PREMIERE: Dande and The Lion – Twilight Highway (Dir. Nicholas Shea)

As if the title ‘Twilight Highway’ isn’t already rich enough with imagery and feeling, as soon as the song opens with that bright glittery synth, we are well and truly taken somewhere. An open road, a windswept convertible, and yes, a spaced-out backdrop of technicolour majesty. While more upbeat and poppy than their previous single ‘Stardust’, ’Twilight Highway’ still carries with it this fantastic sonic depth and awareness that feels so integral to what Dande and The Lion do.

Dande and The Lion – ‘Twilight Highway’ (BTS Photos thanks to Dande and The Lion)

The band’s bass player and the director of this video, Nicholas Shea, speaks quite candidly of how certain limitations brought this concept about: “The initial synopsis for ‘Twilight Highway’ was to have two young girls playing an arcade driving game. They would be zapped into an alternate reality as older versions of themselves and drive their car down the highway with wild abandonment, reckless and free – like the film “Thelma and Louise”. From that we then determined how feasible that would be to do financially and within the timeframe we had given ourselves (which never seems to be enough hahaha).”

“The song itself is upbeat and fun, and I think it allows for a bit of cheese factor. So, by scaling back the initial idea and shooting against the green screen seemed the solution to keeping the shoot in a controlled environment, our financial spend to a minimum, and flexibility on the images that would be portrayed on screen.”

Dande and The Lion – ‘Twilight Highway’ (BTS Photos thanks to Dande and The Lion)

As Dande and The Lion’s front-person duo of Bianca Meier and Natassa Zoe blaze their trail through this free expanse, they are surrounded by stunning visuals of stars, planets, sunsets and supernovas, an effect that continues through the performance scenes of the video as well.

When asked how much of what is going behind the band and the car was plotted out before shooting and how much of it came about as part of collaboration with the animator Apattra Hongsuwong, Shea replies: “The majority of it came from collaborating with Apattra. I first met Apattra for our shoot with our previous single ‘Stardust’. Apattra had done that whole video with very little guidance from me and the band; she just understood what style and visual I was going for and got it.”

Dande and The Lion – ‘Twilight Highway’ (BTS Photos thanks to Dande and The Lion)

“When I managed to secure Apattra for ‘Twilight Highway’ (thankfully, despite her very tight schedule), I knew we were in good hands. Apattra and I decided that the edited version green screen shoot would be best for her to work from time-wise. I showed her a lot of images and presented ideas for the visual I was looking for and we bounced ideas. While the majority of the shoot itself was plotted out and I had certain visuals I imagined, it was Apattra that was given free range and brought life to those shots, exceeding (as per usual) what had been requested.”

Dande and The Lion – ‘Twilight Highway’ (BTS Photos thanks to Dande and The Lion)

With the resurgence of this art style through music genre’s like Vaporwave and even the exploration of this nostalgia pop-art style in mainstream media such as Black Mirror’s award-winning San Junipero episode, we spoke with Hongsuwong about the process of coming up with these visuals and what references she drew inspiration from: “I love Black Mirror! and all that 80’s and 90’s game art. The low-fi grainy art style of that time was because of the limitations of the tech but now when things are super specky and hi-def we’re trying to go backwards and recreate that.”

“I wanted to give it a touch of that nostalgia vibe through the noisy film grain and colour grading, dropped a few frames in between to make it more static and voila! We’ve travelled back in time. Green screen is super fun to work with but a little tricky to grade out. Once it was clean enough it was a matter of placing and matching a believable background. I wanted to keep it in a similar colour palette to ‘Stardust’, but also bring that neon light love and starry sky.”

Dande and The Lion – ‘Twilight Highway’ (BTS Photos thanks to Dande and The Lion)

The video is shot with such a wonderful dynamic that Hongsuwong has been able to enhance with the energy of the digital visuals. While Director Nicholas Shea speaks of the option to go full screen making sense from a production standpoint, this sort of approach definitely has the capability of raising complications at a cinematography level.

We asked DOP Mish if there were any particular challenges that arose from the green screen process, and how he set about giving this car that was essentially sitting static in a studio, the life and dynamic required for this end product: “Prior to shooting this video, I had just finished shooting the video ‘Satellites‘ for my band, which was fifty percent green screen shots so that definitely helped. Also, I am completely obsessed with green screens. The stuff you can do with them is just plain magic.”

Dande and The Lion – ‘Twilight Highway’ (BTS Photos thanks to Dande and The Lion)

“One of the biggest challenges of shooting in a green screen studio was that the green was being reflected on the car windshield and the body. So, I had to choose specific angles that would have minimum reflection. The Dande and The Lion members were also super helpful and helped cover up the reflection with black panels. The studio had a revolving strobe light that we used to create the passing lights effect and the dynamic camera movement was me climbing and moving around the car like a monkey with a gimble.”

Dande and The Lion – ‘Twilight Highway’ (BTS Photos thanks to Dande and The Lion)

When there are actual blockbuster movies that have been known to present green screen scenes that look lifeless and emotionless, it is truly commendable that Dande and The Lion have been able to deliver something so full of life, joy and good vibrations. A talented crew of collaborators all making the choice to go all out on the visual aesthetic has brought about such a fun and well-made video that perfectly matches this wonderful earworm of a track.

Here is the official video for “Twilight Highway”

Music Video Credits

Directed by: Nicholas Shea. Cinematography by: Mish. Animator & Visual Artist: Apattra Hongsuwong.

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