How DIY Filmmakers Jul & Mat Started Making Music Videos For Two Door Cinema Club, Metronomy, And More
French directors Jul & Mat met in junior high where they shot their first horror short films with their parents’ cameras. Since then, they never stopped working together on touchingly simple, home-made productions. Their first big hit was the video L’homme à 100 Têtes —a lo-fi and charming face remixing sequence that found success on Vimeo. Since then, the duo went on to work on music videos for bands such as Metronomy and Two Door Cinema Club, sticking to their signature simple but effective concepts, as well as a prominent desire to create new narrative forms. We met the artists to discuss the conception of their most recent music videos and learn a bit more about their collaborative process.
How did you get started in filmmaking?
Mat: I started as an assistant director on feature films. I did this for seven years, which enabled me to have a good knowledge of sets. But if memory serves me correctly, we always made our movies together, since we first met.
Jul: We met in junior high, where we started shooting small unpretentious videos with a VHS and Hi-8 cameras, and pretty much with everything that happened to be within our reach. Our first short film was a horror movie, produced with few resources. A short time after that, we started doing music videos (mostly parodies), and began experimenting with our families’ cameras.
Mat: We also spent a lot of time watching experimental films. Among the works that really left a mark on us, we can definitely quote Luis Buñuel’s surrealist short film Un Chien Andalou, which encouraged us to try an experimental approach.
By directing a fan video for the band Metronomy, you became known in a pretty informal way. How did you manage to stand out from the crowd of YouTube users who upload thousands of tributes every day?
Mat: At that time, we had only produced two commercials, and we were eager to show what we could do with music videos. We already had a conceptual idea, and we just needed a track to complete it. So we contacted the band to ask them if we could use their music, and they said ‘yes’ instantly. We didn’t know it would be such a big deal: our music video turned out to be screened at many festivals and we had to contact the label many times. This allowed us to build a close relationship with them.
Jul: I think it has been very successful thanks to our solid concept. We did a lot of research to understand how music, communication, and videos worked together.
Metronomy – “She Wants”
Can you explain the process of how you collaborate with a band?
Mat: When we produced “She Wants,” we were constantly dialoguing with the band. They were keen on the concept we pitched them, but they took a great part in its development. These exchanges are really crucial because they enable us to visually translate their music in the best way possible. We work on an idea according to their music, and it’s really important to communicate with them to develop our ideas.
But regarding your first unofficial music video for Metronomy, you had a concept before you even knew which song was going to illustrate it.
Jul: Exactly, we already had a very graphic, colourful, and mechanical concept we like to call “music painting.” We had to adapt it to their songs later on. For example, we picked very vivid colors to remain consistent with their visual universe.
Mat: This concept is quite similar to barrel organs, with notes scrolling down as the music plays. With this work, we chose a visual approach, as if a painter were to paint the music on a score. It’s an effective way to visualize notes in real-time. Technically speaking, we try to rely on simple things, because it’s the most efficient thing there is. We belong to a generation where many people create artworks from their bedrooms. Our goal is to bring a certain elegance to home-made productions, without being overly cheap.
Jul: We did this music video at a friend’s house, where we built a treadmill. We really care about posting behind-the-scenes videos to show our creative process. For example, it’s really important to show our paintbrushes in the video so people can see how this really works. We’re not magicians who jealously keep their secrets, we want people to be inspired by our videos, and we need them to think that they can do the exact same thing.
Metronomy – “On The Motorway”
And how did you end up collaborating with Two Door Cinema Club?
Jul: Our production team, Wanda Productions, encouraged us to take part in a music video contest—we are big fans of the band and it was an offer we couldn’t refuse. The track was so inspiring that we made a first draft in five minutes.
Mat: The lyrics conveyed a certain nostalgia, just like this feeling you might have if you come back to your hometown but that you don’t recognize it anymore. We wanted to convey something oscillating between melancholy and surprise. This was our main idea, so we decided to put the band in a deserted place and to suddenly bring a big crowd, in order to represent this sensation of distress.That’s also why we used washed-out colors.
Jul: This was also our very first collaboration with professional dancers, which marked a great evolution in our work.
Music seems to be an essential vector of your work. Have you thought about exploring mediums other than music videos?
Mat: In my opinion, music and visuals are complementary, but we will definitely try something else someday. We have a few ideas for short films, but it really needs to come from a true desire to tell a story, which isn’t our case so far. We are having so much fun today with music videos that we can’t imagine ourselves doing something else right now.