Video premiere: Emmanuelle June, ‘Snake Spit’

Emmanuelle June

Emmanuelle June is a Sweden-born, L.A.-based singer, songwriter, actor, director and writer whose new single frames a dark, daunting emotional purge in four gripping minutes of experimental pop.

“Snake Spit” is almost a psychoactive drug itself. Made with producer Chris Kaz, the song recalls the spoken-word work of Patti Smith, featuring June in full serpentine splendor, narrating over menacing beats that pulse, recede and slither like the very urges the song embodies.

“‘Snake Spit’ is about Kundalini rising. Awakening desire and slaying demons,” June says. “I wrote the lyrics in London in early 2019. Walking around Kensington Gardens I began pondering on the word serpentine since I was walking past the Serpentine Gallery every day. Also, a cobra happens to be one of my spirit guides ever since I was a child. I got into my creative concentration and the lyrics came out. At first, I thought it was as a poem. Another day, I heard Chris playing this track he had made some time before and I felt such a strong urge to sing on it. He recorded my vocals a day or two later. ‘Snake Spit’ fell into its place as a song.”

June studied acting in London and New York (there’s a production of the Smith/Sam Shepard play “Cowboy Mouth” in her past), has published works of poetry and matriculated to Los Angeles in 2014 to immerse herself in the music scene. For the “Snake Spit” video, she teamed up with Academy Award-nominated cinematographer Seamus McGarvey (“Anna Karenina,” “Atonement”). They co-directed, filming at the Dream Hotel in Hollywood, the location ingratiating itself into the fever dream of a song.

“We wanted to make the video highly claustrophobic and fervent to reveal a character filled with desire and compulsion. … Longing and desire as savage as Oscar Wilde’s Salomé and as crippling and morbid as the playwright, Sarah Kane’s work, ‘Psychosis 4.48,’” June explains. “We had a couple of other locations and details such as costume and make-up set, however, after that one shoot on the balcony, looking through the footage we just looked at each other and said, ‘This is it.’ It’s fully shot within the doorframe of a balcony at the Dream Hotel in Hollywood — hence the massive orbs and pixels of colorful lights. It’s all the lights of Hollywood.

“I see these lights as separate entities that are inside the character’s head which is a full-on frenzy of lights and movement, whereas the reality is she is isolated and in confinement which could very well be an asylum. This being a direct reflection of how society has treated strong, confident women throughout history. I edited the video during quarantine in L.A. It was a real challenge to edit since every single frame of hours and hours of footage was magically intriguing and perfectly shot. … Need I mention Seamus is one of the greatest cinematographers in the world.”

||| Watch: The video for “Snake Spit”