The following is a revealingly frank conversation between River AKA
Idle Fire and director John Clay (Chemically Sinister) regarding the
music video they created for new single ‘Starve to Strength’.
Intention, Process and compromise are the buzzwords of such
projects let alone the ruminations of. Have a watch of the video and
see if it moves you.
‘The moment you communicate an artistic vision to a collaborator, it
becomes an artistic discussion, and you have to be able to let go of
your idealised vision’ – Idle Fire in discussion with Director John Clay
Detail a compromise you had to commit to in order for the final draft
to be completed?
River: I think the biggest compromise was the choice of location for the
video. My initial idea was filming at the beach, but that was logistically more
complicated, and in the end we decided that an indoor location could work
just as well. I have to say that in the end it inspired some of the symbolism,
and it made it easier for me to appear (the main filming happened in
London, while the filming of me singing was made by me in my home in
Stockholm). I’m happy we went this way, I also find that it reflects some
claustrophobic aspects of the relationship portrayed onscreen a lot better.
You’ve mentioned that you developed your critical eye for art over
time. Can you break down your thought process in that regard in
relation to this video? Feel free to mention any mentors or artefacts
that helped you hone your process for the video.
River: That is a difficult question. I feel that it’s not so much a conscious
thought process, as instead it’s something that kind of just happens. I had a
vision in my mind, and I tried to communicate it to you. But you see, the
moment you communicate an artistic vision to a collaborator, it becomes an
artistic discussion, and you have to be able to let go of your idealised
vision, and negotiate with the tangible work that a filmmaker like yourself
brings to the table. The end result is the coming together of two artistic
sensibilities, and I’m excited for the result.
Would you say letting go of your idealised vision is a necessity in the
collaborative process and if so, what are the specific benefits of such
River: I don’t know! Maybe it is a necessity of any creative process. The
benefit of letting go of an idealised vision, very simply means getting to do
the thing! They say that perfect is the enemy of good, and I take that very
much to heart because for a long time I pushed forward putting out my
music for fear that it wasn’t good enough yet. But you’ve got to let the fear
go at some point or you’re left with nothing. As for collaboration, I think that
benefits by far outweigh any compromise you might have to make. I
celebrate the fact that people can work together with honesty and passion
and make something that matters to them, and hopefully that other folks
can find beautiful. Collaboration means adding layers of truth to a piece of
art, adding more life to it, more dimensions.
Can you talk about the significance of the sweet bowl now that people
have seen the video?
River: To me the sweet bowl represents a problem of communication.
Being unable to reach it says “I’m not getting what I want out of this human
interaction”. It’s a situation that I think goes beyond the specific relationship
that inspired the song, and I think it’s something that people might find
We wanted to use apples before, right? I remember there being a
caution against that due to continuity being an easy thing to mess up
there. Have you ever had to let go of creative ideas based on
practicality which in turn provided intriguing alternatives?
River: The initial idea was actually a full meal! Way more complicated to
do, especially considering that the whole filming crew consisted of one
person! If I remember correctly we thought of apples but then let them go
because of its connection with the symbolism of Eden. I think when your
productions are self-funded, which is the case for both the recording of the
music and the filming of the video, it’s inevitable: practicality will dictate
some level of compromise, but so far as the artistic vision is intact, it’s not
really a sacrifice.
Very true regarding the issue with funding. What do the sweets say
that the full meal doesn’t? For the record, I think of them as marbles
now as that adds another level of consideration, but that’s just my
River: What I like about the bowl of sweets is that it’s configured as
something that can be shared, it’s one source. The full meal would’ve
implied an external agent who would’ve provided empty plates to the Seen,
and full plates to the Unseen. The bowl allows us to focus on the dynamics
between the two partners.
How important is the relationship between a song and its promo
video? Can you share one example of how this synchronicity is
explored in the video for ‘Starve to Strength’?
River: I think a good video can support the meaning, vibe, and or feeling of
the song – but it can also be a work of art in its own right. When I was a
teenager, Mtv was still 80% music (with some cool anime, and a show or
two), and I spent so much time watching videos and listening to the music.
So to me, a great video can enhance the artistic experience and make it
richer. I think the video for ‘Starve to Strength’ achieves this. I guess it
helps tell the story behind the song, and in my opinion it complements it
Is there a particular moment in Byrony’s performance that reminds
you of yourself in the relationship this art distils?
River: A moment I really love is when, despite her confusion, Bryony’s
character (The Seen) still forces a smile and takes Ruth’s hand. She
somehow managed to manifest the crux of that contradiction – knowing
something is wrong and being unable to stop giving love – in just a few
seconds. She’s really fantastic!
It’s always a treasure to watch performers create aspects of a story
with actions you didn’t think of script wise, let alone direction wise.
Thanks again for another good interview. Speak to you soon and may
‘Starve to Strength’ go down well with friends, family and fans old and
River: Thank you for your time and such great questions.
Music video for ‘Starve To Strength’ is out now:
Follow John Clay here