EXCLUSIVE MUSIC VIDEO PREMIERE: NENCI - "f.o.r.e.v.e.r. (James Blake Cover)"

we’re super excited to premiere this music video for nenci, a queer vietnamese-american singer/songwriter from vallejo, who collaborated with our fave Leviathe on her upcoming EP, “Tomorrow, For Sure”. we’re beyond honored to feature two talented artists who are deeply rooted in the bay area queer community and uplift the work of creatives of color.

nenci’s sound encompasses a variety of influences: from playing classical music on flute to bumping 80s and 90s R&B/soul alongside experimental electronica. in this first look at their collaboration, nenci and Leviathe perform their rendition of james blake’s “f.o.r.e.v.e.r.”, and we had the honor of chatting with them more about the project and how the video came together.

y’all can expect nenci’s EP to drop sometime in 2019 and make sure to follow nenci on facebook, instagram, and soundcloud to stay updated!

nenci is your solo project in collaboration with leviathe, who also directed the music video with hanna moradi. can you share more about the name and why you chose it?

nenci.png

Originally, I wanted something that either included the letter N in it because it was close to my birth name or tied in with being Vietnamese.

At first, I kept switching different names and overthinking what my artist name should be rather than invest my time in creating a name that felt authentic. Then one day I was playing around with my name, and the spelling somehow ended up as nenci. It looked really good and I didn't overcomplicate things, and it was similar to my name.

"f.o.r.e.v.e.r." is a pretty vulnerable song to listen to: what drew you to it and led you to make a music video for it?

cover art for james blake’s album,  the colour in anything , released in may 2016.

cover art for james blake’s album, the colour in anything, released in may 2016.

Leviathe and I are huge admirers of James Blake and his specifically minimal production style. We admire his vulnerable soulful delivery paired with metaphorical and repeating lyric patterns. His last album, The Colour in Anything, was captivating and stood out from his past work.

His voice is beautifully eerie which is something I feel like I can relate to. We’re in awe of how on “f.o.r.e.v.e.r.”, he is able to paint a deep and meaningful image with only his voice and a piano. The song is so complex in its constant key modulations, melodic line, and how it challenges the voice. When we first started playing this song, we really doubted ourselves on the song choice because we definitely felt like we bit off more than we could chew. Listening to the song versus performing the song was such a different and unique experience for both of us. Of course, listening to the song was easy because you’re experiencing it as an audience member versus when playing it yourself, where you can really understand the multi-layers of work that go into making a piece like this. As a result, we struggled for a very long time to get the song down correctly and had to transcribe it a few times until we found the certain key we wanted. It was that much more cathartic when we were able to perform it as a vessel for what we wanted to express.

Our first live performance of the song was in front of a 300 person audience at a conference showcase. While performing, we quickly realized that we weren’t fully prepared to embark on performing it live because we felt the performance didn’t represent the song itself and our full capabilities.

Based our first performance, we wanted to carefully plan out how we could perform this song to represent the integrity of the original “f.o.r.e.v.e.r.” with a touch of our own personalities. As a result, Leviathe had a vision to create a live cover music video in which we began to collaborate not only together, but with our friends and community members.

chilling like villains: nenci (left) and her collaborator Leviathe (right)  photography by tiffany leah chung ( @tiffanyleahchung )

chilling like villains: nenci (left) and her collaborator Leviathe (right)

photography by tiffany leah chung (@tiffanyleahchung)

james blake is obviously a huge influence: are there other artists whose work speaks to you?

Sonnymoon, Lapalux, FKA twigs, Jai Paul, Radiohead, and Frank Ocean.

how did the shoot come together? how was it working with the team on the shoot and after?

on set with hanna moradi, co-director with Leviathe on nenci’s music video

on set with hanna moradi, co-director with Leviathe on nenci’s music video

My twin, Sal Tran, had free access to a large studio space in San Francisco. They casually showed the space to both Leviathe and I. Immediately, we fell in love with the space since it aligned with our vision. What’s great about living in the Bay Area is that we have access to a vast number of creatives within our tight knit community. Leviathe's former colleague and good friend, Hanna Moradi, joined our team as the Director of Photography. It was exciting to have her jump on our project since she just launched her film company called Shooting Blind. Sal is a videographer and video editor and offered to edit the film. Lastly, Dree Lee (organizer and resident DJ with Hunnies and Hot Sauce) did the amazing final touches for our color correction.

The amount of work our community did to make this happen makes us feel so privileged because we had zero budget for this and most of the equipment was all of theirs. In total, we had 1 scouting day, 1 rehearsal day, and then a 6-hour shoot day.

Hanna really took the lead on everything and made things run smoothly for us. It was exciting and a bit nerve-racking because this was both of our first times doing something like this, but because we all were so transparent with one another, we knew that there was room to be creative and make mistakes. That really helped take off a lot of pressure on both sides. Hanna was so gracious and patient in bringing in all her equipment and inviting her team, Kirk and Ryan, to help. It was stressful at first only because it was a start to a new working relationship, but because Hanna was such a professional at what she does, we were able to learn a lot and make mistakes in a safe space. There were so many things we didn't think of during this process so it was a big learning curve, but the whole team never shamed us and were very collaborative and understanding of the process.

Working with Sal and Dree was a similar experience as well. It was a great privilege and advantage to work with Sal, because not only do they have experience editing for their own film company SunKissed Productions, they have the same face as me haha. So Sal knows my angles and what I like and don’t like. We finished editing within a day and then sent it to Hanna to clean up the final editing touches. Dree helped color the video and finished it within a day as well. They always checked in on us and asked us specifically what we wanted with every clip and did an amazing job.

behind the scenes still by lien do

behind the scenes still by lien do

any shout outs you wanna make?

Everyone that helped make this music video possible: Shooting Blind, SunKissed Productions, Text Me Records, Different Fur Studios, Hunnies & Hot Sauce, QTViet Cafe, thirtysix+, and everyone in our community that has supported our journey for our EP project.