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Behind the Scenes: Juliette Commagere – “Big Star”

By ; November 26, 2013 at 9:54 AM 


Los Angeles singer-songwriter Juliette Commagere creates gossamer synth-pop that recalls the ephemeral pop aesthetics of artists like Cocteau Twins and Kate Bush.  It billows out on soft ambient tendrils, barely kept aloft by Commagere’s fragile voice and a stolid pop determination.  No stranger to the spotlight (she has opened for The Foo Fighters, Bat for Lashes, and Air), her music feels informed of a larger musical arena — a pop world where genres and labels are as meaningless as the people who try to enforce them.  On her latest album, Human, she ventures into dusky night atmospheres, where reverbed vocals and electronic flourishes interlock with persistent synthetics rhythms.

For the video to her recent single, “Big Star,” Commagere took a rather hands-on approach to its execution.  She made costumes, designed layouts, and knew exactly how she wanted it to look.  But there is a lot of back-story to this video and the details are as fascinating as the video itself.  But let’s here it in her own words.  Read Commagere’s description below of what it took to make the video for “Big Star” a reality.


by Juliette Commagere

The only good thing (and I mean the only good thing) about having zero dollars is that it forces you to be creative. Yes it can limit you, but it can also force you to involve your entire family — which I did. I like to think of the Commageres as a sort of Royal Tenenbaums type of family with a Mexican twist. And a messier house. Or maybe we’re like the Bluths. No no — we’re the Tenenbaums. We’re all musicians and all very creative and all a bit on the nutty side. Everyone always has a lot of “projects” going on that they are very upset about. And we are very close. Maybe too close. My sister is the extremely beautiful singer Carla Commagere and my brother is singer-songwriter Robert Francis. My dad owns a classical record label and is an amazing pianist but he went to film school for cinematography. My mom provides the Mexican twist. So naturally I asked my dad to shoot it. My sister and her pro-surfer husband are the parents of Hana and Lyric. Since my sister and I are just extensions of each other, those kids are my whole entire god damn world. I swear I had postpartum depression after they were born but it wasn’t the jump out the window kind that people talk about. It was a sickness in the pit of my stomach for weeks because my love for them terrified me.

Hana, who had just turned eight, loves to dance and takes the cutest hip-hop classes you’ve ever seen. I’d been wanting to do a video with her for some time now to capture that fresh-from-the-womb face. And since “Big Star” is based on the children’s book “Morgan and Yew” that used to make me cry as a child, I thought this the perfect opportunity. I spent weeks making the costumes. For one I created a white and light blue feather top and blue iridescent genie pants — it looks like delicious cake. For the other I wanted her to look like a little futuristic rockstar and I used neon fringe and silver ribbon and beaded trims that I glued onto a nude bodysuit I made. Then I went down to my family’s house that my Grandparents built over 50 years ago on the Laguna Beach sand. First we shot inside the house using candles to create rainbows with special filters. My mom, my dad, Hana, and I, all jammed together in a small hot room with my brother and sister periodically interrupting and yelling about dinner reservations and me yelling back that I was trying to get something done and no one had any respect for my art. And that’s sort of how that usually goes. Then we went up into the hills where a bunch of Japanese tourists watched as Hana danced in front of the sunset. Finally we descended onto the beach. Those are the places of my childhood–amidst the chaparral of the southern California hills and on beaches. I wanted the video to show innocence and juxtapose light and dark, blah blah blah. I kept picturing The Never Ending Story in my mind with those super close ups of that little girl queen. I saw it when I was five and I guess I had the stomach flu ’cause I kept throwing up into my popcorn so that movie kinda grosses me out but I still find it morbidly fascinating.

Finally, I got my dear friend Max Goldblatt to edit it. I knew he would pull it all together in a way that would make it beautiful. You could give him garbage and he would make it beautiful. He really saved the day. The End.

Juliette Commagere’s latest album, Human, is out now.


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