Interview with an Atomic Lady

Salt Lake creative, Kristine Knight, shares the vision behind her surreal video for New Shack’s pulsing, electro-pop song, “Atomic Holiday”. New Shack’s debut album is out now.  

MP: How do you know New Shack and what led you to directing their video for “Atomic Holiday”?

KK: Catherine Leavy and I met while we were both living in NY. We became good friends and kept in touch over the years as we both pursued different creative ambitions, but had the hope we could one day collaborate on a kind of creative project. When Catherine began a music collaboration with Eric Robertson, it was a great opportunity to make a video for them. 

MP: The visuals and effects in the video are mesmerizing and on point with the song’s atmosphere. What was your creative direction and inspiration behind the video and what story is the video attempting to tell?

KK: Thank you. I got a lot of inspiration from my conversations with Catherine explaining the lyrics she wrote. The song has many intersecting themes including the cyclical nature of addiction–the illusions of temptation or anything that appears beautiful or luminous but has a destructive quality to it–things you could encounter in life that have this facade that are ultimately affecting and damaging spiritually or otherwise. There are also themes of duality such as angel/devil/saint, galaxy/stars/burning/scars, redemption/limbo, reality/illusion/psychological states. 

I wanted the video to feel repetitive and cyclical while still telling a story with a minimalistic quality in symbols, styling, and composition. Different scenes repeat until at some point it’s possible to catch a beginning to a story, or something that is happening to her, that is slightly dream-like and nonlinear. 

Eric, in silhouette, represents a kind of god-figure or perspective–revolving in his own “orbit” above or outside hers–but still empathetic as her experiences play within him and build to a sort of climax, playing his synth, immersed in city lights.

MP: Tell me about some of the struggles you faced while creating the video. It’s clearly a complex concept. What were its limitations and biggest victories?

KK: Catherine had been living in Germany at the time, so we decided to meet up in NY, in February, on the coldest weekend they had last winter. It was just her and I running around the city with no crew and about 3 degree weather. Catherine was there to also interview for a prestigious art curation program, and was under a lot of stress. It was stressful for me logistically as well, getting things shot in a very short amount of time, with a limited budget. But I feel there was a lot of value and meaning in how stripped-down and challenging it was emotionally and logistically to shoot that particular content. Editing felt like a risk creatively–pulling it together in the end to represent all we had talked about and been through together. But I think those feelings meant it was on the right track. 

MP: What about New Shack’s music, and electronic music in general, inspires your film-making?

KK: The pairing of Eric Roberson and Catherine Leavy was genius. I feel they’ve created something very unique that is hard to find. They’ve created a “dark wave” sound that is more fully-bodied than other similar music I’ve heard. The depth of Catherine’s storytelling and intelligent lyric-writing along with just the right beats and masterful layering from Eric, creates an almost epic new experience–not just musically, but for me, visually. I feel I connect immediately to imagery and emotion with their music. It harnesses the tendency for coldness in the electro-scape with the warmth of a melodic telling of a dark, yet fantastical and meaningful story (their Shadow Girl album reflects this especially.)

Electronic music in general creates music-scapes that I connect to strongly with my own visualization. To take something with a non-human sound and add human feeling to it–the contradiction there somehow describes certain human experiences so well. I feel the combination of that kind of striking sound with the right visuals are so impactful and effective in communications. And I’m interested in communicating and creating art that speaks like that.

MP: Do you have any upcoming projects you’re excited to tell us about?

KK: I’m actually in the process of creating another music video with New Shack for their new album. It will be for the opening track Disassembly on Shadow Girl. It will be a piece of the continuing story the album represents. It’s been a privilege to be a part of something that has attracted so much collaboration in the local area.