In the fight for attention in your newsfeed, punk rock bands nowadays have to invent new and improved ways of promoting their music. Videos have always been a rite of passage for up-and-coming artists, but now the pressure to create visual ‘content’ to maintain some arbitrary threshold of social engagement is unavoidable.
As your average DIY punk band is making a loss rather than a profit, making music videos for every single could prove a challenge. Working with bands over the last few years, I’ve heard plenty complain that they’re out of money or out of ideas. We need a video, we need it now, and we have no idea what we’re doing. The desperate plight for interesting punk rock music videos is just one of the ways being in a DIY band can often involve more admin than it does actual music.
Well, don’t let ‘not having a clue’ stop you from making a music video. Some of my favourite music videos of all time are the ones that get creative on a budget. Below, I’ve compiled ten of my favourite low-budget punk rock music videos.
In the process, I’ve outlined some of the classic genre-defining motifs that you can find in DIY music videos – to hopefully inspire you to make your own.
#10: HIGHTIME – Splitside
DIY music video trope #1: have a party, film it. Preferably in your back garden. Devon Kay & The Solutions had one one of the best ones for WWBCD, Mean Jeans did it for Steve Don’t Party No More, PUP’s did a higher-budget party time-lapse for Lionheart. Frankly, I’ve always wanted a DIY band to do a budget version of OPM’s El Capitan video.
How many music videos have started with someone waking up? It’s like Media Studies GNVQ all over again.
#9: Revenge of the Psychotronic Man – Dismantling the Corby(n) Trouser Press
For the paltry cost of a Corby trouser press and a pyramid of pints, you can have yourself a Revenge of the Psychotronic Man video. A one-minute-and-eight-seconds long reference to Alan Partridge sums up the (now defunct) band quite well. Apparently they made a small hole in the floor of Gullivers pub in Manchester whilst filming this.
#8: Almeida – Kinslayer
Budget music video cliché #2: cram a band and their instruments into a confined space (garage, bathroom, staircase, practice room … has anyone done on in the back of a van yet?). However, Almeida take it one step further. Here they are playing in a tiny room, whilst also giving me flashbacks of every house party I have ever passed out at. Don’t miss the drummer handing our protagonist a nice cup of tea.
N.B.: This still includes a familiar brushing-your-teeth sequence at the beginning, but in this video it’s before going to bed, not on waking up. How refreshing!
#7: The #1s – Sharon Shouldn’t
Irish power-pop band, The #1s take the tiny-room tradition one step further. This video is so delightfully simple and well-executed that it’s hard not to love. Another trope of the low-budget video category is placing the band in a familiar location – the beach, a park, a roof – where you wouldn’t normally expect to see them. Surely there are an endless combination of locations you could use? I like this one the best.
#6: Martha – Goldman’s Detective Agency
It takes a special kind of nerve for a band to attempt a narrative video. The key is to act fairly well, but not to take it too seriously. Think Hammer horror or Carry On films – overacted facial expressions are your secret to success here.
Martha manage to take the noir detective genre, comic acting and trendy indie clothing, and wrap it up into one joyful and quirky package. I wish more bands made videos like this, and this portrays Martha’s genre and humour whilst showcasing the song perfectly.
#5: Traits – We’re All A Dick Sometimes
Whenever someone says that you can’t make a music video on next-to-nothing, this is the one I always send as proof. I howl with laughter every time I watch this. Joe told me on a podcast recently that almost zero thought went into it – the idea appeared fully-formed. They thought a penis costume would be funny and five minutes later they’d bought one.
#4: Aerial Salad – Romance?
There is something delightfully shit about this video. You can imagine the conversation in the pub, “Right, Mike, we need music video and we need it now.”
Aerial Salad are actually the masters of this category – whether it’s wandering round a house with your dick out or noodling about in a swimming pool, the Salad boys have really embraced the magic of low-budget video production (no doubt with a little help from Mark Richards).
#3: Jeff Rosenstock – You In Weird Cities
Jeff Rosenstock is a bit of a DIY Jedi and, whilst there are no visual bangs and whistles, this visual trip across New York is one of the most memorable music videos I can recall.
In this, Jeff and pals tasked themselves with playing five shows in the five different boroughs of New York City in one day, connected only by public transport. It’s DIY. It’s spirited. It’s delightful. And it’s different to any other music video I can remember.
#2: Darko – Atlas To Atlantis
Assuming that four cricketer outfits didn’t set the band back a whole lot, this if one of the most accomplished low-budget music videos I’ve ever seen, and one that stands out even 7 years after its release.
Darko take it a step further than some of the earlier entries, taking the risk of actually ‘acting’ in their video – something which many bands (thankfully) shy away from. Filmed in their beard-phase, the band also take the piss out of themselves. Special mention also goes to their Timepieces & Lock Shaped Hearts video, which follows the classic carry-a-GoPro-around-on-tour format – another effective, inexpensive music video cliché.
#1: Forever Unclean – Float
Float rockets to my number one slot, as one of the simplest but most effective concepts I’ve ever seen in a low-budget video. Many videos have featured shower or bath scenes, it’s another classic we’ve-run-out-of-ideas option, but I’ve never seen a band execute it as well or as simply and Forever Unclean have here. *chefs kiss*
This list was, in part, inspired by a recent trip to Blackpool where I filmed a video for Fair Do’s’ new single Love & Light. I filmed it on my phone and it cost about as little as you can possibly spend (three tickets for a Ferris wheel, two ice-creams and a portion of chips). It’s not masterpiece, but it is proof that you can make something entertaining for next to nothing. I even made a small cameo – watch it here.
Written by Sarah Williams.