Connan Mockasin and LA Priest are tired of music for music's sake
Sitting down face-to-face with Connan Mockasin and Sam Dust in East London, I need to take a moment and re-calibrate my perceptions. Over the past few years, New Zealander Mockasin and England-born, Wales-based Dust have separately cultivated profiles as sort of retro-futuristic psychedelic lounge lizards; the former under his own name, the latter as LA Priest (you pronounce it “la priest”, by the way). Promotional shots for Soft Hair – the duo’s sort-of-new project together – see the two of them dolled up like Adam and Eve on Mars, replete with a ginormous yellow snake around their spray-tanned shoulders.
Not for nothing do I fully anticipate an encounter with a couple of equally large personalities when I take my place opposite 33 year-old Mockasin and Dust, 27, to discuss their self-titled debut album under their joint moniker. In fact, I’m greeted by a perfectly normal-looking couple of guys sipping on white wine, albeit both wearing hangdog expressions that belie a heavy few days on the promotional trail. Dust is kitted out in a faded black tee with his dark, stringy hair draped all over it and Mockasin, well, he’s wearing what looks suspiciously like a cable-knit sweater.
Where’s the coyly seductive, moustachioed tease from the cover of Mockasin’s 2013 ‘Caramel’ LP, I wonder? What about the prince of bizarre porno chic on the front of last year’s ‘Inji’ record from LA Priest? Throughout our chat together on a balmy September afternoon, it becomes clear that Mockasin and Dust revel in multimedia theatrical artifice; creative indulgence beyond the confines of their music and lyrics.
The surrealistic video for new single ‘Lying Has to Stop’ perfectly encapsulates the pair’s artistic ethos in action. Both writhe around in front of tinfoil-plastered walls, don a series of bizarre outfits and ultimately end up in the shower with Mockasin filming Dust with a hand-held camera as he rubs soap all over his chest. It’s absurd and, fundamentally, it’s all really just about escapism and having fun.
“There’s a little bit [of a theme] but not as much as you’d think,” says Mockasin. “We basically had a party at my friend’s house – Joseph Burt, who actually directed it with us – and we turned his bedroom into the silver room and just partied. We always have parties at his house. Also we had a nice 35mm camera, so we basically filmed the party and directed it a bit.”
There’s an unmistakable sense of playful homoeroticism to it all though, I say. “Well, when you get two boys together…” Mockasin begins, offering half a smile before he drifts off. “Actually the record’s a bit like that as well, isn’t it?”
“Yeah,” says Dust. “I think more than anything we were surprised very early on when we started working together how people interpreted our relationship, and now we just kind of…” Play up to it? “I don’t think we need to now. We don’t need to do anything; just stand next to each other and people will get that impression. It’s gone really weird actually because if you did that kind of stuff in previous decades nobody would bat an eyelid, now it’s gone back to people being sort of shocked again.”