"The Letter" Music Video by Historian

HISTORIAN_PRESS_PHOTO_02Historian is the recording moniker of Chris Karman in which he intertwines ethereal rock layers and subliminal digi-pop on a spacial soundscape. Or as the band’s bio prefers to describe:

“It’s music that is tailor made for the nocturnal headphone listening experience or the long night drive…”

The Echo Park-based act will release their debut album Shelf Life tomorrow through the artist collective label Gazelle Recordings.


Director Leslie Andrew Ridings of Black Noise Industries shot a music video around Silver Lake and Laurel Canyon for their first single “The Letter.” Have your dreams ever been haunted by a pyro woman wearing warpaint? Now they will be…

Free Bike Valet sat down with Karman and Ridings to learn more about the music video:

Who came up with idea for this video?

CK: “Leslie and I met up a few times to come up with the concept and Leslie ran with it.”

LAR: “Yeah, I approached Chris with a few basic ideas and we kind of fleshed them out a little bit, narrowed it down to where we wanted to go and we just kind of went from there.”

Where did you film it?

LAR: “We filmed it in two locations over two nights: a home in Silver Lake and a home in Laurel Canyon. The house in Silver Lake belongs to a good friend who was kind enough to let us kick her out of her house for a night and the Laurel Canyon spot belongs to a buddy as well. It’s this really great location with vistas and really interesting spots in it. And yeah, it just worked out for us to go up there and film it all over the course of the evening at this beautiful home up in the hills. We all felt very Hollywood about it I assure you.”

Was it always meant to have a spooky vibe?

CK: “Well, lyrically speaking, in general, rather than hammer a point home directly I’d prefer to leave a little ambiguity. So with ‘The Letter,’ Leslie and I had discussed that we wanted to maintain the tone of the song in terms of maintaining the inherit mystery in the lyrics of the song and carrying that through to the video.”

LAR: “While listening to the song –it’s a very mysterious song– there’s not quite enough to put together a story but there is something of a narrative in terms of longing, in terms of wanting to be with this person and this mysterious letter that is left behind. So, I really wanted to carry that through. I really wanted it to have that tone in terms of being slightly mysterious. I wanted to create a space where the audience would feel like they were picking up little strings, bit and pieces of a narrative, but never quite getting the whole story. That was the goal and I think it came out pretty well. I’m glad that does have a little bit of a spooky vibe. I think that’s important to the song, to the video, and to their mutual success as the music video.”

CK: “We definitely didn’t want the protagonist to actually be passing the letter in the video.”

LAR: (laughs) “No, no actual letters in ‘The Letter’ video.”

 What is your worst reoccurring nightmare?

CK: “I don’t necessarily have reoccurring nightmares but I do have nightmares relatively frequently. They’re often ridiculous and still extremely terrifying. In the most recent one I died of an aneurysm and my spirit was floating aimlessly but unable to move past the neighborhood I live in. For some reason this was disturbing and I woke up in a panic.”

LAR: “Oh my God.”

CK: “It’s pretty ridiculous I admit. But what can you do with the subconscious?”

LAR: “Yeah, that’s ridiculous. I can’t even believe that. Your spirit wandering around Burbank.”

CK: “I don’t know, it happened.”

Um. Okay.

LAR: “I don’t usually remember my dreams, including nightmares and this might say something about me but the ones I do remember are really mundane. I feel a nightmare for me has been, ‘Oh no, I got this girl pregnant’ or ‘Fuck me, I’m getting sued.’  That’s my nightmare.”

CK: Maybe it says something about me, my nightmares are never pragmatic. They are pretty much always absurd.

You credited the woman with face-paint as a “sorceress.” What are her powers?

LAR: “I wanted to create a supernatural figure who had some degree of influence over the other character: the dreamer. The sorceress’ power was to influence and draw the dreamer deeper into her own dream so this reoccurring dream that the dreamer was having –of which the sorceress character was a part– ultimately results in the dreamer being drawn and trapped within her dream. The dreamer is sort of pulled inside out into this other world and falls under the control of this sorceress that the dreamer herself created in her dream. The story I was trying to tell with the video was how much we let ourselves be controlled and dominated by our fantasies. Our memories. It goes back to what I got from the lyrics of the song ‘The Letter’ –a person being controlled by this thing which no longer is. This relationship that has ceased. That’s a really powerful human experience for me: being trapped by memory.  I kind of channeled that  into the idea that this dream could control the dreamer and the dreamer could actually become a thrall to the creature existing only in her own mind. Of losing her mind in a way, but to herself. If that makes sense? Like the sorceress may or may not be the dreamer destroying herself. Destruction was very important in the initial concept of the video. Remember when we were talking about lighting you on fire Chris?”

CK: “I do, I was all for it.”

Will your next music video be similar to this one?

CK: “At this point, it’s yet to be determined.  I like the vibe of this video and definitely want to maintain some level of continuity. The record itself sustains a certain tone so it would be nice if the collection of videos that surrounds the album do as well. If not in concept, at least in mood.”

LAR: “I have kind of two answers to this question. The first one is that for me personally as a director this video was very different both in its concept and execution than a lot of my prior work.  A lot of my prior work has been abstract and very silly and absurd.  With this video I really wanted to depart from that and I really wanted to create some sense of mystery. Some sense of drama. So the first answer is ‘Yes, my next video will probably continue to be in that vein.’ The second part of the answer is that Chris and I have decided to work together on another video for his album for the what’s the track called?”

CK: “‘Lead Me Away'”

LAR: “For the ‘Lead Me Away’ track, this is the secondary video and I feel like both with me wanting to continue that tone in my next piece and the fact that the ‘Lead Me Away’ video will probably be the next piece I do that tone will most definitely continue. That video may be very different in its look and execution but in terms of tone it’s going to be similar. It’s mysterious. It’s something that’s a little bit slower that doesn’t give the audience all of the pieces.  Something that really sets up just a few guideposts in the dark and leads the audience stumbling around so they can try to put it together. I want it to be painterly and loose. So yes the answer is ‘Yes.'”

CK: “I feel like as a musician I’ve never been one to be to on-the-nose. I’ve always liked the idea of things being a bit abstract, so Leslie’s work in that regards is a good compliment to that.”

Free Bike Valet and Gazelle Recordings proudly present Historian‘s album release show on Sunday, September 22nd at The Satellite along with Coronado Sessions, Modern Time Machines, and Bell Gardens. Come out. It’s free!


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