Stranger Things fans rejoice, for a new ‘80s synth pervading film-noir-style music video has just been dropped. The electronic pop singer-songwriter, Iona Coburn, brings us this Netflix series inspired video as part of her debut EP, The Port.
Released today via Deep Cover, Silence represents Iona Coburn’s first music video release, offering an abstract view into the unseen and sometimes darker aspects of city life.
Think bank robbers, runaway brides and strangers of the night. Based around a real-life romantic break-up, Silence takes us on an introspective journey through the city at dusk. We are led by Iona as the lead protagonist, taking on the role of a taxi driver going about her routine shift.
Immersed in Hollywood movie vibes, we are faced with a string of contrasting characters in the form of passengers throughout the taxi ride, twisting and turning the mood so rapidly that you’re often left with a lingering sense of unease, yet always wanting more. Positively enticing to say the least.
Overturned with excitement by the cinematic visuals before me, I caught up with Iona to find out more about her vision. We discuss creative control, self-discovery and of course, The Upside Down (if you know, you know).
How long have you been making music for and what started this?
I have been writing since 2014. I started performing as an actor and shortly after leaving drama school, I realised that I wanted more creative control. I preferred the process of making, of seeing something from its inception. You write something from the heart, you build an image around it, and you perform it. It’s cool to think that something you’ve felt and turned into a piece of music can make someone else feel something too. Music is so emotional.
How would you describe your sound to somebody who has never heard your music before?
It’s moody cinematic electronic pop. There are some good adjectives! My music taste casts a pretty wide net and I think my inspirations are all too varied to just choose one genre for my music. I think it’s important to derive the sound of a song from what you’re singing about. Silence, for example, is about the night, and a journey of self-discovery. So there’s a sparse but prominent 80’s synth sound and heavy, confident percussion.
Can you tell me more about Silence and how you came to write the song?
I wrote Silence after I’d watched the first series of Stranger Things. The soundtrack was simple, sci-fi infused and brought heavy nostalgia for an era of shiny 80’s electro-pop. The title theme music was stylised and deeply rooted in cult cinema. The 80’s synthesisers, the heartbeat eluding to a sense of fear, the arpeggiators sounding like spiders creeping out of the woodwork, and finally a huge mellotron stab when the ‘STRANGER THINGS’ title drops, paves the way to a world of wheelie bikes, dungeons and dragons, girl next door and the ‘Upside Down’. I wanted to write something that would throw the listener into a similar world.
What inspired the film-noir-style visuals and the storyline?
My co-writer, Barny, and I wanted to write something that would lend itself to classic cinema, which in turn led to the concept of this music video. Alongside the track’s contemporary production, run themes of jazz and Neo-Noir in the music and lyrics. We wanted it to look like those car scenes in old Hitchcock or Bond movies. The car is stationary throughout the video, but we used a rear projection on a screen behind the car to simulate its movement. I played the taxi driver on a night shift, and we aimed to capture a series of passengers throughout my night. They are very recognisable characters and scenarios commonly seen in Hollywood movies: the runaway bride, the disgraced politician, the bank robbers etc. These repurposed tropes exist in the modern-day, but we made them look timeless.
What was it like filming for the video and being at the centre of the narrative as the taxi driver?
It was fantastic. It’s a pretty special thing to see your vision come to life in front of you. I felt incredibly lucky to have so many people who were so willing to help and get behind the project. I feel like I had the easy job, to be honest. I got to sit in a beautiful Mercedes W123 (which is known in nerdy Mercedes circles as the ‘Beirut Taxi’) with a whole host of my wonderful friends in the back, lip-syncing! It was brilliant! The Director, Richard Weston and Director of Photography, Meurig Marshall, along with the Deep Cover boys, Simon Devenport and Jamie Halliday, worked tirelessly to ensure my concept performed from a cinematic perspective.
What is the significance of each of the passengers?
I wanted to focus on the many personalities you meet in a city. The runaway bride was the first story I wrote. I wanted to give her a Geena Davis vibe from Thelma and Louise. It felt appropriate for her to open the video because the song is based around a break-up. We then meet three executives who I wanted to resemble that arrogance you see so much of in London. The disgraced politician I hoped would create a level of empathy in the audience. He was a misunderstood and potentially vulnerable character, who had been battered by the tabloids and paparazzi. Again, a very sad but common storyline cropping up these days. The geezer drinking a soda was loosely based on Brad Pitt’s character in Oceans Eleven. He’s smart, knows everyone, can sort you out with anything and has always got some fast food on the go. The escort, perhaps a slightly darker side to city life. One that you don’t see much of but know goes on. I wanted her to portray seduction and temptation. Everyone is tempted by life in the city. The bank robbers were a nod to Batman, and the space cadet at the end was a fairly common sight, particularly around Soho!
How did working at London’s Groucho Club impact your interest with the city at night?
They were formative years. Soho is a melting pot of everyone and anyone. It’s probably one of the best places in the world to ‘people watch’. I used to love sitting outside on my breaks and just watch what was going on outside. Inside the club, you’d get to be part of these peoples’ lives for an evening. I’d then walk home at three or four in the morning. It was a weird and wonderful part of my day because I had so much time to contemplate/sing to myself/talk to myself. No one really sees you, but you see everything.
Iona Coburn – Silence (Official Music Video)
Click to stream Iona Coburn’s EP The Port
Photos by Arthur Laidlaw (@arthurlaidlaw)