The pop stars hooked to the silver screen

Cinema's styles and stories have been a rich resource for singers such as Lana Del Rey. It's a fertile attraction, says Gillian Orr

When 24-year-old New Yorker Lana Del Rey burst on to the music scene last summer by uploading a song to the internet called "Video Games", the music world quickly sat up and took note.

As well as being a fantastically moody and seductive track, the video – a montage that hints at the dark side of Hollywood and includes footage of Sunset Boulevard, the Chateau Marmont and the actress Paz de la Huerta stumbling about drunk on the sidewalk – had critics comparing Del Rey's aesthetic to that of the director David Lynch. She has since confessed that the man responsible for films such as Blue Velvet and Mulholland Drive is one of her biggest influences, even describing her music as "Hollywood sadcore". The videos for tracks such as "Kinda Outta Luck" and "Blue Jeans" have confirmed her as a disciple of Lynch's surrealist style. Other sultry songstresses waxing lyrical about the dark art of Lynch last year were Anna Calvi and Chelsea Wolfe, both of whom cite him as a major force in their work.

Art has always inspired other art and with their fully realised aesthetic, it makes sense for musicians to look to directors and there are a number of different ways that artists can be influenced by them. And there are also plenty of artists doing it.

British folk band Noah and the Whale got their name by marrying the title of one of their favourite films, The Squid and the Whale, with the name of its director, Noah Baumbach. The band often borrows from the aesthetic of Baumbach and his modern American indie cinema contemporary, Wes Anderson. The frontman, Charlie Fink, is a keen film-maker and has been responsible for a number of their videos as well as a charming short film that accompanied their second album, The First Days of Spring, which is full of classic Anderson features such as slow-motion shots and idiosyncratic costumes. They may have lost the Anderson-esque blue and yellow colour palette that they wore when they started in 2007, but they still nurture the aesthetics of those film-makers. The video for "Life Is Life", although made by the photographer Autumn de Wilde, is in keeping with this style.

As well as being inspired by an aesthetic, visualising a song can help to fully realise it. Talking about their latest album, Last Night on Earth, Fink has said, "I think making the film with the last album also influenced the way I wrote songs on this record, because when you're writing a scene for a film, it's very visual, and a lot of these songs are very visual, so it's initially imagined as scenes... you put your characters in this moment, and then you start writing about it."

Fink is not the only songwriter to visualise their songs to help write them. Two Wounded Birds, an up-and-coming indie band from Margate, are inspired by Quentin Tarantino. Johnny Danger, their frontman, says that he often thinks about how their songs would look in one of his films while he's writing them.

"Tarantino is a master of film-making," he says. "With the songwriting, it's the feeling that he brings inside you that you can't manufacture or decipher; just the vibe and the feel that it creates. I remember reading somewhere that he listens to music to inspire the scenes of the film and sometimes when I write I think about what sort of scene it would be if it was put to a visual or a Quentin Tarantino movie and I think that influences how I write as well. The visual is sometimes there before the music."

As their name might suggest, Summer Camp are fascinated by teen culture, particularly the films of John Hughes, who articulated the pain of being an adolescent like no one else. The lo-fi, indie-pop duo from London reference a number of teen flicks in their work, including Heathers and Say Anything, but it is the world that Hughes created in films such as The Breakfast Club, Sixteen Candles and Weird Science that influenced the band most of all.

"I think the thing that appeals to us is he set all his movies in this fictional town in Illinois called Shermer and quite often he'd use the same cast members," Summer Camp's Elizabeth Sankey tells me. "We liked the idea that there can be these different characters in the same town leading sort of parallel lives and all going to the same high school but not really interacting with each other and not knowing each other; we found that really interesting."

When it came to writing their debut album, they borrowed Hughes' template. "We created this fictional town in California called Condale and we've got an entire back story for all the characters that live there, which is pretty ridiculous. There's a fanzine you can get which tells you everything that has happened. It really helps with the writing and as we were working on the album we thought, 'Right, let's write a song for this character now.' It was just an amazing way of writing our album."

The resulting record, Welcome to Condale, is filled with winsome and nostalgic tracks, all of which harbour a definite sense of despair and angst. Released last summer, the record's artwork features teenagers letting their hair down at a keg party on the beach. "The leafy suburban, white picket fence is something we really love because it's really beautiful but at the same time there's so much darkness underneath. Anyone who grew up in suburbia can relate to that," says Sankey.

Another artist who draws inspiration from a director's recurring themes is Dirty Beaches, aka Taiwan-born Canadian immigrant Alex Zhang Hungtai. His atmospheric and grainy early rock'n'roll excels in a certain kind of storytelling, as heard on Badlands, his album. The title is a Bruce Springsteen reference, not a Terrence Malick one, but Hungtai acknowledges directors Jim Jarmusch and Wong Kar-wai as major influences. "I worked the graveyard shift at a video store as a teenager in Hawaii and during that time I watched a lot of movies which had a big impact on me," says Hungtai. "For me, the creative process of songwriting is very similar to film-making. I do a lot of research when I get an idea and from there I try and craft a sound. That sound is the leading man because the music is the leading man; it becomes the face and the look and the soul of the project. A lot of Wong Kar-wai's films are about the passage of time and a lot of his characters are in exile or away from home somehow. That appealed to me and I've tried to incorporate that into my work."

