Songs For Screens is a Variety column written by Andrew Hampp, a VP at New York-based music sponsorship and experiential agency MAC Presents and former branding correspondent for Billboard. Each week, the column will highlight noteworthy use of music in advertising and marketing campaigns, as well as new and catalog songs that we deem ripe for synch use.
The first time musicians Jesse Clasen and Jacob Michael wrote a song together as the electro-infused indie-pop duo Foreign Air, 2016’s “Free Animal,” it ended up getting licensed by Nike for a national campaign. The exposure helped generate more than 8 million streams for the track on Spotify, and validated the band’s choice to go the fully independent route.
Armed with only boutique licensing agency Ghost Town as its representation, with no label, publishing or A-list manager on its payroll, Clasen and Michael could suddenly afford a sustainable career on the strength of one high-profile synch — which quickly spawned other placements for other TV and film work, such as trailers for E!’s “The Arrangement” and REI’s ski film “Rogue Elements” and episodes of MTV’s “Scream” and Showtime’s “Shameless.”
“We both came from different projects where we were sleeping on friends’ couches and floors, so it was kind of nice to be able to graduate from that a little bit,” Michael recalls.
The synch funding also enabled the band to play the long game when it came to crafting its first music video, holding out for the right collaborators that could best portray Clasen and Michael’s shared affinity for maverick filmmakers like Harmony Korine, David Lynch and Andrei Tarkovsky.
The result of that creative search is the music video for Foreign Air’s latest single “Chakra Daemon,” which Songs For Screens is premiering exclusively below.
The video was directed by Sabrina Reiter of Vienna, Austria-based collective Almost Famous, and follows a drag queen struggling with identity into a euphoric connection in the nightlife of Vienna.
“The song’s about coming out of your shell, when you’re living in your head for so long but never externalizing, you don’t find your true self,” Clasen explains. “Lots of people struggle with that, especially in certain communities like the LGBTQ community, so we came up with the idea of a main character having to fight to externalize what they were feeling inside.”
Though Foreign Air are heading out on the road in May with Bishop Briggs and will continue releasing new singles throughout the year, an official debut album may still be a ways off. “A lot of people say, ‘Don’t waste your time throwing a bunch of singles out into the world when people can’t pay attention to the songs individually,’” says Clasen. “But in my heart, I know I love a full piece of work and how songs relate to each other, and seeing how songs play live. We’re starting to navigate how to do that.”
In the meantime, Michael hopes “Chakra Daemon” catches the attention of a few of Foreign Air’s favorite indie filmmakers in the same way that the band’s music has already inspired their most cineaste of fans.
‘“Chakra Daemon’ is our first music video, which was a surprise to a lot of people,” says Michael.” “I think my dad sent me a message saying ‘I like your video.’ I was like, ‘What? We don’t have a video.’ Someone had put footage from that ‘80s movie ‘They Live’ where they see politicians as lizard people with our song ‘In The Shadows’ on YouTube. So it’s a big step for us, to show our fans what we’re ready to put out there.”