Strawpeople emerged from the corridors of student radio, where founders Paul Casserly and Mark Tierney met in 1985 after swapping academia for jobs at what is now bFM. The studio-based recording outfit utilised an impressive line-up of vocalists, including Stephanie Tauevihi, Fiona McDonald (Headless Chickens) and Bic Runga. Strawpeople released six albums beginning with 1991's Hemisphere, plus distinctive covers of John Hiatt's 'Have a Little Faith in Me' and The Church's 'Under the Milky Way'. After the departure of Tierney in 1996, the final three albums were led by Casserly alone.
Director Justin Pemberton takes this love song by Paul Casserly and Fiona McDonald (from fourth Strawpeople album Vicarious) and transforms it into an exercise in noir influenced, brooding unease. His video takes place over a night at a rural motel (with McDonald as a receptionist, and Casserly up to no good with a range of medical equipment). A tarot card-reading, yoga-practising new-ager, a traveller with unexplained cages, and random appearances from stringed instrument-playing senior citizens contribute to the growing sense of disquiet.
Strawpeople Paul Casserly and Mark Tierney took themselves to Hong Kong (with guest vocalist Leza Corban) for this video. Corban's jazzy vocal and the chilled beats contrast with the hustle and bustle of the cityscape (still under the flight path of Kai Tak airport at the time). The trumpet is courtesy of Greg Johnson and the sampled voice is Richard Nixon talking to the Apollo 11 astronauts on the moon. Co-written by Tierney and Casserly with Anthony Ioasa, Sweet Disorder won the 1995 APRA Silver Scroll for songwriting, plus the songwriting gong at the 1996 NZ Music Awards.
Vocalist Victoria Kelly is very much the focus of this moody Strawpeople video. Singing enigmatically of dreams, knives and possible obsession— and magically changing outfits off camera, in patented music vid style — she performs in a shadowy, red-lit dive for an audience that consists of Strawpeople founders Paul Casserly and Mark Tierney. Tierney left the group in 1996. Plans for Victoria Kelly to take on a bigger role in Strawpeople would be derailed by her increasingly busy career as a film composer. ‘Beautiful Skin’ was composed by Strawpeople collaborator Greg Johnson.
Stephanie Tauevihi (Shortland Street) was vocalist of choice on this cover of Australian band The Church's biggest hit. Strawpeople founders Paul Casserly and Mark Tierney cast themselves in unlikely roles as guitarists, and share the directing duties on this typically stylish video. It captures the song’s sense of emptiness and disconnection in its tale of an astronaut’s love (although the song’s original inspiration was an Amsterdam club, not the astral Milky Way). The woman in spectacles with the mysterious office machine is played by DJ/actor Phoebe Falconer.
This black and white video is certainly not the first to adopt the patented 'are these images connected, or is it all a trick' approach. A woman crouches in a nightgown; a man waits in an expensive looking chair; a confident woman in a distinctive dress enters the room, possibly for the cash. Taken from 1994's Broadcast, probably Strawpeople's most successful album, 'Trick with a Knife' features vocals by Fiona McDonald. Strawpeople founders Mark Tierney and Paul Casserly make fleeting appearances.