Working close with friends is a privilege many people dream of. For director and photographer Matthew Saville, falling into creative work was both a blessing and a reminder to get shit done. Based in Fremantle in Perth, the 26-year-old works closely with musicians (San Cisco, HAMJAM) to produce music videos and press shots (Spinning Top, Rolling Stones). Emanating a friendly warmth reminiscent of long late nights walking home, sandy feet in the Australian Summer and moments staring at glitchy 90’s technology, Sav’s work is a humble example of life caught on analog film. Priding himself on his fail-to-learn attitude, Sav has been swept up in fate, working with mates Tame Impala as both touring photographer and the drum extra on Innerspeaker’s bonus track ’30 Minutes with Matthew Saville’. With a camera always in hand and his five-year-old son holding onto the other, Sav’s creative process is effortlessly natural, working with light and the people around him.
How did you get involved with directing music videos and photographing musicians?
I have played in bands since high school, starting as Blame It On Boredom at age 13, through brilliant versions of that band (The Anal Turkeys, Forkhead), I continued to play music through university in various bands (These Shipwrecks, Felons, Apricot Rail) and even had a short stint playing drums for POND as I was hanging out a lot at Troy Terrace where a range of musicians and other folk lived from time to time. I bought a shitty digital camera from my brothers friend and just started shooting pictures all the time, trying incredibly badly to emulate Ryan McGinley, Larry Clark and Nan Goldin when shooting my friends being young. It was only when I was at uni studying graphic design that I went on exchange to a uni in London for a semester. It was then during that time that Tame Impala played their first show outside Australia, and as an industry gig, I went in the hope of seeing the guys, I don’t know, grabbing a beer or something since I hadn’t seen any buddies from home in six months.
Nick (Allbrook) and Gum (Jay Watson) saw me out the front and jumped on me – they were so happy to see a friendly face from home. They put me on the door, I went in (with my camera which I happened to have on me) and I watched as mates from back home totally blew people’s minds. After the show Kev (Kevin Parker) asked me to come sit in the van for a minute. I assumed it was to go grab a drink post-show or something, but it was then that they asked if I wanted to come on the road to Scotland with them, right then and there. I obviously blew uni off for a week or so and went on the spot, sleeping on their motel room floors with a towel. That was the first time I met their new manager Jodie Regan, and she put a little video camera in my hand and said, “Can you film some stuff with this?”
So, from that, I shot footage and stills of that whole tour, with the one set of clothes I had on my back haha. When I got home after exchange, Kev got me to do some press pictures of Tame and shoot some pictures of him recording Innerspeaker. Kevin and Jodie asked me to go on a few more tours to Japan and the US shooting photos and video. Those were really exciting times. In short, Kevin and The Spinning Top crew has a lot to do with it really, and I am incredibly grateful for the opportunities they have all given me. I feel very lucky indeed. Now I just continue to shoot photos and video, working with friends and in the industry.
What’s your favorite music video or track right now?
I want to say a thousand things, but I’ll just jot down a few. Holly Herndon’s ‘Interference‘, Pinapples’ ‘Come On Closer‘, Vessel’s ‘Court Of Lions‘, Oneohtrix Point Never’s classic ‘R Plus Seven‘ and finally, Nick Allbrook’s ‘Did I Just Arrive Here‘ which video and song makes me cry as it is perfection on so many levels. Also, the clip is made by absolute badass Cloglot. Oh, and not to mention, ‘Landslide‘ by Kirin J Callinan (who IMO is the best musician/performer in Australia right now, if not the world). And finally, all the videos of Fleur and Manu, Ariel Pink’s ‘Dayzed Inn Daydreams‘ and good ol’ Kate Bush with ‘Runing Up That Hill‘. Oh man, I could go on forever! I haven’t even touched on all the local stuff I love!
Your recent clip for San Cisco’s “Too Much Time Together” is incredibly fun, with bouncy jump cuts, obscure close-ups and distinct visual repetition. What was the creative process behind the video and how did the idea of proximity issues play into developing each sequence?
The process was a titillating game of tennis whereby I took the first shot and my super smart, seductress of a training partner hit the ball back to me (landing that furry little guy square between my legs), at which point I screamed, “THIS IS NOT A REHEARSAL, WAKE UP THE GARDEN NEEDS ATTENDING.” From there the game spun out of control and we had to reel it back in to make it all fit into the tiny little fish that we affectionately call “Budget” and “Deadline”. Ahh, the proximity issues. We came up with a series of places we thought it would be amusing to have proximity issues (proximity issues was the band’s idea) and it went from there. Once we decided on locations, we came up with a series of actions for each location. The couple shots were loosely based on myself and my partner Sally’s relationship. Sal always jokes that she is “a bit grabby” haha. I wrote a relatively vague shot list and we went from there, shooting different things on the fly in each location. It’s hard to tell what will work and what won’t until you get there, you know?
