Through a fateful union of romance and a shared passion for music, Belgian/Swedish duo, Victoria+Jean, have been collecting memories as they travel the world writing and performing music together for over two decades now. Their archives of notes, impressions and photographs has served as the inspiration and the source material for their full length album ‘Divine Love’, which was released last year. Together, the duo evoke a genre defying sound which draws inspiration from blues-rock and trip hop with a nuanced and subtle hint of electronic production. Victoria, adorned with powerful and harmonious vocals, and Jean, blessed with exceptional guitar skills, collaborated with an impressive lineup of sound engineers including John Parish (Pj Harvey), Ian Caple (Tricky), Christoffer Berg (The Knife), Rob Kirwan (Depeche Mode), and Mandy Parnell. Together, the veritable creative force of Victoria+Jean have crafted a remarkable thing of beauty, love, and transcendence in ‘Divine Love’.
Staying consistent with their globe-trotting nature and collaborative essence of ‘Divine Love’, Victoria+Jean decided to venture an ambitious task and produce music videos for every track on the album with the help of different directors from all around the world. FRINGE MUSIC FIX is excited to premiere the latest installment of their ‘Divine Love’ visual album project with the premiere of the short film for their track, ‘Takes You Like A Rose’. The short was shot in Tokyo and was directed by acclaimed director, Kosai Sekine. We took some time to ask Victoria+Jean about ‘Divine Love’ and it’s incredible music video accompaniments.
What is the concept behind the short film for “Takes You Like a Rose”?
In the director, Kosai Sekine’s own words:
“The inspiration I got from this sensual, yet exciting track is the story of a man who strolled into an unknown city, and a woman who awaits to invite him into a new world.
I made a short film/music video where the wanderer comes from the Western world and strays into Tokyo and by chance meets a mysterious woman who actually leads him into strange night club. There he experiences a new kind of drug which is the “stereo-typical” image of what western people expect about insanity of Asia and possibly in Tokyo.
It’s a very intentional mix of iconic international films about nights in Tokyo. For example, I put Japanese subtitles which look a bit stranger than Japanese. It feels like the pirated edition films sold in China, Korea, or South Asia.
It’s about all the stolen things… love, stories, values of films… but beyond that, we can’t find anything deep.
With this decadent mood of the track, this is my first time making a film without telling a story filled with messages and I think we had a lot of fun in this shoot.”
Why was it important for you to present your album with music videos accompanying each track?
We thought that the simple classic way of doing one video per “single” of an album was a bit too outdated. One single, one video, two singles, two videos… and so on.
We wanted to “prove” that yes you can use the studio like an instrument, and do the same thing with imagery: ie. you can spend a dollar or you can spend a million dollars for a video and still transform it into art regardless of budget.
The place of a musical narration through imagery was primordial for us, and indeed the challenge was exciting as well. We simply didn’t want to just do one or two videos for the album.
We kind of love the fact that in this period of “destruction of the album format”, to come up with one video per track of this album, not an E.P. but an album, it’s a whole story to tell! And it’s like a Kamikaze operation.
We were nearly annoyed by the fact that the project wasn’t clearly understood. It is often assumed that nowadays, it would be “easy” to make a video clip for each track with a little technical skill and few materials to work with. Especially now that the “conceptual video” is in fashion.
We never thought that way. There is a rigor, hundreds of hours, flights, a human history behind each production, efforts worth talking about, because without them this would of never been possible. If you don’t respect the filmmakers and creatives, you don’t respect the value of each one of them, nor the value of their forms of expression, and what we call, to be enriched.
It’s really a respect of creation between all sorts of artistic expressions.
We did this together on our own, with no help from anyone from the business world. We did it with our collaborators which gave us complete autonomy.
We promise, it has nothing to do with us being control freaks.
Most of all, none of this would have been possible or even set forth without adventure or freedom.
Was it a conscious decision to execute the videos with very different production qualities and styles?
Absolutely, like everyone else we like to experience different visual textures. I think that you can guess that just like our album, we pass from one sound landscape/composition to another. For us, the richness of Divine Love and it’s videos, it’s diversity, not everyone can understand, but it’s this diversity that is so primordial to the project!
Going from a Michel Ocelot from a Gaspar Noé. From a black series to a fairy kaleidoscope tale. From self-made to big machine production. From a Bicycle to a Boeing.
