Unconventional, innovative, and maybe just a little eccentric, Dark Side Of Light has recently started to gain a lot of recognition for their original combination of indie and alternative rock. The duo, composed of Nik Frost and Grant Conway, specializes in hypnotic beats, tasty bass lines, and sublime vocals. You’ll hear all of that and more on the pair’s latest single “Moist,” a song inspired by alternative heavyweights like Radiohead, Massive Attack, Tame Impala, and Beck.
Frost and Conway approach songwriting in a very unconventional way. They are in their element when they feel free to experiment with different instruments and recording techniques, unencumbered by musical trends and tendencies. Frost and Conway have been frequent collaborators for many years now, but Dark Side Of Light is their first formal collaboration together. Conway is known for his work with the band Silver Jet, who toured with Cheap Trick and Dogstar, while Frost grew up in Barcelona, Spain, exposed to various forms of music and art, which led to him doing exhibitions and installations at bars and nightclubs.
Along with the recent release of “Moist,” the duo put together a colourful, moody new music video to go along with it. For our latest in our Behind The Video interview series, we spoke with Nik Frost about what went down on set, the conceptual side of the video, who contributed to the making of it, and so much more.
Any mishaps on set?
Nik Frost: “It’s really challenging to work with the new set guidelines and it creates all sorts of unexpected challenges that I take for granted and never even considered prior to COVID. I didn’t take into consideration that every time I ate or drank something, I’d have to sequester off set to take my mask off which slows production down. I didn’t think through doing my makeup first as it left me unable to wear a mask because of the nature of the medium I used. After making that mistake, there was no time to take my makeup off, or redo it and I had to work on the makeup scheme for the actor, Alaina Wilson who played opposite me. So we’re both sitting there, pretty close to one another, maskless while I completed her face painting… Luckily we were fortunate enough to have access to QuickTest technology but that doesn’t make it 100 percent safe by any means.”
Any concepts where you started and, midway through, thought “what the fuck are we doing?”
“We actually developed a video/film production company in an effort to be able to handle all of the videos that we plan on making for the rest of the music, so planning has been pretty comprehensive for the most part when we finally get down to shooting something. We’ve actually done some pretty big productions which feature large casts at outdoor locations, these are the types of situations that usually prove to be rife with BS. In comparison, ‘Moist’ was smooth sailing.”
If money was no issue what would be in your perfect video?
“That’s a great question; on the video mentioned above, we had to pull some pretty major moves to be able to lock down an outdoor, desert location with hills as well as gullies. We are Los Angeles-based and didn’t want to spend the money to go out of town and one of the big problems that comes up in LA, is that everyone wants a substantial amount of money for locations. Shooting that video was one of the greatest creative experiences I’ve ever had and we had a very limited budget, so I guess I walked away from that experience firmly believing that it’s not about money. It’s about creativity, great ideas and great people.”
If you could have any guest appear in your video who would you have?
“I would definitely want Tom Cruise. The guy is so awesomely insane: a literal cult leader, who has climbed to the top of the entertainment business mountain and become the gold standard for film production. I would want him to write, star, direct and produce our next music video. I would just watch in awe. Then I would refuse to release it because he IS indeed a cult leader and I would not want to profit on his exploitation of these poor, lost Scientologist souls.”
Do you prefer writing a video around the theme of a song or just going on a warehouse and banging out a live performance?
“Everything we do is conceptual from soup to nuts. I’ve never been able to write lyrics that just sound cool. It always has to have some kind of internal meaning for me to connect with. The videos are always going to be in line with the narrative of the song, that’s what makes it fun for me; it’s a puzzle that I get to put together, the more complex, the more rewarding it is when it’s finally finished.”
Tell us about any good, bad or crazy director or film crew-related incidents.
“Great question. We were on the set of the video I mentioned previously and there was a staged shooting that was to take place. The special effects team had brought an armourer to handle the firearm and from what I understand, he was using real guns with blanks. We had a very unruly guitar player, Gotti Curse, whom we’d been working with for years, grab a hold of one of the pistols and proceed to start pointing it at everyone on the set. We had no idea what was in the gun, whether it was loaded with blanks or real bullets, no idea.
As he spun around in circles, pointing the weapon at talent and crew alike, everyone cleared the area, running to the surrounding hills to get away from this guy who clearly thought the whole thing was hilarious. Needless to say, he was fired and subsequently moved to the mountainous regions of Pennsylvania where he lives in his father’s summer cabin year round.”
How does the music inform the video in terms of visuals matching sound?
“I love Grant’s final drum performance on ‘Moist,’ and I wanted to visually feature the groove and the drum fills within the body of the video. There’s something called ‘the fulcrum’ that great drummers engage for feel and this song is a perfect example of a drummer at his best, laying down a groove that makes a song work entirely. So, I wanted to really visually feature his playing.
As far as the art direction, I’ve always been into surrealism and that type of psychedelic mode of expression. The band and players are basically in an empty, negative space presenting themselves in different colored lighting, lit and shot brilliantly by David Dinwiddie. This aspect of the video is all about human performance. There’s also a female/male duality that obviously comes into play here which Alaina Wilson and Mollie Adamson helped us portray. I was musing to a friend recently, that for centuries, in different variances of hermetic magic and ancient cultures, women are thought to present the moon, the darkness, ‘mystery’ or ‘the unknown’ and men were thought to present the sun, light, ‘knowing,’ ironically, enlightenment.
