13 Dreams. Photo by Caitlin Ridenour

This Video From Electro-R&B Duo 13 Dreams Is A Heartbroken VHS Nightmare

“I could just hate you or hold it inside but I choose to forgive,” New Orleans-based R&B duo 13 Dreams croon in the nostalgic new video for their single “The Middle.” The video feels like popping an old family movie into the VCR at a parent’s house, but the song itself looks forward to a more realistic, if tortured, present. Premiering today (June 26) on OffBeat.com, the music video for “The Middle” is a fever dream brought on by the pain of heartbreak, mixed with cheesy family photos of a bygone era.

In it, vintage family photos featuring a variety of genders, ages and ethnicities are sequenced together. The subjects lip sync the words to the song with varying degrees of enthusiasm, but they all share a visible sense of longing. Even with the obvious sentiment attached to the grainy, flickering footage, the characters are equally responsible in contributing to the video’s wistful intrigue.

“When we were casting the video we had a lot of different people in mind, but eventually we covered so much ground with regards to age range, race, gender and social contexts that the visual became more about the overall context of life being this constant state of the unknown,” 13 Dreams said. “Sometimes that’s encouraging and a reason for people to move forward and push themselves harder, but more often than not it’s completely terrifying.”

The duo admit that the video’s contrast with the song’s modern sound exists to create a feeling of longing for a previous time. They describe their latest project, Moonset, as a breakup album, and they see being in “The Middle” as just one of many feelings one experiences after a relationship ends.

“‘The Middle’ is specifically about being in limbo and wanting the most positive outcomes while recognizing that you have little-to-no control over the person you desire reciprocity from,” they explain. “In that respect, breakups are by nature these nostalgic moments in life. They’re instances, where even if there’s anger and hated present in your heart, it’s only there because of the acknowledgement that there was so much about that experience that you truly loved in the first place. That’s the energy that keeps people going when it seems like the weight of losing someone significant can make want to just give in.”

The video’s director, Michael Arcos, has prior experience with the group, as he edited their “Kaleidoscopes & Beach Scenes” video in 2017. In fact, it was Arcos who originally came up with the video’s concept. He proposed the use of photographic superimposition in the video, where one combines several photos at different scales to create something akin to a collage. This technique was very popular throughout the 70s and 80s, and it is usually associated it with cheesy family photo shoots done by professional photographers. The photos also reminded the band of Queen’s video for “Bohemian Rhapsody,” where the video’s kaleidoscopic effect mimicked that of looking through a pane of glass or prism. Lee Garcia created the video’s glitchy art, and lighting was handled by Bruno Doria.

“Although the song utilizes newer techniques and modern electronics, I wanted the video to feel like a VHS you could find underneath your senile, ‘shell shocked’ grandfather’s rocking chair,” Arcos said. “To then create an obscured memory of a haunted past.”

13 Dreams’ sophomore album Moonset is available on SoundCloud and Bandcamp