Watch out world: Banks is back, and ready to bare it all. The sultry singer-songwriter has maintained a relatively low profile since releasing her intoxicating debut Goddess two years ago, and her private persona has only fueled the fire surrounding her. Her bold brand of dark and twisting R&B touches upon something unusually powerful and unapologetically feminine. Banks’ voice is haunting and velvety, capable of dipping low and raspy and sailing high-pitched and passionately, carving out a seductively immersive world with lyrics that touch on layers of vulnerability and feeling lost. Her sophomore album is due out in September, but on Tuesday Banks blessed us with a taste, releasing the music video for “Fuck with Myself.”
The sleek and sensual song stays true to Banks’ vulnerable roots but explores an even more complicated relationship than her past album: the relationship with yourself. “Fuck with Myself” is an exhilarating revelation, an anthem of self-ownership that delves into the many ways that we fuck with ourselves, how we can be our own best friend and worst enemy at the same time. It shows Banks taking herself back from the insecurity in her own head, deciding not to care what people think, and celebrating herself with a blazing confidence that is empowering. It is a fierce declaration of both feeling yourself and protecting yourself, the kind of song that makes you sit up straighter, makes you feel a little more at home in your own skin.
The music video is just as provocative as the song, exploring the duality of fucking with yourself in a way that is both alluring and creepy, dreamily distorted and nightmarishly jarring. The concept is stylized yet simple: it features Banks dancing in a dimly lit room, sleek in all black and striped with pink light, surrounded by contorting dancers wearing masks of her face. In another scene, she drapes herself over a frighteningly realistic mannequin bust of herself, licking it and smearing lipstick all over it before lighting it on fire. The metaphor is powerful, and Banks does not hold back, portraying anger, sensuality, and vulnerability with a glorious fearlessness.
“Fuck with Myself” was directed by Maavven‘s Philippa Price, the LA based director/designer/artist responsible for transforming Rihanna’s British VMA’s performance into a futuristic wonderland of color and light. She is known for her use of light, color, and technology to create work that embraces the strange and surreal. Her intuitive work embodies the uninhibited energy of someone who is making up their own rules, which pairs perfectly with “Fuck with Myself.” Price has bright magenta hair and a warm and thoughtful energy. She is innately curious, hungry to learn, and fascinated by everything from men’s clothing to virtual reality. She’s the kind of person you can talk to for hours about everything from Carl Jung to the ghost that lives in her house. She is a force of nature and a much needed breath of fresh air in the industry, a reminder to seek inspiration everywhere and make art that is unexpected and unusual, that transcends space, time, and genre. We sat down with Price to talk about the inspiration behind “Fuck with Myself,” why she is glad to have been bullied in middle school, and how therapeutic it is to light a mannequin of yourself on fire.
Live FAST: Hi Philippa! Give our readers a brief intro. How did you get involved directing music videos?
Philippa Price: I went to Parsons for college and did this major called Integrated Design. Parsons is this old-school design college but there’s this major that is basically anti-that – it’s all about how you need to be multi-disciplinary. Design and art shouldn’t have any boundaries.
I still don’t know what I want to do. I hope I never know what I want to do! (laughs) After school, I accidentally started a men’s clothing brand with my friend called Guns, Germs and $teal. We did that for four years. We had this accidental explosion in the beginning. We were in all the stores we wanted and every season we would break even, but we were living off rice and beans! (laughs) Those four years were fundamental to me. I had complete freedom of expression, I was my own boss, and I was creating this world of this brand without boundaries. I got into doing stuff with musicians because a lot of GG$’s success was that it was immediately picked up by a lot of rappers (laughs). People used to ask us, “How do you go about creating a clothing line for rappers?” I’m like, “I don’t know – I was just making clothes I like and they like them too!”
I think it’s that GG$ was a lot of powerful, confident, statement pieces. I mean, my outfits are crazy. Our clothes were the pieces where when you walk into a room people are like, what is that? They also look good onstage. It’s funny our brand was picked up by musicians because music is my starting point in a lot of ways. That’s where I get a lot of my inspiration.
The musicians who were wearing GG$ started asking us to do work for them and it just took off with directing. I love doing things I don’t know how to do. When I started doing music videos, I didn’t know what I was doing but my favorite part of the process is figuring it out. My first real music video was for Pharrell. They asked me if I knew how to animate and I had no idea but I was like, “Yes…” I learned over the weekend on YouTube and it’s one of my favorite videos I’ve ever made. And from that he hired me to do his tour visuals!
LF: It’s more of a fresh, self taught approach.
PP: That’s what has made my style what it is, that I wasn’t trained and so everything I’m doing is like trial and error. Because I don’t know what I’m doing, I end up trying everything.
LF: It’s like, if you don’t know the rules, there are no rules.
PP: Exactly. I did the Pharrell tour with my friend Nina and she’s self taught, too. We had the budget to hire outside help from an animation firm. We received the files days before the first show and it just wasn’t our vision. But we realized we can’t expect people to animate the way we do. For us, it’s like a painting. But they’re trained animators, and they’re doing it with all the correct tools and it came out so different. To us, there’s 3 million blues and to them, a blue is a blue is a blue.
We were like, “Fuck it. We’re going to do this ourselves.” We blacked out our hotel room windows, turned off the clocks, and redid the tour animation in four days. It was insane. It was such a learning experience.