For me, “Too Much Time Together” was very reminiscent of work by Leta Sobierajski and Wade Jeffree with their ongoing ‘Complements’ project. Were there any particular inspirations that motivated the use of bold colours and design within the clip?
Woah woah woah, their work is awesome! I’ve not seen their work before, so thanks! Due to my being a designer, I always want the visuals to fit the core character of the band and the song as much as possible. For music videos, the function of the video comes first, my art second. That being said, I think the inspiration just came from the song and it’s intended audience. It is an incredibly poppy number, so in my mind it begged for that aesthetic.
“I hope I never feel like I know what the fuck I’m doing. That would be the time I stop making things.”
There’s a sense of confidence in all the creative work you produce, particularly in your lo-fi edits of San Cisco’s “Run” and HAMJAM’s “Love”. Do you feel confident with your own styles or are you constantly testing new approaches?
Hmm well, I didn’t actually edit much of ‘RUN’, a fantastic artist called Elliot Green did, but he wasn’t happy with some changes I made, so he requested to remain uncredited on the video. I always want to test new approaches. I’m not interested in being precious at the moment, particually as I am still learning way too much to be able to say “yes, this is the correct approach“. I hope I never feel like I know what the fuck I’m doing. That would be the time I stop making things.
When envisioning and planning your music video projects, are there any artists or directors you look towards for inspiration?
Sure, I watch most of Canada’s videos, Focus Creeps or Aaron Brown, Tom Kuntz , Grant Singers recent videos for Ariel Pink are all great, Fleur and Manu, Michel Gondry, Spike Jonze’s music videos and of course, the internetzzz.
What would be your dream shoot? I’m talking location, music, people, anything.
It would be set in Hieronymus Bosch’s Garden of Earthly Delights for Eleventeen Eston, featuring every single Gilbert and Sullivan character, with Eston’s lover being played by Danny Kaye. Or maybe Whitfords. Yeah, it could also be set in Whitfords, at the shopping centre there. If it was there I’d do it for Mei Saraswati for sure, heh heh.
Q. Your portraiture work with companies like Spinning Top Music and Rolling Stones Magazine has seen you capture musicians like Peter Bibby, Nick Allbrook and your buddies Tame Impala. Is there an element of planning that goes into your press shots?
Haha shit not really, not for band press shots anyway. I recently shot a picture for GUM’S next record cover which was a little more planned. Band shoots have to happen more regularly than musicians would like, with the internet being as hungry for content as it is, so they usually want to get in and out as quickly and painlessly as possible from my experience. It’s usually at my house or close by locations. From time to time I’ll work out a series of interesting locations if it is needed. Nick got a blood nose right at the beginning of our last POND shoot which actually made it a little more interesting! I think Joe was so hungover he was more worried about not spewing all over everyone than what the photos looked like. I would like to plan more, I think to take things further I need to, so I always push for planning but honestly, I am naturally quite a haphazard fellow, so it doesn’t always happen.
Q. You shoot a lot of your work and portraits with analog film. Are there any aesthetic qualities or preferences that you feel the medium delivers better than digital?
Film reacts to light better than any digital camera I have used. Highlights seem to not blow out in the same ugly way they do with pixels. For natural light films works better. I love using film because it takes less editing to make images look ‘correct’. Digital is extremely finicky and you can waste a lot of time over shooting and over editing. I still use digital a lot, but it is my second preference.
Q. Do you have the luxury of developing your own film? If not, do the costs of developing and purchasing film ever sway away from the medium?
I don’t unfortunately. Yes, the costs definitely do that. Some projects it isn’t viable to shoot film, but more times than not I will just get paid less and still use film if I can.
Q. What’s one music video, film or record that changed your perspective or creative direction?
An album by Boris called Feedbacker. I listened to it coming up on my first pill with a friend. It is an interesting genre of music to be listening to, especially when getting the highest you will be in your life. But it was nevertheless, an enlightening experience.
“Fuck integrity. Say yes. Have integrity.”
Q. Do you have any advice for anyone wanting to get into directing, editing or just the local music directing/photographing scene in general?
Fuck integrity. Say yes. Have integrity.
Q. Are you looking for any particular collaboration work right now?
Yes! I have a lot of video ideas that I really want to see come to life, but they require larger budgets than I am currently getting work for so they will have to wait. I am always looking to work and collaborate with great interested people who have energy for making things. I want to work for more people who have a similar vision to me and who trust me in the work I do.
Q. Is there anything else you want to add? Current news/Shows?
I am still working on my solo record under the name Abalonely. It might never be finished, but I hope it will be this year. I am working on a few new music videos as we speak, one notable design job for a friends album cover, he’s called Arvo Tanty. Hopefully my website will be back online within the month, with a whole year and a half worth of new work which wasn’t up there before. Also myself and my partner are starting a new business called Saville Bower – place for our collaborative creative efforts to call home.