Tarah Who? You know who we’re talking about. We’re referring to the one and only Tarah Carpenter, frontwoman of the Los Angeles grunge punk outfit Tarah Who?, who has teamed up with the exceptional Corale Hervé to form one of the most exciting rock acts today. The duo has been receiving a lot of positive feedback for the release of their latest single and music video “Swallow That Pill.” They are making sure that the momentum and goodwill from that single does not subside, with the release of their follow-up single and video “Manners.”
Featuring retro-coloured tinting and a punishing rooftop performance, this video exudes rock n’ roll attitude, and feels a little bit dangerous, like the groundbreaking punk rock acts of the late 1970s. Previous to these two new singles, Tarah Who? has released two full-length records, three EPs, and various singles exuding that definitive raw, old-school energy.
To discuss the music video for “Manners,” the production process, and everything, good and bad, that went on behind the scenes, we recently connected with not only Tarah Carpenter and Corale Hervé, but also music video director Lena Baez, and director of photography Maria Quintana. Get ready for an extremely in-depth look at what goes into the making of a music video.
Any mishaps on set?
Tarah G. Carpenter: “We shot the video the day after the elections. So every time we got a second, we were all on our phones to check if we had had the results yet!
We almost lost our location because we were shooting in downtown Los Angeles, and there were rumours that there would be riots, depending on who would win. We were really lucky because none of that happened, and despite COVID, everyone kept a safe distance and wore their masks at all times, just Coralie and I, obviously had to take them off during the shots.
The only issue we ended up running into was that because of everyone’s schedule we actually shot the music video before recording the final track and we made some changes in the studio.”
Lena Baez: “The exterior scenes in downtown LA and inside the subway were our biggest concern because we wanted to keep it safe for both crew and talent, specially in COVID times. However, we were very cautious; we counted on with very responsible people.”
Maria Quintana: “I think the exterior scenes were our biggest concern, because we didn’t know how it would be outside, elections were happening, a lot of rumors about possible riots and also COVID, we need to keep a safe set. But for me I think the subway was the biggest concern, because obviously we shot those scenes gorilla style”
Any concepts where you started and, midway through, thought what “The fuck are we doing?”
Carpenter: “So we have worked with Maria for almost four years now I think.. Crazy! Anyway, she has become a friend, but in our eyes, Maria is like a band member. We are a team, she believes in us as much as we believe and trust her work. What I love the most about working with Maria, (outside of her amazing talent) is that I can relax. I trust her so much, that I can just rely on her, doing what she has to do, to make us look good on a picture or on a video. She brings in different directors for each music video, and I tell her, ‘as long as you trust them, I am cool with it.’
Lena is our director of that music video. We had worked with her in the past, she had different jobs on the other videos. I remember when she first told me the concept.. I was like ‘WHAT?’ but then we worked on it, and it made more sense. We could not do or use everything that she had in mind, but I always trust how things end up working out. I really like how it looks in the end. But between you and me… for every music video.. There is always one point when I am like, ‘the fuck are we doing?’ But I keep it to myself or I tell Coco and we are both like, ‘I don’t know… but if Maria likes it… let’s just go for it!’ The thing is that on the other side of the camera, you don’t know what they are actually capturing… so if you trust your DP, you can leave all of those worries behind. Maria and I have the same taste in visuals, I noticed this right away.”
Baez: “This is my first project as a director for Tarah Who?, and it was a lot of fun. When I came into the project, Maria told me about wanting to use the Super 8 and I loved the idea of filming it in downtown LA with a film look; I don’t have much experience with film cameras, but I trusted Maria completely with that matter. Then I listened to the song over and over, gave a lot of attention to the lyrics and then I built a concept around it. Afterwards, we had a meeting in which Tarah told the story behind the music and where it comes from, and we departed from there. I think what makes this video so great is the trust we have for each other, I trust in Tarah’s and Coco’s talent in music and I trust in Maria’s talent for cinematography. It’s a great team.”
Quintana: “I’m very lucky to work with Tarah and Coco, our collaborative work has been growing and we can see the progression of our work during this four years already as partners in crime! For me always is a challenge to make something different, new things for the girls of Tarah Who? And also for me. I’m really grateful with them because they always put all their trust on me and what new concept or idea or crew I’m bringing to the music video. With Lena, ‘Manners’ was our first official project where we worked together and I really loved it. She is always open to collaborate and takes the ideas of everyone in the team and put all that together with her touch and makes a very good concept.
