Relationships can be complicated, particularly in rock bands. But that doesn’t mean they can’t work and heed highly successful results. Enter Queens & Kings, a band led by the volatile duo of drummer and singer Alissa Klug, and guitarist and singer Brendan Albert. They recently released their latest music video for “Going Through Hell,” a compilation of ten years of footage that offers a look into the interesting dynamic between the two of them. The footage includes random clips taken from cell phone cameras, live footage, and pro DSLR shoots. The video is a brief gander into the convoluted path the two have taken as musicians, playing together, and trying to find their way in a difficult business and artistic landscape.
Based in Toronto, Klug and Albert have been bandmates for just four years, but have known each other for over a decade. They specialize in electrifying post-punk garage rock, with “Going Through Hell” a perfect indication of where these two are musically situated. The song is actually the third single released by the band off of their upcoming studio album which they plan to release this summer.
Recently, we found time to connect with Alissa Klug to ask her a few questions about “Going Through Hell,” the way in which they did the music video and her reflections on the history as one-half of Queens & Kings.
The video for “Going Through Hell” is made up of a collection of footage accumulated over the last decade. Was there any thought given to actually shooting a video with new footage based around a new concept? What made you confident that doing a video composed of old footage of your time together was the right idea for this song?
Alissa Klug: “I’m a really visual person, and I generally get concepts for videos for songs pretty early on. For this one, using our older footage was always the idea even before the pandemic hit because the song is largely the story of our relationship and all we’ve been through, so the best way to really convey this story was by using footage of our memories together through the years.
It’s essentially a big slide show and that’s how we wanted it to feel. That’s about as honest as you can get about it all. The journey we have been on together is told through the lens of two touring musicians, so it’s kind of one story told via another. There were some moments we collected specifically for the sake of this video… particularly some of the fighting scenes as those are just generally not the moments any of us really capture on film or want to remember, so we recreated some of those, but we also wanted to include some moments unique to these crazy times to show and remember the sort of climate we released this video in.
The pandemic has added a whole new element and meaning to this song that can be related to on a global level, so we wanted to make that a forever tangible part of the story.”
Considering the video for “Going Through Hell,” it obviously begs the question. Was the idea to do a video based around previous moments and clips motivated by the pandemic situation?
“It was always the plan, but the fact that we were realizing that plan smack dab in the middle of a pandemic made it seem far more meant-to-be.
Not only did the song itself take on additional meaning, as it’s really about learning to let go and finding ways to move on, but it was basically the perfect quarantine-style video. It wasn’t necessarily our initial intention to release this one as our third single, but in terms of the song, with that title alone, and the video concept we had for it, it just seemed like the right time to release it. We were fortunate that being able to put it together at this time was entirely unhindered by the pandemic as it was comprised of footage we already had, for the most part. I think the pandemic just added an extra layer to it, but the core of it was essentially the same.”
What was the process like for putting the video together? I’m assuming it took a significant amount of time to decide on the right footage for the final product? How many hours of footage would you say you went through when making the video? Are we talking hours upon hours?
“This is actually the first music video I have edited, and my first time using Premiere.
In the past, Brendan and I have collaborated creatively on video concepts and story-boarding. I’ve sent him overlays and gone through the raw footage to note good clips for different parts and stuff like that, but Brendan did all of technical editing on our previous two videos. He is a professional photographer, his photography is unreal!, and more recently has been doing a lot of music video work. We started out this way with this video as well. I have a nine year old computer with some busted keys and just didn’t have the capability to do the edits on my computer, so initially we were trying to work on this remotely together between two cities with him doing the editing on his computer. But I just really felt I needed to do the editing on this one. I had a sort of vision for it… I wanted to tell a story and didn’t feel I could do that without experimenting and playing around with footage myself.
So, Brendan brought his PC tower into town for me and I just worked on it. I have many years of experience with audio editing as well as some pretty minimal experience with video editing, so I figured out what I needed to know in Premiere pretty quickly. I knew I had limited time to work on it as that computer wouldn’t be sticking around, so I got it done within a few days, basically.
Deciding on the footage was tough, but those time limitations forced me to make those choices a bit more quickly. I had a lot of doubts after the fact and Brendan even brought his computer back in briefly so I could make a few changes…We have so many hard drives and old phones full of even more footage… not to mention thousands of photos I could have used. I’m sure there is a lot more we didn’t even find. There were so many clips I kind of regretted not being able to get in there… and maybe some others I wasn’t sure I even wanted in there, but there was only so much space in a four-ish minute song and we didn’t want to risk killing the flow or the raw honesty that already existed by making too many changes. Maybe I’ll just have to post some ‘didn’t make the cut’ clips at some point.”
