American singer-songwriter Chris Garneau began working on his latest album Winter Games five years ago, right around the time he met French fashion designer Rad Hourani in Paris. Forming a friendship and collaborative bond, the two creatives began working together. Hourani's androgynous, graphic vision is a striking compliment to Garneau's spellbinding sound. In their latest collaboration, Hourani directs the video for the Winter Games' track "Our Man." Below Garneau and Hourani discuss their mutual admiration and what inspired the video's haunting beauty.
Chris Garneau: We met back in 2009, I believe, through a mutual friend. I didn't really know you very well but we kept in touch and I would see you in Paris. I think the first time we really had a connection, we were out at a bar talking about Nina Simone.
Rad Hourani: Yeah I remember exactly. I knew your music through a friend that was listening to it at my studio, and one day I asked, "Who is that?" Then I heard it again and again, and I really admired it. One night we were out in Paris, and we started talking about music. I was telling you about how I loved your sensitivity and fragility but very strong vocabulary in your songs. Then we started talking about Nina Simone. We both traveled a lot but kept in touch with email.
CG: I think I started emailing you random recordings, rough drafts that I made at home. This was also around the time I got rid of all my clothes that had color in them [laughs] because I started to feel really distracted by colors. That was one thing that began to appeal to me in your work. For me, your work is kind of like classical music. It doesn't have any singing. It's just instrumental music. I need to not have all of that extra noise in my life.
RH: I think about it like that too [laughs]. It's about seeing the truth, and I find black and white are more direct. When you sent me your new album, I completely fell in love with it. I asked you if you wanted to sing at my couture show in Paris, and you said yes. I was really happy and that's where the idea of the video started.
CG: Yeah, you invited me to work on your couture show, which was your first unisex couture collection. So I came to Paris and I wanted it to be really, really special, but didn't know what I wanted to do so I kept changing my mind every day. I had this idea for some reason that it should be more ambient and atmospheric, and after a few days, your were like, "No, no, no. I want you to play your music." So we ended up doing two extended versions of songs from the new album, Winter Games.
RH: It was quite magical. Lots of people were leaving the show crying. So many of my friends came to me with tears on their face. I think it was the mix of something quite austere and neutral with the clothes, which are really graphic, and having the sentimental element of you playing live. I remember I was backstage fixing the looks before they go on the runway, and I hear you playing, and I remember having these huge goosebumps. For me, it was a perfect marriage.
CG: For me as well. During the few days leading up to the show, we were able to meet a bit at your studio, and I could see what was going to be shown. It's just this thing that kind of works, between what you're is creating and what I'm creating. I think part of it is this, sort of, genderless, androgynous work that we both do.
RH: I would also say timeless. Your music is timeless. I think what I do is about being timeless, and I see it in your work. You play the piano your own way, you sing words your own way and you write them your own way. For me, this is the most important thing. You know when you show someone some music and they say it's pop, it's rock, it's country, but with your music it's like "What is this?" There's no one else who does what you does in your own way.
With the video, I asked you what the album was about -- how you wrote your songs and how you felt when you were doing it. It's about memories and things from the past and things that we search for in past experiences. What we wanted to show was all types of people with different personalities brought together in a video that makes you feel what each one of them thinks of the other one. I don't want to intellectualize the video too much, but I tried to put my modern, minimalist style into something that can represent you. I also worked a lot with a camera that moved with the vibration of the music, rather than shooting at any rhythm, I wanted every sound, every vibration in the movement. And when you see the baby at the beginning of the video, it's about relating to memories, the past. When you're a child, you start accumulating memories and you're with your mother and you grow up and you're with different people and you start creating different memories as well.
CG: That's totally on the mark. The album started around asking people about their earliest memories of winter -- my family, my closest friends. So this one song, "Our Man," is the culmination of a lot of peoples' memories, including my own. But really it's about parental abandonment or lack of protection, but it's also not so specific. It's a grouping of many inspirations. I feel like the song is, in a sense, an abstraction and the video suits it. In the same way I was talking about the lack of color, to get rid of the noise and distraction of the world, I feel the same sense with this video. The lack of having a real intellectual foundation as a basis allows you to have some freedom -- to really keep it based on the sound and the visual not make your head too crazy to think "What is every single moment about?" It's something more based around art rather then writing a book or a story. That's something I'm really happy to delve into at this point in my life, with this record.