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A Mesmerising Exploration of Music, Lyrics and Visuals by The Frown and Robyn Nesbitt

 

Following the Johannesburg launch of their spellbinding new album We Are Not Dead or W.A.N.D, we interviewed musicians/magicians Eve Rakow and Nicholas Nesbitt (Klein Baas) who together form The Frown. Eve said, “The Frown has always been about escapism for me. I try to create worlds to float in when this one becomes unbearable.” To co-exist with W.A.N.D, Eve and Nicholas collaborated with visual artist Robyn Nesbitt on a beautiful and chilling film of the same name.

When the trio first sat down together, all they knew was that they wanted to do a ‘something’. The film grew from their initial conversation and then, when Eve relocated, from a distance. “I moved to Cape Town and my role in the film became very strange,” Eve explains. “I would wake up in the middle of the night and send Robyn and Nicholas voice clips of scary noises that troubled me or dreams I had or thoughts that would have vanished by morning. Listening back to some of those recordings I have no memory of them whatsoever. I was basically just narrating my dreams.” Nicholas worked with Robyn previously on a series of short films for each of the songs he created under his solo moniker, Glass Swan, and he knew that she would understand the sentiment of what they were trying to create. “She is amazing at taking something ordinary and making it seem otherworldly,” he says.

Robyn’s practice involves collecting and thinking about sightings, observations, descriptions of places and unworldly things, and she’s interested in objects that become place holders of time. “I like observing things in the hope that I might see something different over time. I am always looking for those moments and if I can’t find them, I make them,” says Robyn who, prior to working with The Frown, had amassed a lot of footage that she hadn’t yet found the right project for. These existing clips were used alongside new footage, collected in and around Johannesburg during scouting trips with Nicholas.

The imagery in the film lingers, like a series of moving photographs. About this choice of pace, Robyn says, “In grad school I always got frustrated with photography, I wanted more from it, I wanted it to move. In the end I made a lot of work about making the moving image still. Something interesting happens when the viewer is forced to focus on a static moving image for a long time, the mind is allowed to wander enclosed within itself, and is drawn to attend more closely.”

In comparison to the album, the soundtrack of the film is quite stripped down – elements were extracted and exaggerated by Nicholas to support and enhance the visuals. “The text in the film I wrote in response to the collecting and filming process,” Robyn recounts. “I also spent a long time going through Eve’s lyrics in relation to the world Eve and Nicholas wanted to create. The text was written for the reader, which was Eve at the time, she responded in whispers via late night Whatsapp messages, and the narrative grew from there.” Rather than acting as the visual equivalent to The Frown’s sound, the film that emerged in the end speaks to the context of their new album and highlights the “otherness” of their total output – musically, visually and lyrically.

Listen to ‘Light People’ from We Are Not Dead (W.A.N.D) below, and follow The Frown on Soundcloud for more releases off their new album.

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