First Watch: The Map Room’s ‘Hold Me Up To The Sun’
We premiere The Map Room's video for 'Hold Me Up To The Sun' - from their new album, Weatherless, and musician Simon Gooding writes about breaking out of old patterns.
I’ve always fallen in and out of love with the guitar. I started learning early, around 11 or 12, and it quickly became an obsession. Over the years, as I began to play in bands and write songs, I realised that being so familiar with an instrument can be both a blessing and a curse. Knowledge and muscle memory can pull you back to the same old shapes and chords. ‘Hold Me Up To The Sun’ was written during one of those difficult ‘falling out’ stages, where everything I was playing felt too familiar.
So I picked up something I can hardly play, an old Casio keyboard, and immediately stumbled upon the looping piano line that anchors the song. Sometimes picking up an unfamiliar instrument can be the thing to break you out of old habits and inspire a new direction.
As often seems to be the case for me, the first few vocal lines poured out quickly. You follow a feeling and sing gibberish until some lines come into focus. This is my favourite part of the entire process, when the melodies arrive naturally and there’s no second-guessing, and the little world you’ve created feels like it could go anywhere. The possibilities are endless.
Unfortunately, that feeling can leave as quickly as it arrives. One wrong turn with a lyric and you’re questioning the whole song and wondering how you got there, and at times it feels like you have to fight to win a song back. With this one we knew we had a good tune on our hands but I became stuck in ‘second-verse purgatory’ for quite some time.
At times it feels like you have to fight to win a song back
I started chasing the idea that we all live in our own heads and only experience the world around us through our own filters. The history of our lives shape the world we see, and it’s a fairly lonely perspective in that way. What would it be like to see everything, including ourselves, from someone else’s perspective? How would I feel about who I am?
No surprise, at the heart, of this mess
Know it now, at the time, could only guess
Through your eyes, does the light, look the same?
Let it bend, let it break, and melt away
From the initial demo, Brendon Morrow – the other half of The Map Room – and I added sounds and fleshed out the arrangement before going into the studio to record live drums, bass and vocals. Guitar eventually made it in, and in this song it takes the form of a laptop-mic recording of my old acoustic, complete with windy Wellington ambience. We often leave those initial recordings in. Their feeling and energy can be hard to recreate.
The initial idea for a loop video came while I was out running. It fit with the repeating synth lines and drum machine pattern, and also spoke to themes of perception and reality within the lyrics. Do we learn from our mistakes, or do we just convince ourselves that we have and carry on treading the same old paths? Sometimes the familiar can be comforting and easy, but not what we need to move forward.
Do we learn from our mistakes, or do we just convince ourselves that we have and carry on treading the same old paths?
We worked with director Alex Gandar, who developed those initial ideas with us. There were challenges along the way: We wanted the loops to match the tempo of the music, but how to divide it up? Would we learn from the loops, or go through each as though it were the first time? In the end, we decided that we wouldn’t be aware – the changes between each cycle would create an inherent bleakness instead.
We shot across a single, huge day. The skeleton loop was a highlight – Alex and the crew blacked out the entire space with heavy curtains and marked us out with glow-in-the-dark tape, and between every shot we had to run into the sun to charge up the fluoro.
We walked that loop over a hundred times. By the end, I felt weirdly attached to it – to its familiarity, and to the strange sense of comfort it gave.
Producer: Billie Ruck
Director of Photography: Timothy Flower
Animation: Frances Haszard