We are so excited to be featuring Janira Hernandez's music video directorial debut for Queen Frequency and the Twat's latest single! Enter the bizarre Bowie-esque world and read about the process of the making of this fantastically unique video.
ADOLESCENT CONTENT to Janira Hernandez - What’s your background as a creative?
Well, I actually went to college for fine art. I was exposed to ceramics and drawing in high school so it naturally influenced my decision. I couldn’t imagine a career where I wasn’t pursuing the arts. I then dabbled in painting, drawing, graphic design and finally photography. I had a desire to be both a writer and an artist from a very young age –– influenced by childhood movie nights that included poorly Spanish dubbed films with my family and reading a ton of R. L. Stine books. I found myself giving every painting and photo a detailed story behind it either in the process of creating it or after. Then it hit me — I actually wanted to tell stories that reach a wider audience. And that medium, in my mind, was film. Those separate art professions merged once I knew that creating all kinds of films wasn’t a foreign, unimaginable dream, but a possibility.
ADOLESCENT to Janira: Was this your first time directing a music video?
This is actually my first time directing a music video! Before I had directed and produced promotional videos for small businesses. This was a project I was ecstatic to be a part of and knew it would push the limits of my creativity farther than ever before. I grew so much from this project alone and it was one of the absolute best collaborative experiences I’ve had. Our team was incredible and I can’t thank them enough. I think music videos are some of the most creative forms of expression out there — you can either make something completely incomprehensible, or a linear story. We did the latter, but it doesn’t make it any less absurd!
ADOLESCENT to Meghan McDonald - Who is Queen Frequency and who are the Twats? How did this fictional world and its characters come about?
Queen Frequency is a fictional character similar to Ziggy Stardust. I built her to be a performative vehicle for analyzing societal faults. The album coming out this fall has a fantasy storyline that is based on our own collective problems. Each song dissects a cultural issue, with the exception of our opener Symphony of -tions that serves as a thematic foil to the distraught state of the world right now.
I’m a huge fan of all things camp and the marriage of low and high artforms. The Twat characters are dwellers of “the most feminine planet in the multiverse,” Doyenne. I created them to embody feminine soft traits — I enjoy literal humor. I wanted to build a world that is the polar opposite of what we’re experiencing right now. I think that fiction can help us reimagine something better — so stylistically, it was important for me and Janira to have make believe, childlike visuals to put even the most mature adults watching in “play” mode. I feel we are most productive with ideas when we allow ourselves to play. And as for the question of “why so feminine?”, it’s less gender commentary (although there is plenty of that) and more of an insertion that we could use more “softness” and kindness right now. Traits that tend to be packaged as feminine need to be more of a universal default, in my opinion. Twats prevail!
ADOLESCENT to Janira - How did you get connected with Meghan? How did you get involved in this project?
A close friend of mine knew Meghan from a documentary gig they both worked on together, and one night they extended the invite to see Meghan’s band. I gladly tagged along but had no clue about the band or what to expect. I was completely blown away! We walked into a dark cosmic dimension where there were strange vagina aliens in black outfits crawling around on stage and into the audience. Their set was very performative — the band members were glistening in these metallic space costumes, and it was all so intriguing. I immediately had thoughts of Stranger Things and David Bowie mashed with space punk rock. They had a vision, and I could see it clearly. After the show, I got the chance to meet Meghan and asked her if I could make a music video for them one day. From that day on, our friendship continued to grow and we became really great friends. A year later she asked me if I was ready to make that music video I had inquired about — of course, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity and was completely invested.
ADOLESCENT to Janira - When you were presented with this idea, what was the first thing that came into mind?
Stylistically I immediately thought of quick and quirky like the film Scott Pilgrim. I thought the film was a great blend of what we wanted and visually it influenced a lot in this music video, from specific shots to the comic inspired animations. Meghan has a whole fictional story that unravels how Queen Frequency and the Twats come to be, and this music video is the introduction. The story starts on a brighter note. She wanted something lighthearted and fun, and because we’re both fans of fantasy and sci-fi, it was only natural to try and piece those genres together. We thought of puppet-like movements, fantastical realms, elements of video games and space to add to the story. I remember pitching to her the priestess and temperance worlds, and Meghan said she had similar thoughts — so we were already practically aligned in vision.
ADOLESCENT - Love the sets and the props in the video! Everything is so detailed, down to the personalized tarot cards. Stylistically, how did the creation of Planet Doyenne come about? What was the process like for the set design and for creating the overall look for the project?
Janira: Oh, we had such a clear and detailed vision for Doyenne! We also had ideas for the other two worlds in the music video but didn’t entirely focus on them until we had our production designer Anissa Amalia join us! The references for set design that Meghan pitched were Wizard of Oz and Dr. Seuss, so we were definitely going for playful. We wanted Doyenne to be theatrical looking, not shying away from the fact that the props are indeed unrealistic — we’re in a fictional world after all! That’s when we thought of using cardboard to create Doyenne (also because it was inexpensive, or, free, rather). I was confident enough in my artistic abilities to help with painting the Twat masks and props for Doyenne. Overall we had about five people helping with painting props. It took many hours and many days, but it was fun! It was also very important to me to make the Twat costumes look seamless to every person’s respective skin color; it took a while, but I color matched everyone performing as a Twat and went on my way to find the closest color in leotards and paints! I thought having the nude-style Twat costumes would compliment the very vibrant and detailed world of Doyenne. But Meghan really was the one to take on the band member costumes, tarot and book designs to a whole new level!
