Play Time with The Violent Romantics
In what timeline is it okay for a guy you had ONE (unsuccessful) dinner date with to send a court summons asking you to pay for half the food?
“Is dating life one giant blurred line?” ask The Violent Romantics, a creative performance house based in Sydney whose newest project Blurred Lines is turning your painfully real life stories into a swag filled super-stylized film.
In between busting rhymes and spiting out cheap wine, Stephanie Baine and Samuel Van Grinsven from The Violent Romantics tell us about nearly getting sued by INXS, actually getting Wesley Enoch’s tick of approval, taping actors to a wall and making stage performances that solicitors, bakers, librarians and all the averages Joe’s of the world can find a connection with. Here’s how the play date went down:
You’ve invited us to talk, play or question you. We’ve gone for all of the above.
First, let’s play. Imagine for a moment that you are on a speed date with me and I wrongly assume are a band, The Violent Femmes because that’s what the organisers accidentally wrote on your nametag. How would you best explain who you actually are to me? (Remember you have 30 seconds and I’m Elizabeth Taylor hot, so you are keen to impress).
Stephanie Baine: It’s taken us so long to begin this interview because Sam is busy having a text debate about who is better: Tom Ford or Zegna. Sorry bout that.
Samuel Van Grinsven: The Violent Femmes are like our diffusion line, you know? They are the Marc to our Marc Jacobs, the T to our Alexander Wang. What I’m trying to say is we do more than one genre, we kind of do to many, but somehow after a couple of creative developments we spit out a product that is all the genres. If you put us in one of those criminal suspect line-ups next to The Violent Femmes we would just be wearing brighter clothes and have more equipment. PLEASE DATE ME.
SB: And he said all of that in 30 seconds cause he can rap like Busta Rhymes.
What is unique about shows The Violent Romantics artistic performance house puts on?
SB: Well, two things are very important to us: swag and technique. We like to make rich visual statements for the stage, usually in a hyper-realistic context, making sure that the acting or the performance of the artists on stage is rooted in technique. Also we like use a lot of digital design and at the moment we’re really interested in architecture in varying forms, particularly on the body and how that translates on the stage.
SVG: And exploring how a designers vision for their collection can then translate to the stage or the screen depending on the project. For instance our recent fashion film, The Butcher Birds, featured the collection of Sydney designer Phoenix Keating who inspired me when I saw his showing at MBFWA. Though his own vision behind the collection was different to the film, the construction, visuals and shapes of the collection translated so well to the feeling of the foreign world and characters we were creating.
SB: And it goes beyond that, as an actor working on The Butcher Birds I became very inspired by the shapes and textures I was wearing for the film and that in turn influenced my performance and creation of my character in the creative development of the stage show. I guarantee the other actors felt the same way. It was amazing to see actors breathing new life into the performances of their characters just from putting on a piece of clothing.
Seems like there ain’t nobody fresher than your clique. Where do you collect all your creatives from?
(Our resident sound producer Anthony, is now playing this song “Clique” by our man Kanye, he says hey)
SVG: Grindr, Tinder, Bebo, EHarmony basically anywhere that creative soles are stuck in 4 walled environments, like your local Westfield for example.
SB: Have you seen that IT Crowd episode where Moss, Roy and Jen get obsessed with Friendface? We’re like that – spreading loving germs. But seriously, people from our clique are now in Melbourne, Brisbane and Sydney. We just need someone to go to Darwin and we’re essentially the Labour Party.
SVG: We all met doing one thing, collaborating, everyone who is now a key member or friend of the house came to us during the creation of something unfamiliar to us. Like Joseph Stewart came on board because none of us knew shit about dancing.
SB: So then we just asked friends of friends for an intelligent and funny dancer from the Queensland Ballet. And now Joe is an irreplaceable member of the House. We just talk to people and ask ourselves “What do we need for THIS project?” and thankfully for us, those artists usually stick around.
Think back to the days when The Violent Romantics didn’t exist. What are some major milestones and pitfalls since then?
SB: I try and look at everything as a learning experience and usually we learn stuff the hard way. The first show we ever made was Rough Trade and as second year acting students we just thought our job was to make the show and make sure the acting was good. We didn’t know shit about printing programs and marketing or APRA. Yeah, we nearly got sued by INXS because we used Never Tear Us Apart without permission.
