The Artist Explains: Sonia Barcelona - 'Violent Water'

Sonia Barcelona talks us through the creative process behind her magical visuals for her empowering 90s rock-infused single ‘Violent Water’.

Where was the video for Violent Water filmed / how was it created? 
“Violent Water was filmed in Las Vegas, NV, my hometown in SPCKRFT Studios. It was a Kickstarter funded project that began in October 2018 and was completed April 2019. We needed a studio to film in and I just so happen to do portraits in SPCKRFT, a studio where I also do portrait events for a project (I’m also a photographer). It had a green screen which was an important part of the process since there were so many animatics in the video. It’s a beautiful space that essentially became our second home during the filming process. Danny & Rachel worked so well together—Danny editing and filming while Rachel created all of the costumes and organised the process. I’ve never worked with anyone that was so attentive to detail as they are. They listened to my ideas and we were always communicating with each other to make this vision come to life. By the end of it, I can say I made true friends. 

How does the video connect with the song?

The song is about the pursuit of love and how tumultuous that can be. For me, I enjoy writing love songs that disguise a deeper meaning. ‘Violent Water’ was written during a part of my career where I felt I was really diving into music. With that comes all of the ups and downs but I tell myself “don’t stop” since it’s what I love—it’s my passion. When Danny and Rachel asked me what I wanted to create, I thought of the literal words ‘Violent Water”’because I love magic, animation, superheroes, and wanted to create something fun. It’s a love story that depicts how important it is to follow your heart, in a way that can be likened to pursuing what you’re passionate about. 

Do you have any behind the scenes stories you can share with us? 
There were so many magical moments that happened! First, I will mention Rachel and Danny are a couple, both as filmmaking partners and in life. They worked on a budget of $1,000 which is incredible. We filmed the mermaid scenes with me in the beginning and Rachel had never done a mermaid costume before. It turned out fantastic and I’m in awe of that. Danny also never molded clay before and he created the monster you see in the video. Their first attempts at these things just blew my mind! There was also a painter (Matt Murphy) who painted around 30 different scenes that Danny composited. By the end of it, Danny edited in around 70 Visual FX in post. He combined the live action shots filmed on green screen and then added Matt’s paintings. Everything from the boat (which Rachel pieced together by hand over a week) to the colosseum of the monster, was hand painted by Matt. As for the main sailor, we didn’t really know who would act out the role until he (Tom Peck) came in to do photos with me one day. I had forgotten he was an actor and he had the perfect look, so that came about serendipitously! On that note, Rachel said they required some extras and that’s when I thought “I’ll throw in all of my friends!” So you’ll see the fairy ghosts as well as all the extra sailors—they are all a part of the Vegas art community and it brings me such joy to see them in the video. It was definitely a community effort, from its funding to its filming. 

Could you tell us about the ideas/ themes/ imagery used? 
Danny and Rachel are big fans of Georges Melies and Ferdinand Zecca. I’m also a big fan of Melies so it clicked right away. All I knew was that I wanted to be a mermaid fighting monsters in a love story and they had no problem with that crazy idea. Personally, while acting out the mermaid I drew inspiration from the Ocean goddess Yemoja (revered in Brazil and all around Africa). We went in with makeup drawing inspiration from the silent film era, dark eyes, hand-made costumes, exaggerated expressions, a lighthearted theme. We also referenced one of my favourite bands Smashing Pumpkins video ‘Tonight Tonight’ since it was a rock tune with a Melies influence. The plot changed over time, but we kept the idea of a mermaid goddess saving a young man—not only from monsters but from his own greed. Love is the focal point, and I wanted to showcase a strong woman who didn’t need saving but actually saved others with her strength and compassion. 

What do you hope people take away from watching the video? 
First and foremost, I want people to smile and feel magic. I love the feeling of wonder and I think you can feel that in the video. There is the message of female empowerment and breaking stereotypes—I did think of Disney’s “Little Mermaid” and was aware that I would be a brown mermaid. Ultimately, I want people to feel as though they were a part of something special. Music to me is magic and Danny and Rachel brought that forth in a visual way. It is for an audience to see, enjoy, and gain inspiration from.

Interview feature by Karla Harris