Aesthetically, Hungtai has tried to tap into Jarmusch and films such as Stranger Than Paradise and Down by Law: "He's always embodied that downtown New York cool from the late Seventies and Eighties." Sure enough, most of his artwork mimics the black-and-white look of such films.

It's no new thing for musicians to look to cinema for inspiration but when a film-maker has a strong visual style and recurring motifs and themes, you can bet there is a musician not far behind them, ready to further cross-pollinate the arts.

Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne as transgender artist Lili Elbe in The Danish Girl

First look at Oscar winner as transgender artistfilm
Arts and Entertainment
Season three of 'House of Cards' will be returning later this month

TV reviewHouse of Cards returns to Netflix
Arts and Entertainment
Harrison Ford will play Rick Deckard once again for the Blade Runner sequel

film review
Arts and Entertainment
The modern Thunderbirds: L-R, Scott, Virgil, Alan, Gordon and John in front of their home, the exotic Tracy Island

Arts and Entertainment
Natural beauty: Aidan Turner stars in the new series of Poldark
Arts and Entertainment

Oscars 2015 Mexican filmmaker uses speech to urge 'respect' for immigrants

Arts and Entertainment
The Oscar nominations are due to be announced today

Oscars 2015 Bringing you all the news from the 87th Academy Awards

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Lloyd-Hughes takes the leading role as Ralph Whelan in Channel 4's epic new 10-part drama, Indian Summers

TV Review

The intrigue deepens as we delve further but don't expect any answers just yet
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Segal and Cameron Diaz star in Sex Tape

Razzies 2015 Golden Raspberry Awards 'honours' Cameron Diaz and Kirk Cameron

Arts and Entertainment
The Oscars ceremony 2015 will take place at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles
Oscars 2015A quiz to whet your appetite for tonight’s 87th Academy Awards
Arts and Entertainment
Sigourney Weaver, as Ripley, in Alien; critics have branded the naming of action movie network Movies4Men as “offensive” and “demographic box-ticking gone mad”.
TVNaming of action movie network Movies4Men sparks outrage
Arts and Entertainment
Sleater Kinney perform at the 6 Music Festival at the O2 Academy, Newcastle
musicReview: 6 Music Festival
Arts and Entertainment
Sleater Kinney perform at the 6 Music Festival at the O2 Academy, Newcastle
musicReview: 6 Music Festival
Kristen Stewart reacts after receiving the Best Actress in a Supporting Role award for her role in 'Sils Maria' at the 40th annual Cesar awards
A lost Sherlock Holmes story has been unearthed
arts + ents Walter Elliot, an 80-year-old historian, found it in his attic,
Arts and Entertainment
Margot Robbie rose to fame starring alongside Leonardo DiCaprio in The Wolf of Wall Street

Film Hollywood's new leading lady talks about her Ramsay Street days

Arts and Entertainment
Right note: Sam Haywood with Simon Usborne page turning
musicSimon Usborne discovers it is under threat from the accursed iPad
Arts and Entertainment
A life-size sculpture by Nick Reynolds depicting singer Pete Doherty on a crucifix hangs in St Marylebone church
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Escalating tension: Tang Wei and Chris Hemsworth in ‘Blackhat’
filmReview: Chris Hemsworth stars as a convicted hacker in Blackhat
Arts and Entertainment

Oscar voter speaks out

Arts and Entertainment
The Oscars race for Best Picture will be the battle between Boyhood and Birdman

Arts and Entertainment
Anne Boleyn (Claire Foy), Thomas Cromwell (Mark Rylance)
tvReview: Wolf Hall
Arts and Entertainment
Tom Meighan of Kasabian collects the Best Album Award
Arts and Entertainment
Best supporting stylist: the late L’Wren Scott dressed Nicole Kidman in 1997
Arts and Entertainment
Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan as Anastasia Steele and Christian Grey in Fifty Shades of Grey


Arts and Entertainment
Mick Carter (Danny Dyer) and Peggy Mitchell (Barbara Windsor)
tv occurred in the crucial final scene
Arts and Entertainment
Glasgow wanted to demolish its Red Road flats last year
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

    Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

    Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
    How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

    Time to play God

    Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
    MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

    MacGyver returns, but with a difference

    Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
    Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

    Tunnel renaissance

    Why cities are hiding roads underground
    'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

    Boys to men

    The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
    Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

    Crufts 2015

    Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
    10 best projectors

    How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

    Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
    Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

    Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

    Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
    Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

    Monaco: the making of Wenger

    Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
    Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

    Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

    Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
    In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

    In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

    This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
    'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

    Homage or plagiarism?

    'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
    Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

    A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

    Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
    A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

    Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

    A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower