Today, the Austin Music Video Fest kicks off, and like any other festival, there are bound to be works that get left out for whatever reason. With Austin experiencing a boom in music video work in particular, thanks to the growing bond between its longstanding independent film and music scenes, there is a startling amount of excellent work to sift through so we thought we’d shine a light on 9 of our favorite local videos that didn’t make the cut this year at AMVF to whet your appetite for what will be featured and encourage you to keep exploring Austin’s music videos after the festival is over.
Christeene “Aktion Toilet (NSFW)”
Christeene was given a showcase in a prior year of AMVF but is notably absent in this year’s line-up, which is too bad because “Aktion Toilet” is one of her greatest creations yet, a John Waters-directs-The Witch freak spectacle that transplants Austin’s Sewer Queen to a different kind of green space. The wide open terrain allows director PJ Raval to showcase Christeene and her cohorts in all their weirdo splendor, decked out in bizarre twists on frontierwoman garb or, in most cases, nothing but body paint and day-glo booty shorts. The beauty of the hill country never looked so disturbing– or arousing.
Abhi the Nomad “Mindset”
There are artists in Austin who might be able to rival Abhi the Nomad’s talent as a songwriter, but you’d be hard pressed to find any that can also match him in savvy and versatility. This year the young polymath put out a full album and a series of singles while also proving himself to immigration authorities, landing the so-called “Einstein visa,” a document that is named for one of its beneficiaries specifically to communicate how difficult it is to acquire. “Mindset,” from Abhi’s breakout release Marbled, explores the toll having to constantly prove and talk up himself takes as he gets dropped into a video game that looks like a neverending photo shoot, where the goal seems to be to achieve stardom with whatever resources are nearby while also not losing his identity. Gorgeously shot by Jonathan Swecker and David Krause, and inventively edited and animated by Abhi himself, “Mindset” has the look of a blockbuster music video but the mind of a Charlie Kaufman and Spike Jonze film.
Popper Burns “Sun Tan (NSFW)”
MJ Haha is rightfully receiving festival accolades this year for her mindblowing “Last Meal” clip for Big Bill, including at AMVF. But Haha kicked the year off with an overlooked gem in Popper Burns’ “Sun Tan,” a wild mix of live action and German expressionism meets Man Ray set design. In the video, the members of Popper Burns are turned into living art, each of them embodying a different facet of the band’s aesthetic, from stark minimalism to flamboyant camp. Kooky and gorgeous in equal measure, “Sun Tan” is the ideal visual representation of one of Austin’s most creative and restless acts.
Pleasure Venom “Seize”
“Seize,” directed by Pleasure Venom frontwoman Audrey Campbell, gets its potency from the montage of moments in America’s history of hate framing Campbell’s sermon. Campbell is unquestionably one of the most ferocious performers in Austin music and it’s no surprise that her visuals would be just as fierce, directly confronting the “we’re not like this” mantra well-meaning liberals love to utter whenever news breaks about whatever horror the administration is up to this week. Shot in stark black and white, “Seize” is about using the medium of the music video to take back control of a narrative that has long demanded women like Campbell sit down, shut up and be unseen. It’s the exact type of wholly independent art we desperately need more of right now.
Riders Against the Storm “Same (ft. Flavor Raid)”
On that note of MTV classics, Riders Against the Storm pay loving tribute to Talking Heads’ “Once in a Lifetime” both in sample and video, with Flavor Raid playing the part of flop sweat drenched David Byrne. Jacob Weber’s direction plays up the “same as it ever was” refrain, putting RAS and company in the costumes and choreography of the original while tweaking elements of it to fit both RAS’ style and the current events they’re commenting on. It’s a fun and clever update of one of the music videos that truly put MTV on the map.
Thousand Foot Whale Claw “Black Hole Party”
Shot at the National Guard Armory, a space that is inherently creepy even before you add anything to it, Chris Rusch’s video for the epic Thousand Foot Whale Claw single “Black Hole Party” lives up to its namesake, taking the viewer through a gathering of characters and detritus that very well may have been dropped out of a black hole. Rusch’s eye for detail is so great the video is presented in Cinemascope, allowing the walls of the Armory to stretch and compress as the camera follows a bolo tied stranger through his journey into the Black Hole Party. The video also features a number of cameos from the Holodeck roster, including labelheads Adam Jones (S U R V I V E) and Amber Star-Goers (Troller), making it a living document as well as a video.
ByPass “Don’t You Know”
In terms of striking yet grounded visuals, RobG is the Hiro Murai of Austin, providing a rich and vibrant palette for the local hip hop scene while also making room for unexpected oddness and commentary on the decay of urban spaces. ByPass’s “Don’t You Know” was RobG’s most ambitious work this year, dropping the Austin plus Angers collective onto a Texas riverboat, on the porches of various florescently painted East Austin locales and in a hollowed shell of a building where the light mostly seems to come from colored smoke. “Don’t You Know” forces the viewer to inhabit ByPass’s natural terrain, finding the beauty in the overlooked and forgotten.
Marrshun “Prayer Hands”
Brilliantly simple and direct, Marrshun’s “Prayer Hands,” directed by the mysterious Mr B, is constructed as the imaginary opening sequence for a Brady Bunch parody called The Blacks. In his trademark whiteface, Marrshun inhabits every role in the family, from cranky grandma to rowdy droog to placid matriarch. It’s as much a performance art piece as a music video, putting it in the same lineage as Devo’s early experiments with the form as well as Boots Riley’s more recent art pop satires. “Prayer Hands” has a tendency to stop viewers in their tracks, making them wonder what they’re seeing and how guilty they are of its unspoken accusations.
White Denim “Fine Slime”
Absurd, mystifying and occasionally frightening, White Denim’s “Fine Slime” video looks like what one of those Google art AIs would create in a fever state. Featuring the art of Philip Kremer and the animation of Jonny Sanders, “Fine Slime” twists and distorts the faces and appendages of the members of White Denim, creating freaky looks straight out of a Tim & Eric sketch. That aligns well with the gonzo nature of the song itself, with its blurts and skronks and tumbles. It’s that rare music video that also function as a psychological weapon to use against enemies.
Nick Hanover got his degree from Disneyland, but he’s the last of the secret agents and he’s your man. Which is to say you can find his particular style of espionage here at Ovrld as well as Loser City, where he mostly writes about comics. You can also flip through his archives at Comics Bulletin, which he is formerly the Co-Managing Editor of, and Spectrum Culture, where he contributed literally hundreds of pieces for a few years. Or if you feel particularly adventurous, you can always witness his odd .gif battles with his friends and enemies on twitter: @Nick_Hanover