6 Things to Look Out for In: ‘Monochrome’ by Holding Absence
‘You will find a place someday, it’s just maybe not where everybody else is looking’; catching up with Holding Absence, we talked through their newest music video for Monochrome.
Music videos can play a huge part in a band’s creative process; going beyond music, visuals can truly bring a narrative to life and draw out themes for us to feast our eye upon. Holding Absence definitely seem aware of this importance in their newest video for Monochrome, which sees a plot infused with meaning. Wanting to know more, we caught up with frontman Lucas Woodland to understand the video better, and we picked out 6 things you should keep an eye out for in the video.
Explaining the video more generally, Lucas says:
Because the black and white thing has been such an important part of our band, I wanted to take a moment and take a breather from that intense universe and use colour to portray a storyline; so properly flip everything we’ve ever done on its head. The general arc of the story is about a guy, whose whole entire life he’s felt different and alone and kind of wrong, because he is wearing all white and everyone around him’s wearing colour; his family, his friends, his girlfriend and all that kind of thing. So that was the main kind of arc. Later on, you see the character go through lots of different ways of trying to heal himself and cure himself, be it through religion, through drugs, through propaganda even with the virtual reality headsets. We wanted to make it feel like this guy was trying to brainwash himself into being better, and then obviously it doesn’t work. Then at the end of the video, he snaps and accidentally stumbles upon the band, and that is where he belongs; it was somewhere he came across by accident. The underlying idea is that sometimes in life, you aren’t going to fit in, and no matter who tells you how to try and fit in, I feel like you will find a place someday, it’s just maybe not where everybody else is looking.
1. The video is the first in colour, as opposed to black and white
Those who have followed the band previously will be familiar with their signature black and white aesthetic, but this theme is broken in the video as it sees the band employing colour for the first time.
It was a way of making the narrative a bit more shocking. This was our tenth video, so we knew we couldn’t just do black and white over and over again. I know we did, but we were aware that it would’ve been a bit shocking, but also quite poignant, if we tastefully incorporate colour. A big thing to remember as well is the video starts in black and white and ends in black and white. So technically the universe and the narrative of all of our videos are still in black and white but for about 2 and a half minutes, you zone out into a different planet for a little bit.
However, filming the video in colour wasn’t the only idea that the band toyed with. Lucas explains another idea they considered:
One thing I originally wanted to do was have a very colourful video that was in black and white, so everybody’s wearing colours but you couldn’t even tell. That was something we played up on; rather than this guy being in colour, the idea might’ve been that the character maybe couldn’t feel love, or couldn’t understand all the colour around him. So that was something we were toying with, but in the end, we thought that it’s such a shocking, poignant, big statement to make, we just felt like it was necessary at this point.
2. The video’s logo of ‘You will find a home, you will find a place’ references their song Permanent
Throughout the video, there’s a logo of a smiley face surrounded by the words ‘You will find a home, you will find a place’, which is a line of lyric lifted from one of the band’s first tracks, Permanent.
We wanted to make this constant image throughout of this, not like a corporation or like a programme or whatever, but we wanted this constant theme of a logo that was everywhere this guy looked, but in the background. I wanted it to be a bit tongue-in-cheek but not too cheesy. The thing is, not everybody watching our video knows that that’s a reference to ‘Permanent’, so for us, it was a way of sneaking in a little bit of depth whilst also keeping the narrative quite clear-cut.
3. During the colour segment, Lucas is completely emotionless, but as soon as it transitions to the black and white ending with the band, all emotions are let loose
Lucas, playing the main character, delivers a completely dead-pan performance when the video is in colour, but as soon as it transitions back into black and white, viewers are familiarised again with the band’s signature passionate performance.
It was a way of being like ‘well, this guy’s finally in his comfort zone’, he’s finally where he belongs really. I wanted it to be quite awkward throughout the video; I wanted my character to be so emotionless and so expressionless and bland. I really wanted to lay on thick the idea that this guy was depressed and was alone. Every time you look, when he’s at the dinner table, he’s always got a bowl or a plate that has nothing on it, so this guy is proper different and he doesn’t fit in. Then by the end of the video, he does find his place in everything. The contrast between [the guy] proper going for it with a full band, and just sat there, dead-faced, it was quite a good way of expressing that.
Going behind-the-scenes, Lucas confesses:
It was quite hard for me personally throughout the day, because a lot of it was my idea, and a lot of it was me doing the acting as well. It was a very stressful day filming, because there was a lot of stuff I had to be doing. I’m not one to keep my face expressionless normally, so it was totally a test. There were a few times where I was staring dead at the camera for about 15 minutes at a time, and I just remember thinking ‘oh my god, am I blinking normally?’ Because you’re not used to just looking at something for so long, so it was quite weird.
4. The characters all wear different block-coloured hoodies in the colour segment, except for the main character
In a sea of bright blues and reds, the white worn by the main character snatches your eye as an anachronism. Although a lot of colours that normally have strong connotations attached to them are used, they do not all have a specific meaning due to the time constraints placed on the band.
