PREMIERE: Howlite – Olympia (Dir. Alison Thom & Benjamin JR Botting)

Among its peaceful mid-tempo airiness, Howlite’s latest single ‘Olympia’ bristles with a real confident resentment. Musically reminiscent of that wave of darker-tinged early 2000s new-wave pop, uncomplex by design, ethereal synths coloured with tribal sounding percussion – it would feel at home on the soundtrack for Danny Boyle’s ‘The Beach’. And then lyrically packing a real punch. Described by the band as exploring “the evocative dissection of the male gaze, and how one can subvert it.”, the song gives a scathing appraisal of that appallingly universal experience for a woman, the lingering ogle of a lecherous creep.

Howlite frontperson Alison Thom describes the genesis of the track: “I was initially intrigued by hip-hop/nu soul styles of writing, where there is a core sample riff and then the lyrics flow over the top. I wanted each line to spill into the next like a stream of consciousness or rap flow, and then have the chorus as a kind of release for that, with just two lines repeating and lots of space. We worked a lot on the synths with our engineer Daniel Caswell and our keys player, Andrew (Moscatelli), to get the sample sounds just right. For the sampled drums, we teamed up with two producers, Faulk and Jean-Paul Fung, who each brought some really interesting and unique ideas to the piece. It was a big collaborative effort by the end!”

Howlite – Olympia (BTS Photos by Alison Thom and Benjamin Botting)

Thom and fellow band member Benjamin Botting stepped behind the camera to present the track’s visuals, which share the song’s thought-provoking blend of simplicity and poignancy. A lone dancer moves with grace and purpose, giving weight to the song’s lyrical content by presenting a determined and confident woman who undertakes a certain blossoming or metamorphosis through performance, invoking many of the song’s lines directly throughout.

Thom explains: “I always had this vision of a solitary dancer performing against one of our tracks, and it just so happens that our keyboard player’s girlfriend, Katerina (Petkovska), is a dance choreographer. Initially I sent Katerina all the demos from our forthcoming EP, and asked her to pick a track that stood out to her, and she immediately chose ‘Olympia’. We worked with one of her colleagues Belinda (De Vincentis), to then plan out the performance, dance and setting. I think there’s a nice kind of flow and rhythm to the piece. It’s a bit sensual and soft, but there’s also a strength that draws from the song’s core, which is about women and feminine power. I think that really comes through in the end performance that we created.”

Howlite – Olympia (BTS Photos by Alison Thom and Benjamin Botting)

“Katerina and Belinda choreographed the entire dance, and worked with the dancer Sarah (Micallef) to rehearse it for a few months before we went to film. We wanted it to be choreographed as it allowed us to work with our stylist Lisa (Ganderton), to create unique costumes for the performance, and develop filming shots and concepts around the dance. It also helped us properly develop the narrative of the film clip, which was built around this concept of a performer’s progression in confidence. The idea is that as she progresses through the dance, she becomes more and more bold and “paints” herself gold, literally becoming a work of art. So, there was a lot of continuity and costuming to consider for each shot! Sarah is a really natural dancer and has a great energy, so it ended up feeling very spontaneous and organic, even though we had blocked out each scene for her.”

There is a certain naturalism to the video that comes in part from the seemingly fluid and flowing motions of the dancer, but also has a lot to do with the aesthetic of the video. The soft warmth of home videos shot on an old film camera, the uncomplicated set design, the overall vibe of everything about the production being quite understated rather than overproduced. It makes for a very real experience that puts the performance of the dancer front and center.

Howlite – Olympia (BTS Photos by Alison Thom and Benjamin Botting)

Alison Thom and Benajmin Botting dig into the inspirations for this style: “We kind of wanted to have that home-movie, 90’s tape feel for the video, with a real sense of nostalgia and innocence. We were inspired by a lot of 90s film clips, along the lines of Massive Attack, but also VHS skateboarding movies from that era, which manage to catch the raw essence of the art-form. Essentially we wanted to recreate that ‘real’ feeling – nothing that looked too contrived or artificial, or felt like it had been shot in a studio. We worked with Darcy and Alex at Very Nice Productions to get the framing and effects right, and used a lot of lighting and smoke to strip out the contrast and sharpness in filming. The idea is that the dancer is almost unaware that she’s being watched, and gives the illusion that she’s filming herself, in a private sphere, for her own reference.”

Here is the official video for ‘Olympia’

Music Video Credits

Production: Darcy Newton and Alex Hodge from “Very Nice Productions”. Creative Direction: Alison Thom and Benjamin Botting from Howlite. Choreography: Katerina Petkovska and Belinda De Vincentis from “Dance Machine”. Performer: Sarah Micallef from “Dance Machine”. Stylist: Lisa Ganderton.

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