Born and raised in Montreal, Stefanie Parnell is an insightful, refined, and melodically driven singer/songwriter whose music reflects a mix of ambient progressions and folk influences. Parnell sings from a place where deep-seated anxieties lie beneath the surface as she expresses her heartfelt experiences. Her music will leave you feeling comforted by the dissonant chords and melancholic lyrics.
Modern Tragedy is Stefanie’s debut EP (released October 15) exploring loss, conflict and internal struggles through moody soundscapes, mesmerizing synth sounds and enchanting vocal performances. We had the pleasure to speak with Stefanie regarding the new video for “Breathe” which you can dive into below.
Tell us the story of this song, why did you choose to visualize this song specifically?
‘Breathe’ was the second and last single I released before putting out my debut EP, ‘Modern Tragedy’ on October 15th. Naturally, I wanted to put out an official video for each single and given what the song is about, I figured it was (and always is) an important topic to talk about. I wanted to find a way to visualize mental illness in a clear way that would make those suffering feel less alone. I will admit, most of the video is quite dark and perhaps disturbing, so there were a few moments of worry and concern that came over me. I am hoping the video doesn’t make some viewers feel worse in any way and hopefully most people understand the storyline beyond the creepy visuals.
The reason I went as far as creating something as morbid as you see in this video comes down to my personal experience with mental illness, specifically anxiety. On several occasions when I was experiencing really intense episodes of anxiety, there had been moments where I felt like I wasn’t in control of my own body. I felt as if some sort of force was plaguing my mind with unsettling thoughts and images.
What I love about any form of art is that it’s often open for interpretation but when it comes to the video for ‘Breathe’, I am really hoping that the viewers understand the message I am trying to put across, as like I said, it is a topic that we should all continue to be talking about.
What was the inspiration behind this video (visuals, storyline, etc.)?
When it came time to produce a music video for ‘Breathe’, it didn’t take me long to come up with a concept. It also helped to have worked with two incredibly talented individuals who I have had the pleasure of working with in the past, Lee Thorburn and Bryan Wilkat.
I wanted the location for the video to represent both calm and panic simultaneously. I think the majority of people will take a bath to relax and ease their mind and body. This represents calm. (Easter egg: I actually don’t enjoy taking baths as they make me feel panicky…ironic, huh?). The water represents panic as humans are unable to breathe while being submerged in water (assuming that of course we don’t have any diving gear, etc). Panic attacks for me – or even severe anxious episodes – have often made me feel as if I can’t breathe so that’s where I made the connection with the water.
The cloudy water with the rose pedals symbolizes a calm state of mind, although I still wanted the viewers to get a sense that something was slightly off even while portraying this specific character. That’s where the deadpans played a major role in this video. I think having shot pretty much the entire video in slow motion also helped bring the emotion to the next level.
The black eyes, dark water and rope symbolizes a panic state of mind for the same character but while undergoing a panic attack or experiencing severe anxiety. I think the choices for props/colours are pretty self explanatory while depicting the state of this character.
What was the process of making this video?
The process was slightly challenging in the early stages of developing this video. Finding the location and a time that worked for all three of us played a big part in that. When I decided I wanted a bathtub to be the only location for this video, I envisioned a very particular bathtub – a clawfoot bathtub. Ideally we were also hoping to find a bathroom that didn’t have much going on in the background and allowed enough space to work in. Thankfully we found the perfect location and the end product was better than I had imagined.
It took us a full day to shoot and a second day to put it all together in post-production. I spent approximately two, three hour shifts (total of six hours) in the bathtub to shoot both “characters”. I’m pretty sure I had experienced mild hypothermia after the first shift in the bathtub haha. The bath bombs, milk, chocolate sauce and props were thought out quite a bit and in my opinion, all contribute to telling the story. I think if I had to choose the biggest challenge for this shoot, it was getting those massive, black eye-contacts into my eyes. (You can find some fun behind the scene photos and videos on my Instagram handle: @stefanieparnell).