When Gold Coast alt-rock band Selve were offered a residency at Coolangatta’s iconic Pink Hotel, they created one of the most intertextual projects to come out of the pandemic.

Taking over the Artist’s Suite, Selve channelled 1960s rock vibes and creative minds of the past for their single and music video for ‘The Pink Hotel’, and an upcoming documentary.

Later recorded at Matt Corby’s Rainbow Valley studio and produced by Alex Henriksson (Tia Gostelow, Matt Corby), ‘The Pink Hotel’ is a largely indefinable, but utterly aspirational. Selve have a rare knack for opening up pathways within their listeners as they capture the trippy totems of their predecessors, and turn them into something entirely new.

Tone Deaf sat down with Selve on the rooftop of The Pink Hotel on the Gold Coast to dive into the wild journey that led to the creation of a documentary, multiple song demos, and a music video in 10 days.

The below interview has been edited for clarity.

Let’s go back to the beginning, how the residency at the Pink Hotel come about?

Loki Liddle: We came here for Creation’s birthday one night two years ago. They told us there was a little bar called the Janitor’s Closet. This door opens up and it’s just a Janitor’s Closet, just like brooms and shit going on. I was like, ‘this is bullshit’. And she’s like, ‘wait no, no it’s got a secret latch and you open it and you go inside’. There’s this funky little lounge bar. We went in, the two of the owners were in there and it had only been open for two days at that point. I asked them if I could do a residency and stay for two or three nights and write like a short story called the Neon Parable of the Pink Hotel

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Did you already have the idea in your head at that point?

Loki Liddle: That night it came into fruition. And then there’s this guy who works down there at the bar, his name was Wade. He looks like Dracula. And he’s just paid to be there all night making cocktails and then he’ll get on the piano and play you like, Radiohead. 

So we just kind of like fell in love with the whole atmosphere. Then it was probably another year later when we were doing our first tour for our Snake of Light EP and we came here to do a photo shoot. Because we’d really liked it from that time. We came in, we’re all suited up, dressed nice. Did this really cool photo shoot on this really old film camera. We were so inspired by the vibe that Harry and I, went home and just jammed and wrote a song. 

Then I put together like an idea of spending 10-14 days creating a documentary and a music video. It was very pipe-dreamish. 

Harry Edwards: What was happening was pure imagination. We wrote [the first version of] the song in about the space of 90 minutes. 

Loki Liddle: We came and we showed the song to the Pink Hotel guys and they really loved it. So they were willing to write the letter of support and we got the (RADF) grant and it all went down. 

How did the residency at the Pink Hotel play out?

The grant was for 10-12 days to write songs, record a documentary and make a music video. It was all scheduled for April or May and the plan was to just bring all of our studio gear into the rooms. We had our electric drum kit, brought our base rig, brought our amps, brought all the microphones, brought out little Tascam recording system. But then COVID struck and it all got postponed. 

Then it occurred to [the Pink Hotel owners] towards the end of the COVID lockdowns… They were like, ‘Wait. Why are we waiting until COVID ends to put you in the room. Why don’t you just come in now while it’s empty’.

Reece Bowden: [Laughs] Let me check my calendar. 

What was the process for turning your short story, the Neon Parable of the Pink Hotel, into the single “The Pink Hotel”?

Loki Liddle: Often when I’m writing a body of work, it’ll start with a short story to build out characters and all these kind of themes; then the songs are references to those characters and ideas. The whole premise of the whole Pink Hotel body of work that we wanted to make was that it was the last place open in the middle of the apocalypse. 

Harry Edwards: This was written far before any of this [COVID-19]. 

Creation Saffigna: When everyone thought it was a myth. It was like an omen for everything that was to come. 

Loki Liddle: ‘The Pink Hotel’ is like a referential circus. A lot of our current music is like, ‘how do we parody contemporary values, while also still nailing the genre?’ There’s one line in the middle of it that’s like:

Lennon smoking on the stairs, waiting to see if Cohen cares that Dylan’s got him in his glare, while Krishna cuts a single pear,  Nick Cave removes his underwear, and raises up a bloody hand, Sgt Peppers Band gets the hemlock shared, and the groupies die where the alter stands…’.

I also tried to bounce off the idea of the hotel as an actual literal space to write a song off, like the hotel motif in music. Like ‘Hotel California’ and ‘Heartbreak Hotel’. There’s this really long-standing archetype of the hotel within rock music. Then I wanted to integrate like The Shining-esque aspects and all these kind of things, which led to the video. 

