The Band Explains: The Boxer Rebellion - 'What The Fuck'

We spoke to The Boxer Rebellion's Nathan Nicholson and director Ry Cox (Good One) to find out more about the visuals for the band's new single, 'What The Fuck'.

Centered solely around Nicholson as he confronts himself, alone, in a desolate motel room, the video for 'What The Fuck' is the perfect accompaniment to the track's desolate and brooding atmospherics.

"'What The Fuck' is a reflective monologue, a note to self, aimed at cutting through the noise of the socially and politically turbulent world we all currently find ourselves in".

'What The Fuck' Explained
Where was the video for 'What The Fuck' filmed?
Ry Cox:
We filmed the video for 'What The Fuck' in East Tennessee, not too far from the house that Nathan grew up in. Pulling the past out into the light seems to be a theme that runs through this whole new album and very early on the band started talking with me about creating some visuals that were somehow connected to Nathan's childhood years. Most people may not pick up on it, but the feeling I wanted the viewer to have is that Nathan is maybe returning to his childhood home - a place that holds a weight of memories, but feels somewhat abandoned or ignored.

Nathan Nicholson: The whole idea that Ry had about returning to my childhood home was quite an emotional one for me. I moved to England seventeen years ago not long after my mom passed away and once I left the house was sold. When I’m back home I often drive by the place - it’s in some disrepair, overgrown grass and shrubbery are taking over and it feels like a part of me has died. I know that sounds dramatic, but it was a place that holds a lot of great memories so it’s tough seeing it fall apart.

How does the video compliment the song?
RC: The song is sparse and incredibly focused. There's not a lot to get in the way of the emotion and performance. Hopefully the video carries that on - allowing space and time for the emotions to come through subtlety and simplicity.

The song has a definite darkness and hopelessness to it - the video needed to match that, otherwise it wouldn’t have made sense. The idea that Ry had to have two versions of me in the room was brilliant. It was a great way to get across my constant internal conflict.

Any behind the scenes stories?
RC: Nathan and I talked through a range of ideas, some more involved than others. I had originally written a six-part video series that would carry one narrative thread through six songs - of which 'What The Fuck' would have actually been chapter three. When I finally realized that six videos was beyond the scope of what we could achieve, given our restraints of time and geography, I went back to the drawing board. I latched onto an alternate idea that Nathan had mentioned involving a mirror, scrapped all of it but kept a mirror in the room. For such a simple concept it actually took my brother, Drew, and I hours of blocking and walking through the actions and cues to make sure he'd be able to achieve what we needed to with the VFX. We shot pre-dawn one morning to enable a practical lighting gag and what you see in the video is actually the final take of the morning, just before the sun came up.

NN: To get the lighting of the room right we started shooting at six in the morning - I was definitely a little delirious when we started. Because we had to rely on entire takes and we were under the time constraint of the sun coming up, we shot everything within a hour - by far the quickest video shoot I’ve ever been a part of.

Could you tell us about the ideas/ themes/ imagery used?
RC: For the imagery we really wanted to have light and dark be the dominant themes in the frame. The video starts with daylight streaming through the window and ends with the soft glow of twilight. There's a sense of the passage of time that gets heightened - the idea that these emotions take a long time to process.

What is the message the video is trying to convey?
The lyric of the song could easily be seen as a conflict between two people, but I really wanted to make it about the internal voice we all struggle with. The conflict is quite often within me - the inner demon that must be faced and confronted. The voice that sounds so nearly like my own. That's why I really wanted Nathan's reflection at the beginning of the video to be his true reflection, synced perfectly to his movements. Only once the conflict starts does the shift happen where it's clear they're not the same person.

For the song, I was coming from a place of confusion about the world we live in right now - almost a conflict to either watch the news or bury my head in the sand. The video, to me at least, is about owning up to your past and your present, both good and bad and what you’re prepared to do about it.

Interview Feature by Karla Harris