There’s a verbal refrain that runs through Cadet Limbo like a trapped nerve. It’s a technique that Archy Marshall, better known as King Krule, has used masterfully throughout his career. “Has it been this long?” recurs against the twilight sounds of the track and the unsettling black and white visuals, shot during his month-long US tour. It feels like a lament against a real, or half-imagined, creative block.
For this video, Archy turned to photographer and muse Charlotte Patmore. Best known for her longform chronicles of bands on the road – working with Black Honey, Charli XCX and Kate Nash – she’s been taking intimate portraits of Archy for years.
He’s clearly at ease in front of her camera, and this translates to Cadet Limbo video, where Charlotte skillfully captures the essential oddity of being on the road for a long time – the benignly bland hotels, the nameless roads and the suspended sense of time. The video has an almost sci-fi sheen of unreality, featuring endless corridors and elevators taking you to indeterminate locations, while Archy is simultaneously stalked by his saxophonist Galgo.
Archy and Charlotte sat down to talk about how personal closeness impacts their collaboration.
Archy: It's about being on the same page when it comes to collaboration. The only time I think it makes a difference is when you're close to each other. It can become a bit awkward. For me, I find a problem telling each other what to do, if you've got more of a relationship.
Archy: Yeah. I think if you don't know someone, it's easier.
Charlotte: I think it's the other way around.
Archy: I know a lot of people who step on each other's toes by accident when they get involved in collaborative processes.
Charlotte: For me it's easier to direct or work with someone you know, because you know what's going to piss them off.
Archy: Maybe that's your role, and my role is separate to that.
Charlotte: But I feel like on this, we were on the same level. We would direct each other, working together. It wasn't necessarily me being like, "Do this, do this, do this," the whole time.
Like the other King Krule music videos a strong sense of character bleeds through Cadet Limbo, but without a clear narrative. Here Archy is haunted by the recurring figure of saxophonist Galgo playing in the background.
Archy: Galgo came along in real life and influenced me to write more and more. So, the concept of the video became that he’s this important figure that I couldn’t quite get my hands on. Him behind me playing sax and then disappearing. My outfit stayed the same and Galgo's outfit kind of stayed the same. We'd put on our outfits and go out and film it. We were very lucky in terms of the landscapes and the architecture that we got to film against.
Charlotte: We had all these amazing locations to film. We wanted to enter a sci-fi competition and shoot a video on tour in 24 hours, but when we got to Mexico no one really wanted to leave. Everyone wanted to get drunk, and then Galgo got left in Mexico. So we couldn't film him anymore, and we missed the competition's deadline.
Archy: He didn't get left there because he was drunk.
Charlotte: No, he got left because they fucked up the visa thing. But we were going to film loads on the plane too. The plane is so futuristic. And then, he wasn't on the plane.
Archy: It goes back to being let loose on some beautiful imagery. It was interesting, because the song disintegrates into something completely different before the end. There’s so much chaos toward the end. But even here, like in Biscuit Town, it's the same character experiencing it.
Charlotte: Which is a bit separate from yourself, and I think that whenever you talk about those characters, you do reference films and certain people.
Archy: That's true.
The landscapes in the film become more than backdrops, but rather characters in their own right. There are palm trees and rock formations alongside the man-made and the artificial – huge hotel atriums and freeways crawling with cars.
Archy: I actually just found my bag from that tour and I haven't unpacked it. I'm like a mass hoarder when it comes to notes and stuff. I've got hotel keys from every hotel, all of the receipts, everything. I could literally map it out.
Charlotte: There were some pretty odd places as well...
Archy: Whilst we were touring, there was a lot of stops in the middle of nowhere, where we weren't playing, but we were staying for one night. I think just finding that bag, it was like, "Oh, shit." Toluca, Houston, Tampa, Arizona, all of these places.
Charlotte: All the locations were amazing. We didn't have a lot of time in any of them.
Archy: America is super wide. That's the one of the things you take from it. The roads are wide. The landscape is wide. The buildings are wide.
Charlotte: It’s really cinematic as well, automatically. It feels “Hollywood.” I want to make films and videos, but not until I know I can do it exactly how I want to. This was really nice, because we just shot it and then afterwards could decide what it was.
Charlotte is a photographer, not a filmmaker, by trade. She takes time to climb into her subject’s world, to create something that’s truthful to their particular context. Although video is a newer format for her to work in, her closeness with Archy clearly helped.
Charlotte: Photography is my thing. I know how to see that. But with video, there's so many more people involved and it's so much bigger. I'm still figuring out what universes I want to create and what I want to be known for, before I do it. I don't think it needs to be rushed; I don't think I need to do it for the sake of doing it. It's really important to me.
Archy: So then, this is an example of you being able to just do it...
Charlotte: We wanted to make a music video, but it wasn't the same way I've seen anyone approach doing it.
Charlotte: There's so much more.
Archy: It was a bit more intimate, really. I've had mates come on tour in a similar way, with their cameras and stuff.
Charlotte: But also, that's fully my job. That's what I'm used to doing. I'm used to going on tour, shooting the gig, shooting everything backstage, making a video the same day, doing a crazy amount of work. On this tour, it was way more chill, and there wasn't as much pressure on having to post before the gig, post after and all that stuff.
Archy: Between gig and sound check, we'd be filming. After the show, we'd be filming. And everyone was kind of loose. Days off, we’d be filming.
Charlotte: It was like every day.
Archy: By the end of it, we had enough footage together to create a clearer narrative.
Charlotte: Yeah, I think all the pieces complement each other. It's a nice documentation of the tour, even though it isn’t what you’d call a traditional tour video at all.
Archy: We were lucky because most people would pay mad money to have venues like those completely empty for that. We'd set out our shows, and then run around with a camera in the middle of it.
It’s an unusual approach to take a month to shoot a music video; usually it’s a quick shoot crammed into an artist’s packed pre-release schedule. But Charlotte had the opportunity to capture an incredible amount of footage, and sift through them to find the best shots for the video. It’s a familiar way of working for Archy, as he likes to let his music mature and only release what best realizes his artistic vision.
Archy: I think it's the opposite of the Biscuit Town video. That was an idea getting proposed, this was more like, sounded out together. It was like a day to day thing, because that's how it was shot – a month together doing this. There weren’t really any deadlines. There was more of an art to it, and making an archive of it, as well.
Charlotte: There was so much documented. We got so much done.
Archy: There’s a lot of people that don't see longevity in their careers anymore. A lot of people might release one song and get big off that, and don't necessarily have an idea of then going forward.
Charlotte: It's quite instant.
Archy: I've always held back in putting out too much shit. If you see more longevity, it'll be good when you die, or some shit. Got a lot of pressure on my death now.
Charlotte: When I met you, you were like, I've already written the album that I'm going to release when I die.
Archy: I mean, there's obviously films where people have gone on tours with bands and they've worked toward a whole documentary. I think Instrument is a good example of someone who worked with a band really closely for years. And at the end of it, you could cut it all up and make something new out if it.
Charlotte: There's so many films where it's people on the run going about wherever, and obviously that isn't what the video is about, or what we were doing, but it kind of has that filter to it.
Archy: I think for us, it's like a road movie. It's like a weird, Easy Rider kind of thing going on.
Words by Francisco Garcia.