By that, the styles, qualities and productions are all different, even if there’s been some sharp moments, where we had to choose, painful moments, or things we couldn’t afford, whatever it was, it never brought us were we’d think it would, it was all determined by the visual appeal of certain videos, but overall, we are very satisfied.
How did you chose the directors who worked on the project?
Well, we started of by an exhaustive list, and another more, how can I say… less evident? We converged the styles, humor, and the will of the moment, and it all somehow gave us a cocktail of directors that you know.
Some of them we got to know by their enchanting commercials, others by their films, some by their exceptional shots, others by their short films, and some for just their aesthetic. Some had never directed music videos and it was a work of an learning and investigation for them.
It was the same research for the Actors too.
What can you tell us about the different locales used to film the videos?
Well some of them were chosen by the Directors, and others by ourselves.
They’re from all over the globe, the videos were shot in the US, Australia, Japan to the UK, from Sweden to Russia, from Belgium to France, Etc.
When we say that the album “Divine Love” has traveled, it isn’t a joke.
Going back and forth to talk with producers and production companies, to form teams for certain videos. Others were all taken care of from production in advance.
We had a special love affair with Tokyo, we felt a real big sorrow when we left, leaving the whole team, whom was absolutely fabulous.
It was the same for all of the videos but we have to confess that our heart was won by Tokyo. Maria (Mochnacz) was with us, and she filmed all the backstage of the shooting, maybe one day we’ll be able to present it. Who knows?
If we could tell all our little anecdotes, it would be too much for an interview, or just enough a very long one 🙂
They are in production. It’s a long process and not completely finished yet.
In a way, we have a live video of ‘Your Baby Don’t Know Me’, and we wanted to have at least one live video. That song in particular, has that raw feeling, and is the best song to be seen live.
Then you have to find the right media, because to support the project you have to defend it properly, and not live in hermeticism.
By this ideology, not wanting to « absolutely create a buzz », but more to respect the project and all the people who worked on it. Because it’s a beautiful project and everybody is terribly proud.
What do you hope people will take away from ‘Divine Love’ as an album and a series of short films?
Well, it never crossed our minds to call it « An album and a series of short films ». We’d have to propose it to the public as a DVD with all the videos, and in an original and playful way to be considered as such.
Notice to amateurs who would like to collaborate with us on this endeavour.
Would you consider producing videos for an entire album again?
It would be too greedy and gluttonous. It’s interesting on a first album, but it requires crazy energy, between concerts all over the world, promoting the album, singles, continuing to shoot video clips, flights, travels etc.. (it nearly cost our lives)… And there’s unfortunately only 24 hours in a day.
We’ll be doing something else with the new album, something different, we have an idea.
Or maybe we’ll just shoot somewhere we weren’t able too, because of the lack of time and money.
We would love to compose music for a film, that would be great !
What is next for Victoria+Jean?
We’re working on our second album, unrelentingly, with a third person, called Henrik Alsèr, in Sweden. The family is growing.
And believe me, it’s going to be beautiful !!
What is the best music video of all-time?
Without hesitation, Michael Jackson’s music video “Thriller” for many reasons. but for me it’s more like a movie, not a video clip! a scenario, choreography, and special effects.. he understood the force you can have with motion pictures!
I think MTV had only just begun and he released this video in 1983.
To cover the extreme cost of the 15 minute film, the first time a video would cost as much as a film, and after Micheal’s own label said they couldn’t justify the cost, opting instead to simply bask in the financial success of the album, MTV helped advance some of the money to make it happen after director, John Landis’ assisant proposed the idea to film the behind the scenes ‘making of’ which would be the final straw in MTV’s seduction and their breaking their own policy to never finance the videos it broadcast.
At that time, MTV also had the reputation to not give black artists screen time. Prince had the same problem at the time, and they needed to counter that.
With Thriller, at the time, it was a landmark event that was going to mark the history of music, television and culture. After seeing ‘Thriller’, viewers only had one desire, to see it fifty times in a row. We still do it now in fact 🙂
I could talk and go on for hours, but there is clearly a before and after “Thriller”. After that, the music industry looked at video clips in a whole different way.
We’d like to thank everyone who participated in our project, and who will recognize themselves, thank you for making « Divine Love » exist, and we want you to know how proud we are, for all of you who collaborated with us to make this project beautiful!
Thank you Adam for offering us the opportunity to chat!