“Peter Pan” is an experimental short film, shot entirely in Kingston, Jamaica, pairing the sounds of Arcade Fire and Equiknoxx Music with visuals from Jamaican filmmaker Storm Saulter (Better Mus Come, Sprinter).
The original version of “Peter Pan,” which appears on Arcade Fire’s 2017 album, Everything Now, was given a trippy dub remix by Equiknoxx after Saulter and the band’s Win Butler discovered their mutual appreciation for the outré Jamaican production crew. The video, which includes additional music from composer Jeremy Ashbourne (who created a dub version of Equinoxx’s remix to fill out the soundtrack), marks the latest foray into Caribbean culture from the Montreal-based Arcade Fire, whose Régine Chassagne is of Haitian parentage. The group previously collaborated with Saulter on visuals from the making of their 2013 album Reflektor, which was partly recorded at Trident Castle in Port Antonio, Jamaica.
The short film, which Saulter describes as “a lo fi teenage dancehall fairytale,” was inspired by the classic children’s story of the same name, with visual/style cues from Larry Clark’s 1995 film Kids, and features footage shot around Kingston landmarks including Weddy Weddy Wednesdays, Jamaican sound system Stone Love’s famed weekly party. The video was styled by Ayana Rivière, and choreographed by Amanyea Stines.
Check the world premiere of the video here, and read on below for an interview with the Arcade Fire’s Régine Chassagne and Win Butler, and Storm Saulter.
How has the Caribbean inspired and influence your work past and present?
Régine Chassagne: I’ve always tried to insert idioms of Caribbean music into the songs we are making. I come from an immigrant family, so I was always aware of stylistic musical languages and how, sometimes, they don’t really have a translation in other musical genres. So I insert them, layer them. Like a Morse Code inserted into a song. Because it is my reality. My mother spoke Haitian Creole, French, Spanish and English. She used to dance in the kitchen whenever she heard a song with a good beat. A good beat is magic. It can cast rays of gold on everything. I try to translate my upbringing, and have our music speak to all the different people I know and grew up with. When you are exposed to a culture, you gradually learn the language one way or another. Music is a language, I think it’s just that, as a band, we have developed more vocabulary. When you learn a language, a whole new universe opens up to you. I’m always trying to express the multi-layered culture I grew up with. A little something for everyone.
Are you finding yourselves spending more time in the Caribbean? What is your favorite place to spend time and get creative inspiration?
Win Butler: We have spent by far the most time in Jamaica and Haiti. We have explored almost every corner of both islands, and always leave feeling spiritually uplifted and inspired.
We love the music, the landscape, the food, the culture and the people of Jamaica. So much of the Caribbean has been whitewashed and shaped by colonialism and tourism, but Jamaica and Haiti have fought to preserve their deep roots. You can see it and feel it in every aspect of the culture. This is a beautiful and precious thing that is being lost in much of the world!
How did you meet? What do you enjoy about each other’s work?
Storm Saulter: We met at a party Chris Blackwell’s Golden Eye [resort] in Jamaica.
Win Butler: We immediately clicked and found so much in common in our tastes in music and film. He did some photography for us when we were recording at Trident Castle in Port Antonio on our record Reflektor. We have dreamed of working on a video project with him since then, and it finally came together! It was so inspiring to see what he created with Better Mus Come, producing an entirely Jamaican film, and points to so much possibility for Caribbean film in the future. We hope that him working with Arcade Fire exposed him and Jamaican film to a larger audience outside of the region!
Storm Saulter: They’ve always told great stories in their music. Nuanced stories that I can relate to. I listen to them when making art, and I’ve shed a few tears listening to their music. (In public, too!) I love the visuals from this band just as much as I love their music. They’ve collaborated with amazing filmmakers like Spike Jonze and others that I look up to. They always push the boundaries creatively, and I’m excited to be a part of that legacy now.
How did Equiknoxx get brought into this project and why? Besides the fact that they’re the shit, of course?
Storm Saulter: While working on Sprinter and traveling around a bit, Equinoxx’s name and music just kept popping up. Interesting people in far flung places are tuned into them, including Win, who mentioned them to me on more than one occasion. We wanted to remix the record specifically for the visual so that we could score and extend certain scenes. Music attorney Sarah Hall connected me to the Equinoxx crew, and they agreed to get involved with the project. Also, there are clear dub influences in the track and I wanted a separate, straight up “Scientist-type” dub version of the record to work with as well. So I reached out to my frequent collaborator, composer Jeremy Ashbourne, who created just that.
Is this an exclusive remix strictly for this video?
Storm Saulter: The remix was done specifically for the video. It should be available on Spotify and other platforms shortly.
Tell us about the talent and locations in this video? How were they found/chosen?
Storm Saulter: Keeping it lo-fi, we shot with small cameras and mostly available light, allowing the styling, talent and textures of Kingston to tell the story. The stylist, Ayana Rivière, took inspiration from the movie Kids, and set out to create a parallel look, but in a modern dancehall world. Amanyea Stines of L’Acadco choreographed the piece, and helped us to cast all the dancing talent, including our leads Maleik Lamont, who plays “Peter,” and Rayana Campbell, who plays “Wendy.” We shot at sunset on a rooftop overlooking the Parade Bus Park in downtown, throughout the Kingston streets on bikes, and ended up at Stone Love’s Weddy Weddy Wednesdays for the party scene. We had no control over that event, and so our actors just blended into the crowd and performed. We had our cameras ready and just captured the actions and reactions as they happened naturally.
You packed a lot of story into six minutes. Is this a story you had been thinking about already or was it written to the music?
Storm Saulter: “Peter Pan” is a universally known tale of an adventurous boy in a magical land. I kept that in mind, but did not want to be literal about the story. The aim was to create a lo-fi teenage dancehall fairytale, with Peter Pan dancing on top of the concrete jungle. The visual was not written to music, and I wasn’t necessarily thinking about this story before this project, but for some time I’ve definitely wanted to create something whimsical within a raw dancehall space.
Seeing the WhatsApp notifications and Snapchat filters here, is this a comment on social media and digital connectivity or is that just a cool tool to tell the story?
Storm Saulter: It’s both. In reality, this is how people communicate. A present day teenage love story without texting and filters probably doesn’t exist.