can be described in one sentence will help people digest and pass it on.
Director Saam Farahmand
Producer James Waters
Choreography Jennifer White & Leah Mckesy
Editor Tom Lindsay
Hair & Makeup Dorita Nissen
Director of Photography Will Bex
Styling Nova Dando