Meghan: As Janira said, the first thing that came to mind when building Doyenne was Wizard of Oz meets Dr. Seuss meets Telletubbies. It was so awesome working with Janira because we were completely on the same page with visualizing what Doyenne looked like — which, let me tell you, sounds kind of insane on paper. At times, looking for folks to come on board led to some very quizzical “is this a joke?” responses. But it resonated with the awesome team we wound up with, and in the end, felt like a beautiful collaboration of many different artists finding ways to build this detailed world with such a small budget. And Janira’s optimistic attitude and multifaceted skill set was infectious in making this happen. So much innovation was involved — from the amazing set, to Etsy designers, to Marpeach tarot cards, to calligraphy and beyond.
ADOLESCENT - Did you face any obstacles or roadblocks while creating this music video? Any creative decisions you had to let go of during the making?
Janira: We sure did, I have never been on a production where there weren’t any obstacles. Filmmaking is constant problem solving –– something is bound to pop up that is out of your control. Budget was definitely a major obstacle, we wanted to do so much with so little and pushing the limits for quality was our main goal. Even if we made props out of left-behind cardboard, you better believe that cardboard would shine after we got done with it! We also had to find a crew that was willing to go above and beyond and believed in the vision as much as we did. We compensated our low budget with amazing talent, and that really saved us! Production wise, we could only afford to shoot for one day, when this music video should have really been a two-day shoot. We were fighting for quality with the pressure of very limited time on our backs. On the morning of our shoot there was a setback, we had 10 hours to shoot in the studio but lost about an hour and a half after prep because our camera died. We had to find a camera asap! Of course, we all kept this a secret from Meghan and everything was seemingly on schedule and under control. While our producer and camera crew were searching for a camera I continued to rehearse with our performers until one arrived and then it was rush mode from there on out. We didn’t have time to rig all of the instruments and have them ease down like we planned, so I compromised with having two Twats hand the instruments to the band mates from each side– although I did like this solution more than the initial plan. All of my “nice to haves” were out the window too. I definitely kept pushing for more takes regardless and got away with a few but our producer, Tory Baxter and AD, Gabriella Sipe were so on it! Grateful for their hustle to get us out of there on time.
Meghan: On a conceptual note, I think the biggest obstacles with working in film are attitude and ego. Film sets can be a delicate dynamic — being really creative requires vulnerability. Something magical happens when you have a very competent, efficient team that feels comfortable enough to get weird. We were lucky to have landed with such a positive, creative team! So in other words, maintaining balance.
On an application note, I had a difficult time acting and turning off my “producing” brain train — trying to stay in character while also thinking about practical elements, of which there were many. This shoot happened a week or so before the pandemic really struck hard and I was also dealing with an odd situation where I was construction evicted from my apartment and living in hotels at that point. So it feels like absolute miracle that this music video, with all of the different DIY moving parts, exists — I am beyond proud.
ADOLESCENT to Meghan - I know this song is portrayed by Queen Frequency - but is this song based out of truth or fiction? Where did the idea to write this song come from?
I typically describe Symphony of -tions as “a song about nothing in particular,” or the more wordy: “a song that trolls the rules we assign to what constitutes as art.” I think creatives can limit themselves severely with a fear-based obsession of formulaic art. It’s ok to write a stupid, yet beautiful-sounding song about nothing. Symphony of -tions is camp-y in spirit because it laughs at the idea of applying a ruleset to songwriting or art in general.
ADOLESCENT to Janira - Are you working on anything at the moment? Any projects that we can expect to see in the near future?
Now that we’ve released Symphony of -tions, I’m definitely excited to ride the wave of optimism into new work. I’m planning on pitching a music video to another band I’ve been eager to work with — a completely different genre, this time diving into hip-hop. I’ve also been working on a screenplay inspired by a childhood memory that I’m excited about and hoping to shoot it in my hometown Ontario, California. I am, however, in no rush to create and am enjoying the process — especially during this pandemic! I think developing an idea to its full potential is essential, and I’m not too fond of rushing any work in progress, as it could hinder the quality of the final product. I’m happy to have worked with like-minded people in that area; we really valued taking our time with developing and fine-tuning this music video. We made it all count.
ADOLESCENT to Meghan - And lastly, what can we expect from the next installment of this project with Queen Frequency
Our second single will be dropped in the next two months and our album in the fall. We’re having fun with musically genre jumping and switching up the visuals for each single, so keep an eye out!
Check out Queen Frequency and the Twats!
and follow Janira Hernandez @janirahz
Executive Producer/Writer/Green Screen Artist - Meghan McDonald Director/Writer/Producer - Janira Hernandez Producer - Tory Baxter Editor/VFX Artist - Sabrina Ashleigh Tan Director of Photography/Gaffer - Barrett Nicol Production Designer - Anissa Amalia Gaffer Assistant - Kevin Paniagua 1st Assistant Director - Gabriella Sipe 1st Assistant Camera - Serena Hodges 2nd Assistant Camera/PA - Joseph Walls Set Decorator - Kevin Simmons Set Decorator - Serrina Lam Art PA - Kai Grayson Make-up Assistant/Props Assistant - Gideon Lang Props Assistant - Rachel McHugh Make-up Artist - Delia J Owens Set Photographer/Make-up Assistant/Props Assistant - Gideon Lang PA - Emmanuel Williams Colorist - Sky Kim Animator - Kimia Alikhani Digital Art Design - Yeganeh Yoosefian Digital Art Design - Rachel McHugh Calligrapher - Nicole Beuerlein Book Design - KleverCase Tempress - Rachel McHugh Priestess - Holly Kaplan Twat - Mikka Verneaux Twat - Diane Nguyen Twat - Courtney Coffey Twat - Patra Ward Twat - Brittany Delany MUSIC: Producer: Joseph Freeman Songwriter, vocals, guitars: Meghan McDonald Violin: Rachel McHugh Synthesizer: Holly Kaplan Drums: Haligh Stilton Bass: Daniel Martin