One of the best parts about this video is that I think it really emphasizes the close relationship between you both. Was this something that you really wanted this video to convey?
“Definitely! We wanted the video to tell the story of the song which is essentially about our history together. It felt extremely personal so it was actually the hardest thing I’ve ever released. Largely because the nature of our dynamic is very changeable and ever-evolving and so it may not give a true depiction of the reality. It’s not a straight-forward story. I believe in pure honesty and not contriving things, but sometimes, you have to navigate where that line is for you between what belongs in the private versus the public sphere. Brendan would tell you he’d pretty much let it all hang out there, but for me, this one felt more intimate in a lot of ways than previous releases so it was a bit harder to put out there.”
Are there any specific moments featured in this video that have a funny or noteworthy story associated with them? If you could, please tell us more about one of these times or memories.
“There are a bunch! The first one that comes to mind is the very short clip of Brendan holding my foot up to his ear… That was probably taken about a decade or so ago and it was super low-res footage off of an old phone… I had to really push the limits on re-sizing that one, but luckily, I think that lo-fi aesthetic kind of worked on some of this footage to show that it was older, that it was all taken at various points in our timeline and on various devices of varying quality.
That clip was taken back in the days when we were watching a lot of Breaking Bad and he was pretending to be Walter talking to Skylar on the phone: ‘Skylar, I told you not to call me here!’ I have been thinking I would maybe start posting some of the original clips used in the video so people could see where they have come from. And maybe even some funny cuts that didn’t make it in. So many funny and fairly incriminating clips of Brendan! Luckily, he doesn’t get embarrassed too easily…”
Moments like these featured in the video make us long for the good times that we’ve had to largely miss out on over the last year. Was it perhaps somewhat emotional putting it together considering you haven’t been able to tour and move around freely this past year?
“Oh, definitely! All of the live footage and the travel footage especially, because those two things are such a major part of our history and two of the things we miss most… so many of us do.
The ending was especially emotional for me, and it was kind of a happy accident, really. The video was meant to end with the scene of Brendan and I walking on the beach at the Scarborough Bluffs which was footage we took on his most recent birthday. But before we decided I was going to edit this video, Brendan had made a short montage using photos from a live performance at the Hideout taken by our friend Kirsten Sonntag, which was just meant to be a test, him trying stuff out, but it was left on the timeline.
On top of that, I had put a full video of one of our live performances of the song at the bottom of the timeline, just as a place-holder thinking if I had a moment that I didn’t want to use other footage for, it would be there in time with the song but when I got to the end of the video, the ending of that clip was a bit longer and played after the final scene and the way it mixed with the audio from the beach clip, the sound of the waves and children playing, mixed with snapshots of a past show in a beloved venue now closed because of the pandemic… it just seemed like such an ode to a time gone by. We knew it all had to stay in, untouched. Just as it was.”
The song title “Going Through Hell” obviously intimates that there have been some rough times you’ve had to endure together. What are your own reflections on the last decade or so? Any moments that stand out as being real challenges to you?
“There has always been a real push and pull in our relationship… a whole fire and ice, love-hate kind of thing… I think that dichotomy is kind of a constant between us, so it’s more of an omnipresent reality that we face rather than specific moments, I suppose. That reality can be a huge challenge in and of itself and can make being in a band together pretty trying at times on top of that. I think this tension really comes across in our performances and people have definitely remarked on it in a number of… interesting ways (laughs)! I could share one of my favourites, but it would have to be censored! Our dynamic definitely plays a huge part in our writing and especially in our stage performances. Letting out the anger and frustration we sometimes feel is a huge part of why we started this project. It’s a necessary release!”
Finally, do you have a favourite memory or clip from this video that you can share with us?
“There are really so many, but aside from playing live shows, I’d say Hawaii is kind of our happy place and that was really a special trip for us. Particularly being in the water. Swimming is one of my favourite things in life outside of music. That end scene of us in the water near the end of the video, when I made that black and white… it just really got me. It really felt like some sort of a goodbye on multiple levels. That was a peaceful, happy time. Those moments in Hawaii just personify the heaven that we were singing about and the things that feel lost to us all right now. I can’t wait until we can all get moments like that back again.”