SVG: Don’t forget that time you left one of the actors taped to a wall for an hour…
SB: Dude, that totally wasn’t my fault. We unexpectedly sold out and Front of House didn’t know where the put the audience…as I said, the hard way.
SVG: Heaps of things always go wrong while we are making things. Like parking tickets… we filmed this promotional trailer in the city one time and parked a van thinking that the parking people would embrace our spontaneous creative project, but we were wrong, so wrong.
SB: So anyway, normal boring life things get in the way. But who cares? We make work with the coolest people in the world. Oh right, milestones. Well as I said, we learn things the hard way, so every learning curve, every show, every fuck up is a milestone. We like to learn on the job.
SVG: And you know… Adelaide Fringe Festival, working with Moustache Magazine, FAST festival, Metro Arts creative development, and the time Vera Xane regrammed us all that stuff too.
SB: Wesley Enoch told me he liked My Struggle… I may or may not have shed a tear.
The idea for your Blurred Lines project was inspired by the media backlash surrounding the sexual objectification of women in Robin Thicke’s popular song of the same title. Tell us a bit about the project.
SB: I prefer to think of Robin’s song as a starting point. I look at that film clip and I can logically see why people think it’s objectification but the track comes on, I groove. I look at Thicke and Pharell and I go ‘god damn, those boys are hot’. That’s the point. That’s the blurred line. I just think life is funny and messy. That’s what we’re exploring really. It certainly ain’t no ‘man bashing’, feminist piece.
SVG: We are asking people their stories and the funny thing is always what their break up song was. It is the strangest shit that can sum up someone’s story and Blurred Lines in the beginning of that.
What is the most intriguing blurred lines story you’ve received so far?
SB: My favorite, was submitted by a woman who went on a date with a chap she met online. He liked her so much and had a great time and thought that they should see each other again. She on the other hand felt the complete opposite and declined his next invitation for dinner. Two months later she received a court summons from this man who wanted her to pay for her half of the dinner he paid for on their first date. I lost my shit. This one will definitely be made. HA!
SVG: What a tossa.
How important is the theatrical element (the movie and production) of this project?
SB: This question is hard. If you got the whole house in the room asked this, the answers would all be completely different because my term for theatrical will be rooted in the acting world, Samuel’s in fashion, Jory’s in writing etc. I guess for me as a principal artist on the project, I’ll be trying to extract raw performances from myself and in directing other artists. As we say in the blurb, these films could be anything from short film to film clip to slam poetry, so whatever hyper real setting the actors are in, I want the stories and the truth to be painfully real.
SVG: So painful… The answer to this question is the answer we find at the end of a cross collaboration. When the sound, lighting and set design comes together with the choreography and the cinematography, once we find that “theatrical element” and what it is, then we find out how to make that relatable and important to YOU.
Fashion plays an enormous role in theatre and you are self-likened to the Antwerp Six fashion gang– what kind of radical visions do you have in store for the future?
SVG: I just spurted out my $8 wine when Steph read out this question. In that same statement we also likened ourselves to the Spice Girls, it had been a big day. But, there was logic, the Antwerp Six inspire what we hope will be our own individual longevity that stems from a connected creative beginning that we all have in common. Fashion is a consistent part of the work we produce, but our individual interpretation of it is so different, we all have our own set of codes, conventions and trademarks just like the designers do, and when it comes to styling a piece or a character those individual quirks are shown.
The future is 6 months and right now our radical visions have turned to working one on one with designers to create exclusive pieces inspired by the performance work they appear in. The Block, coming up next year, is a theatrical piece that will demonstrate 3 designers’ own visions of what a duo of characters would wear based on the text, set and actors who bring them to life.
SB: In a nutshell, if you wanna be my lover, you gotta get with my friends.
You’ve got new performances and projects happening in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane – are there any more details on where and when can we find/play with you again in Sydney?
SB: Well 2014 will…
SVG: The man in the suit said we cant… SHH
SB: Okay, well we don’t want to get sued… again… but in 2014 we will be on the stage in SYD…and maybe BRIS, if they’ll have us back.
SVG: But definitely MELB, but in a different way, okay we really need to shut up.
SB: BUT, we are always around, in here, cyberspace. www.theviolentromantics.com - BYE!
- Lauren Della Marta