LF: You’re bringing this artistic background into parts of music videos that are more technical. And it seems like the time for it – the landscape of music videos is changing.
PP: Yes! That’s why this whole process with Jillian (Banks) has been so amazing. From the moment we met in the studio, she and I clicked immediately. Throughout the entire process, from conception through post, we stayed in direct contact with one another.
LF: It seems really organic. You can tell she’s in it, really embodying the song.
PP: The whole process enabled that. It enabled us to be completely free creatively and take risks that paid off. Even her management was like, “I can’t believe you got her to do that.” (laughs)
LF: She’s always seemed pretty private, but this video is definitely revealing.
PP: It seemed to me like she wasn’t as comfortable showing a lot of herself before, but for this video I really wanted her to be able to express herself and show everyone what she’s got. I was like,”I’m going to put your face everywhere!” (laughs) We made the bust of her face and all the dancers are wearing her face.
She got so into the scene with her and the bust that I ended up just putting the song on repeat and rolling camera for 15 minutes straight. I wasn’t even telling her what to do. It was amazing. She was just slapping it, caressing it, licking it. There’s one take where she just slaps for a minute straight.
LF: That must be so therapeutic.
PP: It was! I think we need to start a therapy school where everyone gets a bust of their face and they can do whatever they want to it and in the end we burn it. (laughs) I feel like the whole process was really therapeutic for both of us. It completely reignited my passion for making music videos. I feel like this video opened new doors for me and Banks. Direct creative communication between the director and artist is how it should be. You can see what resulted from that.
LF: You can feel it!
PP: There was such good energy. It felt like a project that she and I made together. We both got quite emotional while we were filming the video – it was so powerful. She walked out while I was shooting the dancers and got so excited when she saw what I was shooting. She was like, “Oh my god. This is exactly what I always dreamed my videos would be.” The nude scene, too! Every girl deals with body issues and to stand in front of a mirror and sing a song naked is enough, but doing it on set with a camera and a crew…It was an amazing moment, to stand in front of a mirror and sing a song about fucking with yourself, to yourself.
LF: There’s so much power in that, not to mention the empowerment that girls and women are going to get from watching that. She has so many female fans and I think a huge part of that is that she seems so real and relatable.
PP: We talked a lot about how we got to where we are and how we both got bullied when we were younger. It’s like a universal girl experience – you’re either bullied or you’re the bully – and we were bullied. We had that in common and it affected us at a young age – we were like, we’re soul sisters because of this. I feel like the video is dedicated to bullies and learning to not care what people think. I’m so glad I went through that at that age, because that’s ultimately what made me not care what people think.
LF: It’s so important to see two successful women saying that because bullying is something that can stay with you, even as an adult.
PP: That’s definitely what the video is about. There’s meant to be all these different interpretations of “Fuck with Myself.” Obviously sexually, but also I fuck with myself like, “I’m the best,” and also I fuck with myself like, “I’m the one that hurts myself.” Bullies’ voices can hurt but your voice is the one that hurts the most, and is the hardest to get rid of. That’s what the video is about: facing yourself and being haunted by yourself, but also standing up to yourself as your own bully.
LF:I love your use of moodiness through color and light in this video. You’re well known for your futuristic lighting…
PP: That’s definitely what I was aiming for. I always want my work to feel otherworldly. I wanted it to feel realistic but with lighting from a different dimension.
LF: What draws you to that element of light and color?
PP: I love color – I can’t not do color. I’ve tried to do black and white but even then I need a little color. There’s just so many magical combinations with color. Light has also become a magical way for me to work with color – light can make color otherworldly. Science has always been an inspiration for me. In high school, I wanted to be a scientist. When I was younger, I won the State Science Fair for an experiment about whether or not dogs can see in color, which I’m now realizing is probably where my obsession with color came from. (laughs) Following technology and science is like an art store for me. Everything new that comes out is like a new medium or tool. In my brain, science and creativity are the same thing.
LF: What else influences your work?
PP: Science and technology, color and light. Carl Jung and The Archetypes. Dreams (my dreams are fucking crazy) and Jung’s whole theory on paying attention to dreams. Definitely Dali. He’s always been my favorite artist and I think his subconscious feels like my subconscious. Science fiction. Tarot cards. Banks loves Carl Jung and The Archetypes, too. Horoscopes and astrology. Religion – not any one religion, but our need as humans to believe in something bigger than us and the stories we’ve made up. Old LA, like my neighborhood, inspires me. It has the coolest, weirdest creative energy. My hill is definitely haunted. I have a ghost that lives in my house. She’s cool, though.
LF: What’s next for you?
PP: Banks and I are continuing our collaboration and working together on the visuals for her upcoming album tour. I’m also doing some work with Stella McCartney and working on my own personal installations.
LF: What is your preferred medium for your personal work?
PP: Immersive installations that involve everything I like to do. I mean, my dream is to do color and light and sound and then my clothes are also somehow in it… (laughs) Baby steps! I’m also doing a virtual reality project. I’ve been obsessed with VR since I first read about it in Wired like 9 years ago. At the time it was only for video games but I was like, “I want to work with this…”
LF: How fast do you live?
PP: In terms of my work, I live fast. I’m on a rollercoaster right now. But socially, I like to live slow. I’m not a partier. I’d rather channel my speed into my creativity and work. Work fast, live slow.