I love that she is super clear about what she wants. I knew since the beginning that I wanted to shoot this music video on film when Tarah told me, ‘I want to shoot this song and I think we can do it maybe on a rooftop.’ I immediately said, ‘yes let’s do that but on film let’s use 8mm cameras and make this happens and we made it! And also I really trusted Lena’s vision. She was on point all the time.”
If money was no issue what would be in your perfect video?
Carpenter: “That’s interesting. I have been DIY for so many years, that I always try to make it work so that money is no issue. Otherwise, you don’t do anything! There are always alternatives, and again, you have to trust the people you work with. You don’t hire a director just because you need a music video. You need to have a reason to want to work with that person. I think… Then you brainstorm the possibilities. There is always an option, and magic that can happen. The illusion of something because it is ‘cinema’ you just need the audience to BELIEVE that it is happening. I guess, some kind of action movie like with cars, chase, explosions could be fun but I don’t even think that it would fit our music (laughs)! But who knows?! Maybe one day!”
Baez: “I agree, cinema is an illusion like Tarah expressed therefore everything is possible to make. It’s about combining ideas and figuring it out, that’s why this is a collaborative medium.”
Quintana: “I think the most important thing is the collaborative work, where not only the band have their ideas, also the director, the DP, and sometimes other members of the crew. Where you share ideas and figure it out how you can make these ideas happen. And I believe we are always trying new things that makes every video perfect. Maybe someday we’ll have some kind of action like fire, cars, explosions…”
If you could have any guest appear in your video who would you have?
Carpenter: “Well actually, Lena and Rigel (Yaluk) (first AC) are on the music video because we needed extras for the shot of Coralie in the subway. It looked too empty (laughs).”
Do you prefer writing a video around the theme of a song or just going on a warehouse and banging out a live performance?
Carpenter: “Well the best will be to do both (laughs). I don’t really have a preference, both are really cool!”
Corale Hervé: “Yeah I agree, both are always cool but I don’t like narrative like videos. Using a theme, and letting the watcher interpret is more interesting in my opinion. The performance is not always needed.”
Tell us about any good, bad or crazy director or film crew-related incidents.
Hervé: “Well it was actually Tarah, she broke her foot a few days before the shooting of one of our video ‘Numb Killer.’ And she still jumped on the drums for the last shot of the music video and fell on them like at our live shows (laughs)!”
Carpenter: “That’s true! I totally forgot about that! It was funny because I thought everyone understood that is what I was going to do. Maria knows us, so when I said that, she was worried for the insurance but she was like, ‘ok…be careful,’ we did it, I fell on the drums and the whole crew stopped and screamed! Rushed to me ‘are you ok? What happened? Did she collapse?’ I was like, ‘No! I just said I am going to fall on the drums now, so I did! did you get it?!’ You can see it at the end of the video.”
Quintana: “Oh Jesus! It was so funny that moment because obviously, I knew how the shows are with Tarah, and she told me about her final movement, and I was ok, you can do it, just be careful. But I think nobody else was warned about that. So, when Tarah fell on the drums, all the crew were like… oh are you ok? Did she get hurt? Maybe she slipped.”
How does the music inform the video in terms of visuals matching sound?
Baez: “A concept was created from the lyrics, from the story behind it, from the meaning and interpretation that I got from the music. Once I heard the music, I knew what I wanted to do for the visuals. I was looking for a subjective theme combined with a musical performance.”
How important are music videos in terms of increased exposure?
Hervé: “I think in our days, videos are everything! People love to see new videos and it’s a great way to get exposure to potential fans.”
Carpenter: “Well, to me it is just a different way to touch people, right? You have people who are visuals and people who are better listeners, or music lovers they just want music as their own soundtrack. (work out, walking, running, daydreaming, driving, background etc..). Then it almost became a thing for musicians to see how ‘legit’ they were. ‘Cool, you have a CD but do you have a video?’ And the quality, or idea kind of, talked for where your band was at. Now, in a pandemic world, you almost need a video in order to increase your exposure, and at the same time, now is the time because people are more likely to discover you.”
Baez: “Music videos are a form of exposure, they promote the music of the band and their talent. We live in the era of technology where everything is about sounds and images, therefore music videos are essential for the growth of music; they help spread the messages that artists want to share with the public.”