I’ve always thought this was hilarious as these concepts were all conceived and recorded by men who did not understand women because they were NOT women and generally afraid to face their own femininity, portraying women throughout the ages as these dark, mysterious and dangerous creatures. Me, putting the makeup on and using the sequins and metallic paint as a kind of ode to glamour was a quiet form of purposeful emasculation. We’re currently inundated with images of modern man running rampant throughout our culture, beating his chest, buying gigantic trucks, shooting big guns in an effort to deal with their feelings of loss, emptiness, and inadequacy. During all of my posturing, Grant’s just being his cool ass self… ‘The GGQ.’”
Have you ever had such a baller idea for a music video that you’ve written music for it?
“Another great question. As we’ve been moving the ball forward, different people have come on board in different roles. Alaina Wilson, who was originally a production assistant on our first music video for ‘Summer Breeze,’ not only acted in ‘Moist’ but then started brainstorming concepts with me for projects moving forward. She came to me with this amazing idea for a music video and I actually wound up modifying some lyrics to what could possibly be the third single in an effort to be able to shoot what became an amazing concept. This is a clear case of a video concept informing the actual lyrics to a song. I’ve never had that happen to me before, it’s fascinating that you asked that.”
What is your favourite childhood music video and have you any secret nods to it in your catalogue?
“I was lucky enough to be managed and produced by the great ‘L’Enfant terrible,’ Malcolm McLaren, who not only managed the Sex Pistols but took credit for creating them as well. He managed the New York Dolls and other great alternative artists that came before us. His music video work as well as the film, The Great Rock n’ Roll Swindle completely changed my life. He was a situationist, an anarchist, and a Satanist. He permanently changed the way I thought about art, individualism, and authenticity.”
How important are music videos in terms of increased exposure?
“Having a music video can triple or quadruple the exposure as there are so many different components to it; you can release the making of the video, you can release the behind the scenes photographs, etc. We actually have an entire web series coming out on YouTube which is essentially, the behind the scenes, of the behind the scenes, of the making of Dark Side Of Light’s ‘Summer Breeze.’ We had made a ‘making of’ video and our manager, Tom Vitorino, after he’d seen it declared that it was, ‘shockingly boring, and totally irrelevant.’ He went on to say he’d never seen content ‘this pointless in my entire life.’
All of that said, when he accidentally saw the behind the scenes footage of the ‘making of’ video, he thought it was hilarious and instructed Grant, my drummer, who’s a pretty serious music editor in the film and TV business, to put together a series of clips using the material. I am opposed to its release but what can you do? Case in point, shoot everything, take pictures all the time, engage your fans in anyway you can, because in the current climate we live in, more is apparently better than less.”
How important a role does social media play for sharing videos and increasing exposure?
“Social media has been a total and complete revolution in helping musicians get themselves out there. We no longer have to rely on record labels, we are the record label. The gatekeepers have disappeared and the lunatics have taken over the asylum. God bless us all.”
How much more effective or beneficial is creating a music video now compared to 20, 30 years ago?
“Once again, amazing question. We, like I stated above, started a film production company just to handle the volume of music videos we’d be generating. It’s not enough to put a single out anymore, it must be accompanied with visuals as we now live in a highly diverted society. Not only do you have to have a great track/song, you must have an almost visually jarring music video accompanied by a bunch of digital information leading up to the release of both. It is a brave new world and I’m incredibly grateful to be a part of it.”
Are the benefits worth the costs and effort involved?
“It really doesn’t matter, if you’re not involved to the hilt, give up.”
Is YouTube (or ‘online-only’ platforms) a good enough platform by itself to justify creating a music video?
“For the most part, terrestrial television is completely dead. YouTube is a great outlet, Vimeo, Instagram, Facebook. They are all great and once again, the gatekeepers have all been fired and culture decides who wins and who loses. Work like you don’t have another day, do what you love and people will find you.”
Is a well-made DIY video just as good or beneficial as a professionally-made/directed video?
“I think it can all work as long as it’s compelling. What’s fun is coming up with a really cheap idea and adding creative partners to the cheap idea. Ironically a cheap idea becomes a very big idea, but now there are 15 people or more involved, knowing there’s not really any kind of serious budget. But, they are passionate about it and they want to see it completed. This is how we’ve managed to do some really remarkable work over the last couple years with limited budgets.”
Does this latest video have a concept and, if so, can you elaborate on it?
“The song is really about two people fucking. It started off super raunchy and as a sort of joke. For whatever reason, the word ‘moist’ has a specific effect on most people and it’s not good. It did make me feel much better knowing that Janet Jackson has a song similarly titled. Despite the name, the song wound up having so much potential, I started toning lyrics down purposefully as I really didn’t think the world needed another ‘pussy ass, ass dick’ song. As the lyrics became more psychedelic and almost sexually introspective, I wanted to kind of get these ideas on film without having any overt sexual activity whatsoever. I think it’s alluded to, I hope it’s alluded to, but it’s tasteful for the most part, and definitely gets the message across.”
If you worked with a crew to make this latest video, who did it include and how did you put together the team?
“Putting the production and crew together was a case of streamlining it all into a tight, super efficient group of bad asses. I wrote it, Grant and I produced. Our DP, David Dinwiddie had recently started his company DSD Elements and was subsequently capable of doing some really great deals on gear and lighting hence the million dollar film look. I designed and executed the makeup on everybody and the actors took care of their own wardrobe. The location was Grant’s living room. Milk Studios, who has been a longtime supporter of our work, loaned us everything else.”
Did the video have a budget and were you able to stick with it?
“We had a very small budget and thanks to the passionate people involved, we wound up hitting the mark perfectly.”
Was the video completely self-made?
“The entirety of the video was self-made. We’re super excited and proud to be a part of this new leg of the entertainment business. I can’t even imagine what’s waiting around the corner for a band as conceptually exciting as Dark Side Of Light. Thanks so much for the opportunity.”