Y La Bamba’s video for “Ponce Pilato,” released earlier this week, has been a long time in the making—pretty much since the conception of Portland’s newest synchronized swimming group, the Olivia Darlings, actually.
Formed in collaboration between the band, Olivia Darlings creative director Kristin Wallace and video director Madison Rowley, the concept for the video developed three years ago, when Wallace first discovered Esther Williams and old synchronized swimming manuals. After hearing the song on Y La Bamba’s 2012 album, Court the Storm, the two friends approached the band with their idea and recruited both the Olivia Darlings and Portland’s local professional synchronized swimming team, M.A.C., to appear in the video.
Shot with grainy, vintage 16mm film, the video comes off as a whimsical ode to water, nature and the forgotten art of synchronized swimming. In between lush shots of the Redwoods and Puget Sound, the video follows two women from the water as they venture onto land, and culminates in a nostalgic tribute to synchronized swimming of days passed.
The video was released in support of the Olivia Darling’s Kickstarter campaign, which aims to send more than 100 aquatic art kits to local pools, and came out only a few days after Williams’ death.
BONUS: A few questions for Y La Bamba’s Luz Elena Mendoza, director Madison Rowley and Kristin Wallace.
Willamette Week Can you tell me a little bit about the song?
Luz Elena Mendoza: I wrote that song four years ago almost. Paul Edward Cameron wrote the guitar part for it and I wrote the melody and it was inspired by a relationship/friendship I had with a young woman, a super awesome girl from Atwater, California. Even though I’m not from that town, I have a lot of family there and I grew up in that town visiting with my family. It’s a song about friendship and family and love.
The video features local Portland synchronized swimming group, the Olivia Darlings. How did you get involved with them? Did you approach them or did they approach you?
Mendoza: Kristin [Wallace] is our friend and our accordion player’s girlfriend. She’s really creative and just had this vision of trying to recreate the life of the aquatic arts. So it’s something that was introduced to us. We worked together. We were the band, we provided the song and collaborated that way.
What was the concept behind the video?
Kristin Wallace: So three years ago we were talking about a music video, and about showcasing this magicalness of synchronized swimming, but in nature, not in chlorinated pools—back to the roots of what inspired us, which is this earth and the water. We looked into all the [Y La Bamba] songs and felt so moved by “Ponce,” and that it felt dreamy and that it felt water-y. We were all like, “That’s it.” We talked about sort of featuring women who come out of the water, and their God is the water and this artform and that’s what inspires them.
Madison Rowley: It’s a very loose video, but essentially the girls leave the water and they kind of converge with these other women who are gathering in the water, and along the way the band comes across things that these girls have left behind—like books on synchronized swimming and the little camp that the girls set up. The story was formed around that.
So you mentioned that this song is four years old and the video is a year and a half old. Why decide to release it now?
Mendoza: I feel like from when the time the song was written and taking that long, two years to actually document it, it’s just the slow process that paid off, you know? You write this thing and there’s no reason to rush anything. So I feel like it’s the same thing with this, it kind of encapsulates the whole issue of letting things naturally develop. I like it like that, because even after that fact, and watching the video you are finding new little things in it, new little secrets that are speaking so loudly. To me, that’s why I write music, because it can be interpreted constantly. When you add another element to it in collaboration it just only enhances that even more. And that’s why I believed in it.
What’s coming up next for Y La Bamba?
Mendoza: Right now we are taking a break. We are going on a tour next week for two and a half weeks, we’re going down to Colorado and Utah. And then we have a couple of shows lined up for September and then just kind of taking a breather. I’m really excited about the EP we did back in December or January for The Lumineers tour, and I’m excited to do this break to see what’s going to happen...I feel pretty open right now.
SEE IT: Luz Elena Mendoza plays a tribute to Esther Williams at Mississippi Studios, 3939 N Mississippi Ave., on Saturday, June 15. 6 pm.