Quintana: “I have two passions in my life, one is the cinema and second one is the music. Before I started working as a director of photography, I was a concert photographer. For me, mixing music with visuals was always one of my biggest dreams. Is always magic how you can translate with visuals a song. how you tell visually what the song is saying, or the meaning of that song. Times are changing, and before maybe the bands didn’t need music videos to promote their music, maybe they needed to shoot one or two, but nowadays you need to be exposed, in some way you need to validate your existence as a band. It’s really crazy how everything is rushing, but I also think it is good because it is making use your creativity and putting you out of your comfort zone.”
How important a role does social media play for sharing videos and increasing exposure?
Hervé: “With every social media being linked together, it’s easier to share something everywhere and potentially reach more people but at the same time it might be the same persons that see it on every social media.”
Carpenter: “Social media is crucial for sharing videos, increasing exposure, reaching out to the world! I like to use different tools, because we all have our favourites. I am a big Instagramer, and I have noticed that we don’t reach out to the same audience on YouTube, than on IGTV or Facebook. With IGTV and the hashtags, I usually get a few new people and followers. It is fascinating!”
Baez: “Social media is in our favour, it’s the best medium we have to promote our art. I agree with them, thanks to it we can reach greater audiences around the world. And there is so much content out there, that it serves as an inspiration as well. In my case, it pushes me to be more creative, to find new ideas and new concepts. It’s a tool for filmmakers.”
Quintana: “Social media is a tool that you need to use in your favour, and is a ‘free tool’ to promote your art. And because you can reach a lot of places and people around the world, social media also pushes me to be more selective with my work, learn from others, interact with other artists, and show my work, share my ideas and make me be more creative.”
How much more effective or beneficial is creating a music video now compared to 20/30 years ago?
Hervé: “With everything available in our days it’s so much easier to create music videos and do what you want.”
Carpenter: “Twenty or 30 years ago? I don’t know! All that this question is making me think of is ‘Video Killed The Radio Star!’ I usually discover songs because I have heard them play. Not because I have found the video. I know that some people know the music videos of the songs they listen to. I actually never check. I usually end up discovering a music video or what an artist looks like because I am practicing the drums. I finish my drum practice with fun songs on YouTube, and then it actually interrupts my rehearsal because if the music video is good, I am captivated and I forget to play!
Sometimes I like a song, and the music video is a little too simplistic in my opinion, but whatever the artist wanted to convey… Some musicians, just want a video up, so that people can discover their songs. I think that for us, it is a tool that we need to promote our brand, our band, a different angle.”
Are the benefits worth the costs and effort involved?
Hervé: “In my opinion yes! If you really have an idea, a good team that you trust, you will make it happened!”
Carpenter: “I agree. I am sure it has happened for some people that it was not the case every time. We have been lucky to have found Maria Quintana who has been working with us for a few years now. We trust her and her vision. She is careful about the budget since she knows we are independent and we have been able to work things out.
We have a lot of fun shooting music videos and now we are a little family who meets every couple of months to do something fun, crazy, and we are building a great relationship and memories.”
Baez: “Yes, always! Making new content is always an adventure; you always learn something new from each experience, and you get to meet new people with new, similar or different ideas than yours. It’s worth it.”
Quintana: “Have a good team and crew behind you, is really a good signal. Because you can work to make new ideas happen. I always take care about the numbers, I really work so that every dollar spent in the project is worth it, because I know the sacrifice behind to make the savings and be also independent in the music industry. But in this particular case with Tarah and Coco, we are like family, we take care of each other and we are always creating new things and looking for new visions.”
Is YouTube (or ‘online-only’ platforms) a good enough platform by itself to justify creating a music video?
Hervé: “I think it’s pretty good yes, everybody watch videos on YouTube. It’s a great way to expose your music.”
Carpenter: “I haven’t had TV since I was 15, I wasn’t even aware that music videos still went on music channels! Tarah Who? is not your mainstream rock band, so you don’t have to be heavier or extreme to not be placed on TV (laughs)! So yeah, YouTube is good enough and as a matter of fact, because of the power of social media and ads, you probably have a better chance to be ‘seen’ (your video) on a YouTube playlist than on TV. I think?”
Is a well-made DIY video just as good or beneficial as a professionally-made/directed video?
Hervé: “I think so, yes. You need to have a vision, an idea for the video and even if it’s DIY or ‘professionally made’ it doesn’t matter. You will create the vision you want.”
