Smashing Against the Rocks

by flaunt

Video Premiere: The Devils, starring Ava Roeg


John-Paul Pryor is an author and editor whose debut novel Spectacles has drawn comparisons to Genet and Bataille. He is also the songwriting talent behind The Sirens of Titan, a band and furthermore audio-visual project with friends and creative partners Sami Salo and Jez Leather. The band take their name from the classic Kurt Vonnegut novel about time travel and their retro-fetishist musical inspiration from Let It Bleed-era Stones, Here, Flaunt previews the first film of a track from their debut album, Apocalypse Sessions – a dark, understated acoustic-led offering with classical depth and scope.

Each song on the album is accompanied by a unique film, featuring a different 'siren'—the first of these premiering on Flaunt features model Ava Roeg as an otherworldly figure. The Devils was created with in collaboration with two contemporary artists; photographer Katja Mayer, and leather artisan and clothing designer Melissa Tofton. We caught up with Pryor to discuss his creative processes, seduction and The Sirens of Titan. 

Describe your environment right now. I'm on the sofa at home in Soho watching Django with a very beautiful girl, answering these questions and doing some editing work on a book I'm working on.

Are there certain circumstances that stimulate your creative process? In terms of The Sirens of Titan it's the band that stimulates me more than anything, I love spending a couple of days just writing and playing and coming up with ideas with Sami Salo and Jez Leather—they are close friends and super imaginative musicians. More generally, an influx of ideas and the application of a certain sort of reverie or dreamtime to reality are very key to my songwriting. I can lock down in my own solitary world quite easily. I guess, given that I am not a kid, a lot of the circumstances that I have found myself in over time feed into the songs—whether that is skipping out on a hotel room in Las Vegas, holding a girl in your arms who is in the middle of an epileptic seizure in some remote part of Indonesia or spinning a car onto the wrong side of the tracks... It's all grist to the mill, it's all ups and downs, and all of that feeds in one-way or another.

Would you say that the album is dark? It is pretty dark for the most part, although I think I like to think of it more as indicative of contemporary melancholia than dark per se. There is a sadness in there; that is certainly true. I think it's quite reflective of a life lived, mistakes made and that kind of thing. I'm in a good place now but I haven't always been. I think a lot, maybe too much, and I'm into literature—my vision of the world has been as influenced by that as much as it has by alternative music culture. The band is named after my favorite Kurt Vonnegut novel.

As you know, sirens are very seductive, sexually intense, and deceptive creatures. Could you talk a little bit about why you chose to have "sirens" model in particular to demonstrate the narrative? I have always been obsessed with the archetype of the siren, pretty much for all the reasons you have described here. As a project I always saw women delivering these songs from a visual perspective, and that is hopefully interesting and unusual. I have a vision in my head of eleven films with eleven different women playing certain characters or sirens—I find that seductive somehow.

Can you talk about how the visuals might symbolically add to the music? Well, I want each film for the songs on Apocalypse Sessions to be a collaboration between a designer and a visual artist. The aesthetic was defined by the photographer, Katja Mayer, and the clothes are by Melissa Tofton, who is this fantastic artisanal leather designer. Visually, the film is a nod to the relationship between Arial and Prospero in The Tempest, which comes back to that thing about being trapped. I think Ava makes a fantastic Arial because she has this otherworldly androgyny matched with a feminine grace and beauty. She also has a very rock'n'roll lineage as the granddaughter of Nic Roeg, who made Performance with Donald Cammel, one of my all-time favorite films.

What is satisfaction to you? I'm tempted to write 'I can't get no…' but I've just been told by present company that that is a bad idea. In all honesty, it depends on context, right? I mean if you have negative energy driving you it might be a substance, if you are in a good place it might be a smoothie or ashtanga. I think overall, I feel most satisfied when I produce work I feel genuinely happy with, but that is always collaborative.

Having worked as an editor and art director, do you feel more conscientious of originality? That's a good question. I mean, hopefully, yes. I think the one thing that is maybe true is that I do try to view things as 360-degree entities. I'm interested in The Sirens of Titan as a sort of anti-brand in a way, as a mystically inclined collective of musicians, artists, designers and friends. I don't know, does that make sense?