Sometimes you just need a messy make-out in Seward Park. For her latest single "The Lights Are Falling Down," Lebanon-born artist Thoom just wants to remind you just "how fun making out is." With dirt-caked fingernails, furious ass-grabs and explicit tongue-heavy kisses, even the Dimes Square pigeons pecking meager scraps of garbage are cooing in excitement.
New York-based Thoom lives for the downtown grime. Whether she's producing grungy trip-hop Soundcloud tracks in Chicago's DIY scene or smashing stages with New York's downtown club acts like the Frost Children and The Dare, Thoom's nose for offbeat energy and "the scene" is synonymous with her artistic brand. After releasing her debut album Porkin 2020, a nine-track amalgamate of stormy electronics and contemplative lyricism from her time in Beirut, Chicago and Berlin, Thoom's newest single "The Lights Are Falling Down" teases her forthcoming EP, Fantasy for Danger, due later this month.
Inspired by the Safdie brothers' severe film Heaven Knows What, Thoom set out to capture the gritty carnality of spontaneous attraction. Crawling around Canal Street's Seward Park in her fur coat and undies, Thoom curates a relic from our Tumblr years, a mini-erotica whose mission is purposefully surface.
"The documentation is the message," Thoom tells PAPER. "I’m just trying to express what I think is sexy and tell a story." The result is an intoxicating, psychosexual moment in time, existing for the feeling of something — a fantasy, a craving, a surrendering — and nothing more.
Thoom's creative hand is potent and instinctively flippant, channeling her musical prowess with a penchant for chaos and experimentation. To listen to Thoom is to surrender to her dominion. "The Lights Are Falling Down" is as intriguing and intense as she is.
Check out the PAPER premiere of the music video below, along with a behind-the-scenes look into the artistic creation of Thoom.
Is your latest single “The Lights Are Falling Down” about love, lust or heartbreak?
It’s about wanting something because it's bad for you. And maybe being a little turned on by it.
The "The Lights Are Falling Down" music video is said to be inspired by the Safdie brothers' Heaven Knows What. Why was this a film that resonated with you?
I love the Safdies so much. I just saw the make-out scene and I was like, that's exactly what making out feels like! That’s all you really need to tell a love story. Because the style you make-out in, how you use your hands, the clothes you wear and where you’re making out all tell the story on their own. I wanted the guy to look like Kurt Cobain and also vaguely resemble the classic Dimes Square mid-20s guy with medium-length hair that’s just drowning in pussy for some reason. And I want to remind people how fun making out is.
Is there a personal story that also partially inspired “The Lights Are Falling Down”?
My first boyfriend who was a car mechanic. That's why his fingernails were always dirty.
You portray a hypersexual character in the video, filming intimate scenes in a public setting. Is this visual crafted using the lens of the female gaze, male gaze or neither?
That’s hard to say because sometimes I look at girls as if I’m looking at them through a man's eyes. I directed the short film for myself, though. I love turning men into objects of desire. It gives me ultimate satisfaction.
Can you elaborate on the various points of view you played with while directing "The Lights Are Falling Down?"
I wanted it to be like someone sitting in the park with binoculars watching us. I wanted details of the make-out and ultimate sensuality. I love when you’re watching something and you feel like you can smell, touch or feel the image. I also just wanted it to be one thing. Barely anything else — only hints of a backstory.
How have your frequent collaborators — like Club Eat, Frost Children and The Dare — influenced your sound or art practice?
I’m totally a sponge. When I first moved to New York, I was going to as many shows as I could in every scene. That’s what I love about New York, you can just drift to all these different small cultures. I have to do that, otherwise I get bored quick. I remember one night I was going to see Harrison [The Dare] play. I called Ren [Club Eat] and was like wanna come see my friend play? He’s so good! At that time, different scenes didn’t really mesh like they do now. Now it’s a cesspool of artists, musicians, dancers, etc. Everyone’s feeding off of each other.
You’ve described your work as “parodying the Western gaze.” What does that mean to you?
I go through phases, you know? That's the nature of being an immigrant. Sometimes I feel very Arab, and ultimately that's who I am, but sometimes I feel like an American. I grew up in Lebanon and, during the war, me and my brother bought this Team America movie and we’d watch it and run around yelling, “Derka, Derka, Muhammad jihad!”
What's next for Thoom?
Photography by Francisco Russo