Carpenter: “Totally. Simple is better than the full production deal sometimes. You just need to do what is right for the song. It is not because you spend a lot of money on your music that it is going to make it better. For instance, your recording, or mastering. It’s not because you paid 10,000 dollars to record your album that it is better than a home recorded album that only costs time. If you have the right mics, mic placements, and you know what you are doing, it could be just as good. You can pay 10,000 a recording but turns out, the sound engineer didn’t really get the vibe of your project, so everything sounds a little different, but ‘hey! you paid 10,000.’ Great, how are you going to pay for the promotion now?
The same goes for the music videos. It is not because you pay more that you are going to get better results (you could just get overcharged!). Focus on making art and what requires to accomplish your vision. If it just needs one person seating on a chair in mood lighting, to tell the story, then that is all you need to do for your message to come across.
For all I know, you can shoot your music video with your iPhone, it is great quality, you just need a good story or concept that goes with it and a good editor!”
Baez: “It’s all about the idea, it can be very simple or very extravagant. What matters is if you were able to capture the attention of your audience with your vision, and if your purpose is to make art then you most likely did.”
Does this latest video have a concept and, if so, can you elaborate on it?
Carpenter: “Maria likes to use different cameras. we have a win-win relationship. We need quality music videos, and she gets to try different cameras with our MVs. I tell stories of our songs to Maria and I have like flashes. So for ‘Manners’ for instance, I told her something like, ‘I am just picturing a rooftop. The song is about education and religion. I don’t want to have a storyline like a girl who goes to Catholic church, but we need to have sort of like metaphors.’ Then she talks to Lena, and Lena came up with different ideas and breaking the glass that was meant to represent liberation.. Visually, I know Maria wanted to shoot with an 8 mm camera, and I am so glad she did because it looks so cool!”
Baez: “Yes, I took the lyrics as my foundation for the concept. I like working with Tarah, Coco and Maria because they are open to explore new ideas, and I wanted to be subjective. I like to think that this video is open for interpretation, and for me, this is a story about two girls breaking away from the paradigms and norms that are already established. I didn’t want to do a narrative story, therefore I used the glass as a symbol. It represents the standards already implemented in our lives that limit us as humans, and they are as transparent and thick as a piece of glass. It takes courage and strength to liberate yourself from them.
‘Manners’ is about all those limitations that we don’t see, but we follow. This music video explores the before and after of this liberation as well, at the beginning we can visualize two individuals following the routine in a more collectivist environment; towards the end, there’s a change in their attitude and persona, they are finally ready to explore the world by themselves and with no restrains. I’m not against the norms, but I believe that we shouldn’t let them interrupt the flow of who we are and who we want to be.”
How did you put the crew together that helped make this video?
Hervé: “We have been working with the amazing Maria Quintana, photographer and videographer, for a few years now. She is the best and knows what we want. She always has amazing people working with her and our crew for the song ‘Manners’ was Maria, Rigel Yaluk, Nichole Ruiz, Lena Baez, and Nupur Mehrotra.”
Carpenter: “Yes, we are starting to get to know each other, and it is really cool. Our next videos, also and always involve Maria, but working with Lena was actually really nice and simple. She gets really excited and it is adorable to watch! Lena also directed our live sessions and we are currently working on two more videos that she will be directing with Maria. I think they work well together so everyone is happy. I was really impressed with a proposal she has sent to us at a recent zoom meeting. I can’t wait to tell you more about that when the time comes!”
Quintana: “Four years working with Tarah Who? has been the best thing that could happen to me, I really love to work with them. I admire them a lot, because I’ve seen how they have grown as a band, and all the effort and sacrifice they put in the project itself, the three of us are a team/family. But working with Lena has been really nice, working with her has been really good, I’m happy with the result with ‘Manners,’ and I believe now Lena is becoming part of the family, because we are starting to work on two more videos, and I’m really excited. I think she is in the same channel as me, Tarah and Coco.
And for sure we have other members that also are becoming part of the family and team of Tarah Who? Like Rigel Yaluk and Nichole Ruiz, obviously we can not forget our beautiful and best first AC Jude Abadi, who is also part of the team and family but because of pandemic and distance she was not in ‘Manners,’ but maybe soon she will be back with us, Junbai Zhou who is usually gaffer but ‘Manners’ was a small crew and outdoors.”
Did the video have a budget and where you able to stick with it?
Carpenter: “(laughs) Yeah I think we did! You will see, it is a very ‘simple’ video.”
How much of your new video was self-made?
Hervé: “Everything actually! It was really fun to shoot!”
Carpenter: “Yeah the whole thing was.”