Ferry Gouw has directed awesome videos for Lightspeed Champion, Emmy The Great, The xx and Vampire Weekend. He used to be in a great band called Semifinalists and sometimes he draws cool comics for Platform. He's also the guy who animates Major Lazer and put together their ridiculous, nostalgia-crammed "Hold The Line" video. Now Ferry has a new band called Celestial Bodies. You might've heard their haunting new single "Vanity" or seen the video he made, in which the band's faces fall off in the prettiest way imaginable. Here's a claustrophobic, unreleased song and a new clip Ferry made for "Waste Your Time" the A-side of the single. It features many killer moves. I spoke to the singer/designer/illustrator/director/champion cage fighter (probably) about all the cool stuff he does.
Download: Celestial Body, "First Time"
Tell us about your "First Time."
I remember when dancing was a real spiritual experience that I used to share amongst friends. Real dancing, not socializing or drinking on the dancefloor, but real scummy, injury prone, sweaty endeavour. Everyone was insecure, mean, sad, lacked direction. Dancing (together) was a release from these doubts. But soon people found other things, left town, clubs closed, etc. This nostalgia fueled early Celestial Bodies stuff. "First Time" was an early song that still clung on to this sentiment, and we used to play it live a lot.
You used to be in Semifinalists. What happened there?
When Semifinalists started we were all in film school together, saw each other every day, we wrote songs together in a room. By the end we had all graduated, two people moved back to the States, then everything that's fun about being in a band—writing songs, playing shows, hanging out—became so difficult and costly. To varying degrees, we were all in dire financial situations.
I had songs that I'd recorded on Garage Band, sketches of ideas, etc. And after Semifinalists I just wanted to play music organically, naturally, with people around me who I liked hanging with and who wanted to do it for fun. I didn't want to tell anyone about it, I didn't want to push it or be involved in a scene, I wanted the music to find its own course, and whoever likes it would like it (or not), and it'll do its own work and find it's natural place in the world.
I love the videos for "Waste Your Time" and "Vanity." You've made lots of videos, right?
I'm involved a lot with the Mad Decent crew, doing Major Lazer stuff, and various artwork. They're super awesome and fun. I'm lucky enough to be friends with people who work for labels, are in bands, or doing creative things, who like what I do and trust me to collaborate in what they're doing. This is how most of my work come about, including music videos.
Celestial Bodies stuff is the only project where I'm not responsible to anyone, and most of the time I'm not even sure what I'm doing, or what the meaning of anything is. There's something luxurious about being able to explore ideas without knowing what the outcome is. The "Vanity" video came out of restrictions in cost, space, and time. I'm a huge fan of Al Columbia and the video was an exploration of his illustration style for cheap.
Your music is quite tense. Or rather there is a lot of tension in your music.
I'm trying to lighten up a lot. There was never a deliberate attempt to pinpoint a specific sound, it's just that I like a lot of ’80s music that has this sensibility. Seems like this aspect was also what everyone else in the band recognized, responded to, and built upon, so it became even more so.
What is your favorite celestial body? I like Pluto.
I don't have any preference, but rather I like the new age, spiritual idea of a "celestial body," which insinuates something that far is beyond our comprehension. It is both real and mystical. Then we start talking about celestial bodies in theological context as opposed to scientific.
"Vanity" / "Waste Your Time" is out on 7-inch on Home.Under.Ground on April 12th.