Melbourne-based electronic duo American Doubles have made clear with their debut music video that they’re not thinking small scale. They’re thinking big. To say the spectacular music video for their debut single ‘The Swell’ is an ambitious undertaking would be, in short, a gross understatement. But boy has the risk reaped reward.
First, though, the song. ‘The Swell’ is an 80s-inspired, synth-infused, soaring yet chilled out track that takes inspiration from and in turn conjures up nostalgic childhood seaside memories.
Explains one-half of the duo, Rob Smith: “I used to walk to St Kilda Pier and along the beach, which brought back memories of when I was growing up and spending summer holidays at our family’s beach house in Cape Patterson. One of those memories is swimming out with a friend past the breakers, floating on our backs for a while and then diving down trying to touch the sea floor. I wanted to try and capture some of that sense of freedom that can come with being in the moment, letting go and having fun.”
It’s that exact feeling that resonated with co-directors Daniel and Jared Daperis of LateNite Films, who, along with a team of marine biologists, architects, construction workers and freedivers created the clip’s incredible video, shot almost entirely underwater.
The setting really is a feast for the eyes. Showing the story of a woman diving into the sea and suddenly finding herself in the middle of an aquatic bar scene. There are people dancing, drinking, bartenders serving drinks and a certain man who she locks eyes with across the bar. It’s really a typical Friday night for most, except it’s all happening silently and deeply submerged in a pool of water.
This really is something you have to see to understand. Watch the full video and a behind-the-scenes look at how exactly they filmed this ambitious project here below, followed by a Q&A with the band explaining just how they made this crazy idea work.
This Q&A has been edited for brevity.
Music Feeds: How did the concept for the video come about?
American Doubles: A friend had recommended Chris Hocking from LateNite Films as someone who might be interested in producing a clip for us. I contacted him and he asked me to send him the track. He passed it on to the team at LateNite and a few days later Daniel and Jarred Daparis, who co-directed the clip, got in touch with some ideas they had and this underwater idea really stood out to us.
Here’s some of his initial pitch:
Daniel Daperis: You guys have done an excellent job portraying the underwater feel to the song even before the vocals kick in. When we listen to it we feel like we are submerged under the ocean. Obviously then we see visuals that relate to that.
Basically, it begins with people walking out and jumping off a normal pier to the bemused looks of passer-byers. We can’t see from the surface, but submerged beneath, is a grand underwater world that has transformed into a secret ballroom. It’s as if there’s an element of magic in that, it’s not the sea as we know it…
American Doubles: There was actually no use of green screen, we decided to build an entire set and submerge it in the dive pool. The reason for going to this length was so the light reflecting on the set would be consistent with that on the freedivers moving around in
the shared space.
Music Feeds: How did you take it from an idea to something that could be actualized?
American Doubles: Over the next month we would meet up and grab a coffee at a local cafe and
discuss things in further detail. The next stage was contacting the various departments including underwater cameraman, lighting, set construction, scuba divers, etc and the enormity of the project really started to dawn on us. We needed everyone to look relaxed and graceful moving around in the water so it was an obvious choice, in the end, to use freedivers.
The end costs were well in excess of our initial budget so we had to find someone to invest in this crazy idea. Thankfully, my sister and brother-in-law were kind enough to come to the party. One of the things that makes this project so special is that everybody involved, including our co-directors, producers, cinematographer, the entire cast and crew, all donated their time and expertise which meant that we just had to pay for production costs. It was due to the generosity of everyone involved that enabled us to pull off such a huge feat.
Music Feeds: Did anyone try and stop you?
American Doubles: No, but the advice given from people we knew in the industry, was not to spend the amount needed for a clip of this magnitude, especially for a first release.
Music Feeds: Give us an idea of exactly what went into preparing the set for this video. Who built it?
American Doubles: The set was originally designed by architects, Sheldon Williamson & Llewellyn Jane and constructed (above the water) by Lewis Mitchell & Andrew Daperis.
It was a mammoth undertaking, as we needed to design something that not only fitted within our very limited budget, but could also be safely assembled underwater. Another big challenge was that the walls of the set were very large so that they extended the full height of the dive pool we were swimming in.
Once Sheldon and Llewellyn had come up with a plan that our directors were happy with, it was then up to Lewis & Andrew to physically put it all together. Initial construction happened in a small warehouse, where all the individual panels were assembled and painted, and then the weekend prior to filming, we moved everything to a much bigger factory so that we could stand the walls upright.
Once the set was assembled in the warehouse, we then packed it all down, put it on a big flat bed truck and took it to the Oakleigh Recreation Centre. Underwater construction was done by Tiny Good and his amazing team at Showtech Australia. It was an incredibly complex and time-consuming task to assemble everything at the bottom of the pool. We had a team above the water passing the panels to the scuba divers in the pool, who would position everything and drill it together using underwater screw guns (powered by compressed air fed from the surface).
Music Feeds: The actors in the clip seem so comfortable, is working underwater something they have experience with or were they, literally, thrown in the deep end?
American Doubles: There was no way we could use actors for this music video..for example, one of the issues with using regular actors for underwater work is that after a while, at the depths we were shooting, the veins in their head start to pop out! We needed experienced divers that looked relaxed moving around down there.
Music Feeds: How long did the shoot take?
Chris Hocking (Producer): We had about a month of pre-production, from initial conception to filming. We had one day to install the set into the pool, then half a day to continue setup, and one and a half days to film. Post Production took a few weeks of editing, and a few weeks of visual effects spanned over a year-long period due to everyone’s schedules.
Music Feeds: Any mishaps on set?
Chris Hocking: One of the biggest challenges we had was actually just making everything “sink”. Because we used wood for a lot of the construction (which floats), lots of weights were needed to get everything down to the bottom of the pool and keep it there.
American Doubles: The video was shot in Melbourne in May so it was very cold. Watching the BTS video, you can get a sense of just how cold, by the thickness of the jackets the crew are wearing. The pool was heated all the way up to 30c degrees and the steam rising from the surface looked incredible!
One of the challenges for the freedivers was keeping their eyes open for long periods in the chlorinated pool. They would actually pour milk into their eyes to help with the effects of the chlorine.
We also had a leaking camera house at one point but thanks to the improvisational skills and quick thinking of the crew, they were able to fix the problem on the spot.
Music Feeds: Does the final version match your initial concept or did it evolve into something else?
American Doubles: It was actually remarkably similar to what Daniel and Jared first pitched to us. I think, because it was such an epic undertaking and a time sensitive project, every minute detail had to be planned out in advance in order for it to be achieved on our very tight budget.