We are delighted to share the video premiere of ‘West of Juarez’, the latest single from the acclaimed Stephie James. The song is taken from the well-received EP ‘These Days’, which is a favourite here at AUK. Check out the review here. The cinematic video is full of drama, the perfect complement to James’s weary, story-telling vocal.
Anthony Saladino directed the video and explains the concept: “One of the first things Stephie said to me when we began talking about the video was, “I don’t really think there needs to be a narrative… I want it to mostly be vibe.” Lyrically and stylistically though, the song conjures up a pretty specific time and place, so I felt like we were best served keeping some of those elements: low lighting, dusty, out in the middle of nowhere – but my intent was to subvert the tropes of what you’d expect this video to be in a way that still feels true to the spirit of the music and to Stephie as an artist.
The idea was to create a setting that’s filled with tension, mean looking dudes, and something sort of representative of these antiquated modes of masculinity, and flip it on its head. I really liked the idea of having Stephie pulling the strings but in a way that’s not overly aggressive or even obvious. Not everyone’s going to come away with the same idea of what’s happening, which I love.
Before I had come up with the concept, Stephie mentioned she really wanted her guitar player, Mattman, to be in it. They’ve worked together for a long time and he’s a big part of the record. I came up with this servant/henchman role that was sort of spiritually inspired by Lurch from The Addams Family. I knew he had to be in a suit or tux but Matt has zero online presence, so I had no idea what he looked like or if he’d fit the part. I got worried when I found out that Matt maybe didn’t own a suit – he’s a ratty t-shirt and jeans guy. The night we shot all the car stuff, I got home and started looking through the footage and couldn’t stop laughing because of how perfectly he fit that role.”
James adds: “I’ve always been influenced by cinema – from classic Hollywood to early Scorsese, to David Lynch films. Some of my favourite films have really killer soundtracks and it can completely elevate everything happening on screen and make for iconic pairings. The Stones playing during De Niro’s entrance in Mean Streets…moments like that always stick with me.
The songs on our record have a pretty cinematic quality. I had lots of specific references that I wanted to riff off of visually in this video, and Anthony totally knew all of the references and understood how to adapt them. I think the video works because it doesn’t take itself too seriously. It’s vibe heavy but there’s a certain level of absurdity and a bit of the unexpected.”
Stephie James has learned her craft as a song-writer and performer from some of the best in the business. Having spent years opening shows for, and performing with, Nikki Lane and touring with eight-time Grammy-winner Anita Baker, James delivers with great confidence. Also, she has assisted on records for the likes of Buddy Miller, Steve Earle, Shawn Colvin and The Wood Brothers while working at Dan Auerbach’s studio. Influenced by such an enviable education in the music industry, James has channelled her experience and talent into an excellent debut EP and ‘West of Juarez’ is one of the most atmospheric songs she has released. Check it out – this marks the emergence of a real talent.