A lot of thought went into this video, but sometimes it’s hard to get everything out and actually make everything work in the end. We were going to try and incorporate a colour per [thing], like the blue pill, I was thinking some anti-depressants were blue, and the red cross. Just kind of adding the colour to the imagery. But it got to the point where there was so much colour and so much to think about that we couldn’t be too picky. I knew what colours I wanted, but even with the costumes on the day, with the family filming, there was 4 people at the dinner table, 3 different scenes so that’s a good couple of costumes, so we needed to make sure we had the right type of costumes for the right kind of scenes. To be honest, there could’ve been a lot more underlying connotation when it came to the colour, but it was just such a balls to the wall day of filming, we just didn’t have the time to think things too much.
5. At one point, Lucas, playing the main character, gets a red cross painted on his forehead
Making allusions to religion, it’s a theme that features not only in the scene where Lucas gets a cross painted on his forehead, but also more generally within the band’s lyricism.
It’s quite a constant theme throughout the album. I’m not a religious person at all; I come from a Catholic background but I’m not personally religious. But I do find it really fascinating how religion is lent upon quite a lot in people’s time of need. I find it really interesting – for example, the song ‘A Godsend’ is literally about praying to a God that the guy doesn’t know but he believes in, in the hopes that his depression will be cured. So it’s something that I always thought was interesting, but for this we wanted to say this guy was turning to every corner, even religion.
It links in to a lot of different things. On the new album ‘To Fall Asleep’ has a line about religion, you’ve got ‘A Godsend’, you’ve got ‘Your Love (Has Ruined My Life)’, ‘Heaven Knows’, ‘St Cecilia’, so there’s a lot of religious imagery but nothing is particularly – not meaningful, so to speak, but it’s all very hypothetical when it comes to the religious references.
6. A lot of the video is a close reflection of Lucas’ life
In the video, there are a few scenes of the main character and his family dining together. Most of these characters are played by Lucas’ actual family, and many aspects of the video are lifted from his day-to-day life.
That’s literally my living room and my kitchen table. My family in the video, the little girl is my little cousin Amelie. She came up to me on the day and she was like, “Lucas, I’ve got something to tell you” and I was like, “What? Is everything ok?” and she was like, “I forgot I have stage fright”. I was like “Aw, fucking hell”, I was really worried she was going to not want to do it. And then my sister in the video, the elder of the two, is actually my sister in real life. The mother character is actually my auntie, and the photo of her holding me is actually a photo of her holding me when I was a baby but obviously just not as my mum but my auntie. The dad character though, I literally met him the morning we did the video because we were quite stuck for actors.
And a few more behind-the-scenes stories
It seems like we aren’t the only fans of the band, as Lucas’ adorable cousin showed her support with a flash tattoo.
Lucas recounts with a laugh:
My little cousin had a little tattoo on her arm and because it had wings she was like, “Oh it’s like Holding Absence”.
Although the overall imagery is clear-cut, there are a few subtleties that the band tried to incorporate. Unfortunately, not all of the details managed to make it into the video.
There was quite a lot of little detail. For example, one of the shots that didn’t make it was a shot of a letter going through the postbox with the ‘You will find a place’ logo on it, and that letter was addressed to the house that me and James used to live in, so that’s kinda cool.
There were some unexpected and unplanned shots as well, with some of them being rather focal points in the end product.
One such moment are the beach shots that recur during the colour segment of the video.
We were literally by a beach, and there’s this thing called golden hour, I didn’t realise this but it’s basically the last hour of sunlight and it’s the best natural lighting of the day. The guys we were filming with were like, “Well there’s a beach round the corner, and it’s golden hour so do you want to go and film there?”
Another one is the key scene where the main character is running and stumbles across the world of the band, which eventually leads him to be free of his restraints.
The running shot as well, that wasn’t supposed to be so in your face, it was supposed to be a lot more subtle. But we found a really cool driving path where we were filming, and the guys were like, “Let’s try and film that here” so I was like, “Oh, fair enough”. They drove a car and they were in the back of the car with the boot up, filming me. They were driving the car and I was running at the car essentially. I think it was going 15 miles an hour, so I was proper stacking it after this car, like I was running so fast and singing as well; it was so awkward man. But that was a good scene to film as well, but it was proper tiresome work, I remember I had to have a 5-10 minute sit down after that. I never really thought about it, especially because we jump around quite a lot on stage. I was like, “I can’t believe I can jump around on stage and sing but I can’t run in a straight line and sing”.
These are a few of the stories behind the Monochrome video, so go rewatch it and pick out all of these aspects for yourself.
The band will be embarking on a headline tour later this month, catch them live at one of the following dates.
21 – Southampton, Joiners
22 – Birmingham, Flapper
23 – Leeds, Key Club
24 – Hull, O Reilly’s
25 – Glasgow, Garage
27 – Manchester, Rebellion
28 – Cardiff, Globe
29 – London, Underworld