Melbourne based singer-songwriter Sophie Koh went to extremes for her latest video, “I Understand” from her forthcoming third studio album, Oh My Garden set for release later this year. Teaming up with directorial duo The Apiary (Lily Coates and Gavin Youngs), Koh was literally put through the ringer physically, strapped to a purpose built gimbal (rotating machine) for the highly stylised video.

Youngs described the process of the “I Understand” video and why simplicity and focusing on the artist was the underlying purpose, resulting in a beautiful an unique creative exploration of the fusion between music and film;

“The idea was to do away with the various veils of costume, location and action to concentrate all the attention on Sophie and her song, using the gravity to evoke the emotional journey. Rather than having Sophie act it out, we subjected her to the effects of gravity, strapping her to the gimbal together with a camera, and letting the blood rush to her face as she turned upside-down. It was pretty torturous, but she was super brave and trusting.”

Coates explained further this intricate vision to Portable which was inspired by ‘the sense of vulnerability hidden by stoicism in the lyrics and vocals of the song’;

“Years back, a performance artist I admire made a silent video showing her face going through increasing stages of intense stress. The sudden intimacy was very powerful, like locking eyes with someone you don’t know who’s crying in the street. Looking closer at the video, you could see that she had used the effects of gravity to produce this false appearance of trauma. It was a trick! The almost scientific approach was more confronting than the original emotions I’d taken as genuine. It was more interesting than performance or documentary.”

Koh herself described the physical motions she went through to create the demanding and visually confusing and intricate video;

“For a lot of that time, I was strapped to the gimble, with most of my body weight on my pelvis and my feet dangling in mid-air. We couldn’t give it away that I was rotating horizontally and subsequently upside down throughout the continuous takes so I had to wear a harness and numerous tight belts to strap me down, particularly on my shoulders. It was all a bit sadistic actually! Entering the water tank whilst all tied-up and completely upside-down was rather scary. I also had to hold myself up via the arm-holds whilst rotating. There were a lot of minute details we had to get 100 per cent right. What I’ve learnt from making this video is that the simpler the end result, the more detail you would have to put in to make it look simple.”

The heartfelt song is clearly complimented by the minimal elements of the video which Koh described to Portable as ‘one of the most personal things I have ever written.’

“It’s a break-up song without theatre or angst. Just resignation and sadness in the act of letting go. It’s about that moment or week, or months where your head says you’re happy, you’re over it, you even say it all out loud to yourself, to other people,
but something in your voice, your tone gives it away that you’re not. The acknowledgement that you’re okay, that you’re moving on, is sometimes even more heartbreaking.”

If the music of “I Understand” is anything to go by, we’re extremely excited for Koh’s third release, Oh My Garden which she gave Portable a sneak peek of what to expect;

“This new album is full of pop songs coloured with kooky synthesizer and electronic hooks, whilst keeping the guitar and piano undertones which people might already be familiar with from my previous work. There are quite a few personal ballads as well. It’s really a variety of moods and colour, hence the title.”

Oh My Garden was recorded in Los Angeles with the help of 90′s indie rocker Ben Lee, who Koh first met on the set of Aussie soap Neighbours;

“We had some very special moments writing this song, from the quiet and drawn-out moments whilst reflecting back on our own romantic relationships to high five-ing each other when my vocal takes hit the spot. Ben is so immensely positive and
motivational, he really gives the recording studio environment an amazing confidence. He is incredibly direct and head-clear which i really admired. I really fed off his ‘get up and go’ approach to the music industry. His success is so well-deserved.”

Koh divulged her personal appreciation towards the marriage of film and music stating, “In the end, it has the power of telling your story as you want it to be told yourself, through the power of sight, in the most truthful and unaffected way. These days music videos are an independent musician’s fancy ‘business card’ I guess.”