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Uni Celebrates 4/20 With Space-Age Pierre Cardin Inspired Video—Plus Interview

Happy holidays, plant lovers! Turn on, tune in and drop out, for NYC-based glam-rock trio Uni has a treat for you in the guise of their groovy new single, Donna Marijuana.

From the Cold War to War of the Worlds, Pierre Cardin’s space-age visors have never felt more appropriate. To escape this planet’s inhospitable viruses, we retreat into the bubbly plasticine iron maiden of our addictions, be they weed, social media, sodium, Skittles, or religion. In this Brave New World, black holes are the new black, K-holes are the Blue Light Special at K-mart, and polymath wunderkind Charlotte Kemp Muhl’s brain-melting time travel video whips up a tasty mix of late-20th century Waldorf salad, with plenty of nuts.

The video celebrates the hedonistic pleasures of reefer madness… all the while poking fun at the War On Drugs. In 1971, President Richard Nixon criminalized American narcotics use (the infamous announcement clip is included in the video). Nixon’s policy agenda spread across all levels of government, leading to exponential growth in incarceration…but yielding little effect on violent crime rates. In Donna Marijuana, the opening scene depicts decrepit doppelgängers of Ron and Nancy watching Tricky Dick, stuffing their maws with Big Pharma poppers and other perfectly legal drugs. The video cuts to batshit Busby-Berkley-meets-Laugh-In dance sequences with glam rock aliens in glittery go-go getups. From the spot-on 60s film grain and prisms, to the bizarre lyrics of the track itself, you will swiftly lose track of time, era, and space. The track is fun, funky, and free – the perfect soundtrack for a groovy record party…or a munchie run to the 7-11.

UNI, comprised of Charlotte Kemp Muhl (bass), David Strange (guitar) and Jack James (vocals), represents what happens when three artists unleash their combined talents with a DIY spin. The band orchestrates everything themselves, from the concept, to directing, to producing – resulting in grandiose, maximalist art. Kemp has had a storied career as a model and songwriter (she and her partner Sean Lennon also perform as Ghost Of A Saber Tooth Tiger), as well as a respected video director. Kemp’s unbridled creativity, enthusiasm, and sense of humour is gleefully on full display with Donna Marijuana, and it is a sight to behold, no matter your state of mind.

Smoke ’em if you got ’em, and enjoy Donna Marijuana below:

What was the inspiration behind writing the new single Donna Marijuana?

Jack: Kemp told me it was about me. “Donna” in Italian means woman and I’m not sure what “Marijuana” is or means, but I can only assume, given Kemp said it was about me, means “gorgeous and talented”. I was humbled, to say the least.

Kemp: Haha, the demo was written with our friend Sam from the Warbly Jets. It was our first recording session with another band and I wasn’t sure how the work flow would go, but I was super impressed that he stayed awake for two days with me running the patch bay while I operated ProTools as everyone else slept on the couch and the floor. The lyrics were initially inspired by his stoner ex-girlfriend- but then David chipped in with a few zingers too, like “she’s blowing me, blowing my brain”, haha. That made me laugh too much to not use it. I ended up rewriting the riffs and remixing it and wanted it to end up a satire on the War On Drugs, since it’s one of the largest agencies of corruption in our country and incredibly hypocritical in the context of big Pharma.

The video is brilliant, What was the process in making the video, aliens, 60’s theme, color schemes etc.?

Jack: Thanks! Typically Kemp and I both throw out a lot of ideas and figure out what pairs best together, like cheap wine and lean cuisine TV dinners.

I was playing the song over vintage 60’s footage for inspiration and found it lined up perfectly with Nancy Sinatra’s Boots, which is where the idea to have dancers came from.
I was also cutting out a lot of fashion campaigns and things like Moschino and other Nixon era references and wanted colorful bobs.

Kemp: It ended up some Venn diagram of Pierre Cardin space age fashion, Ed Sullivan, Twilight Zone and 90’s MTV. I liked the concept of taking all these vintage refs and running them through an alien filter, which is why we used prosthetics and generally created an alternate dimension swingin’ 60s. My directing refs were Sun Ra’s Space Is The Place, Blow Up, that psychedelic Jane Birkin film Wonderwall, and any Ken Russell film.
Jack came up with the choreography and was extremely helpful with all the fashion, we ended up sewing those Cardin outfits by hand with our friend Kendall Green.

How has the pandemic influenced your creative process and what’s the future for UNI look like?

Jack: There’s a pandemic?

Kemp: The biggest way is forcing us to work remotely on Exquisite Corpses (victorian parlor game for making art but new virtual Zoom version). Since I’ve been in quarantine on a farm and haven’t seen my bandmates in half a year, my work style has changed drastically from capturing live band performances on tape to playing everything myself on MIDI and analogue synths. Which I was trepidatious about at first, but it’s opened so many new doors of freedom and experimentation. I can’t wait to get Jack and David back up here, though!

Follow UNI on all streaming services here.

Alice Teeple

Alice Teeple is a photographer, multidisciplinary artist, and writer. She is not in Tin Machine.

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