Getting Creative under Lockdown: Tommy Creagh and Conor Tobin on the Making of the Music Video to The Tin Pigeons’ “Closer”
Lockdown has been a difficult time for all artists, but director Tommy Creagh and his director of photography Conor Tobin have been making the best of a bad situation. “Embrace your restrictions” Tommy tells me over Zoom. Conor nods in agreement – “Restrictions are your creative juice.”
The duo’s latest project is the music video for The Tin Pigeons’ new single “Closer”. The Tin Pigeons are a four-piece indie-folk band from the East-Midlands who are well known on the festival circuit. They have been acclaimed as “One of the best Festival bands we know” by BBC Introducing and “Closer” was named as Track of the Week on this week BBC radio show The Beat.
The Tin Pigeons’ Facebook page describes “Closer” as “for anyone who has ever felt isolated from those around them.” The song’s relevance to our current times is obvious. Tommy recalls wanting “to do something about being in isolation and then they [The Tin Pigeons] came and asked me to the music video to this song.” Tommy has previously worked with The Tin Pigeons before, shooting a yet-to-be-released music video for them back in January. Initially, the band had wanted different filmmakers for each video, but the original director was unable to complete their idea for the video once the universities closed which prevented them from accessing the equipment they needed. The Tin Pigeons then asked Tommy would he be interested in making another video for them.
“We’d been talking about doing something more experimental while in lockdown anyway,” Tommy tells me, “so we were both raring to go.” The initial video, the one that fell through, was going to be stop motion animated and the duo decided to salvage some of this idea and incorporate it into their own. This primarily comes at the end of the video as objects like a skull, socks and grocery items suddenly burst into stop motion animated life. Tommy had a clear vision for the video: “We wanted to transform the mundane into the imaginative and into the surreal even. It was just about using what Conor had in his house and then just transforming that into something a bit more magical.”
A skull may seem like a strange thing to have lying about your house, but Conor explains that it was for an unmade script. The skull dons a pink Musto cap in the video, an Easter egg which appears in every one of The Tin Pigeons’ music videos, in reference to bassist Tom’s signature look. The video is full of such small, revealing details from Tin Pigeons socks to Albert Camus’ The Outsider.
“The idea is that he’s an oddball,” Tommy says, explaining the reference to Camus’ novel, “a bit of an outsider, in a sweet way, not in a weird, creepy way – a bit of a dreamer really and the music video reflects this in its imaginativeness, in its playfulness, while also showing the darker side of getting too caught up in your own head.”
“There’s a bit of Bill Murray in the performance,” Tommy feels, “a funny but also quite a sad figure. There’s a lot of pathos there.” Bill Murray films like Groundhog Day and music videos like A-ha’s “Take On Me”, provided the pair with visual and thematic precedents. The marks of these influences are all over the video in its comedic depictions of the banality and boredom of life under lockdown but also in its momentary flights of escape from such feelings. Apart from that, Tommy took his usual approach to music videos: “I just listen to the song a lot and let it get under my skin and normally let images come out of that.”
Shooting the video under lockdown was naturally a challenge. Conor admits that “it was difficult to shoot myself and be an arbitrator of it all.” He adds that “you just got to go for it. We were quite brave with the black and white style, but we trusted that it would fit with the pop song.” Tommy further pushes these affinities: “In old films, they’ve these huge cameras so they’re very restricted with their movement and it gives it a sense of style.” Once again, Tommy reiterates the importance of embracing your conditions: “the lack of things we could do kind of created its own style – it just emerged naturally.”