The pink hotel
The Pink Hotel cover art

The Pink Hotel project seems very… ambitious. How did you pull off a documentary, multiple song demos, and the music video in 10 days?

Harry Edwards: We also planned to do two music videos, another for our song ‘Friend’…

Loki Liddle: It ended up being more spread out in the end, fortunately. I think because we were trying to make the grant impressive. In the end because it was COVID, we couldn’t get the film crew in because at that time Screen Australia had restrictions. You couldn’t have more than 20 people on a set.

[The documentary] ended up just being a director, just one camera, one guy. Walking around with this weird Scorpion rig. He stayed with us four nights out of the 10.

Harry Edwards: (with a note of sarcasm) It was the 16-year-old rock and roll pipe dream coming alive. 

How many demos did you lay down across the 10 days?

Loki Liddle: We had ‘Night Watchman’, ‘Pink Hotel’, ‘Phone Booth’, ‘Nth Degree’, ‘Apocalypse’ and the beginnings of ‘The Dame’. We’re still performing all of those songs. 

The song and music video for ‘The Pink Hotel’ has so many ‘blink and you’ll miss it’ references: Hunter S. Thompson, Bob Dylan, David Bowie, The Lizard King (Jim Morrison), Elvis Presley… the list goes on.

Reece: [The song and video are] inseparable, like the concept is within the lyrics perfectly. 

Harry Edwards: In that video I think it climaxes musically and visually two thirds of the way through, when the song hits the bridge. Boom, it’s the crotch of Elvis. It was kind of a big pinnacle or hard combination of all those elements. 

Loki Liddle: We filmed it in November so we had enough time to have recorded the demos and reflect on what we want to do. I’d written the music video’s plot months and months before we came in. so we had it there.

Had you planned the music video scenes frame by frame? 

Loki Liddle: We had the synopsis. Then we gave it to the director, Elliot Deem, and then he made it come to life in his own way. But they were, the writing of the song and the writing of the music video were… I always had the music video in mind, you know. 

Did it turn out like you had planned?

Loki Liddle: Better. 

Harry Edwards: When [the video] was being crystallised, in the chrysalis phase, we were talking about it when the concept arose to make it a marketing thing. That was, between the two of us, we had this connection already made. And I would be like, ‘yeah man, let’s just sit down and like you know, we’ll have a session together’. And this motherfucker [he gestures towards Loki] would come out with just pages and pages… He had the full idea, it was just there. 

Loki Liddle: It was very funny, the music video. Being months later, it gave enough time for us to actually have enough space so it wasn’t rushed. Because we come in with the documentary – the documentary is actually like a mocumentary – that ends with the music video. So the documentary starts and this was also pre-plotted. 

[The mockumentary shows that] we’re here, making music. We’re just a band, trying to do these kind of things, blah, blah, blah. And then it will get halfway through and Reece will be like, ‘oh I found Loki’s dream journal last night. And he said that he was skinning me alive, it’s quite horrifying. I don’t know if I trust him’. 

Then so it builds. I’m gradually getting this idea that there’s a spirit in the hotel, and by the end of the documentary, it becomes clear that we’ve become possessed. And then it goes into the music video and I’m playing the devil. 

You recruited many of your friends for the music video, how did that go? Did anyone really lose themselves in the character?

Loki Liddle: We had like 25 people to whom the line between film and party was becoming very thin. It was necessary because it’s what we were doing, but for example our Elvis… In the opening scene he’s like shaking someone’s hand but it looks like he’s acting like a drunk Elvis, but he is smashed. Ruined. Ruined. 

Reece Bowden: The audacity was captured. The earthquaking of his hips. 

Reece Bowden: He forced me to give him a tongue kiss at the end of the evening. It wasn’t quite forced, we’re very good friends. You understand. We’re better friends now. 

Creation Saffigna: That’s such part of creating a culture is bringing our friends together, who are the most important people in our lives, to be part of it all with us. 

Check out Selve’s clip for ‘The Pink Hotel’:

YouTube VideoPlay

Do you each have a favourite part of the music video?

Liam: I wasn’t in the music video, I wasn’t there when it was made. I saw the finished product recently when I was at the house, you guys saw my reaction when the whole interstellar Elvis bit came. It was hilarious. As well as the music bit where it hits a whole other frequency under the song, it explodes it into the cosmos. I wasn’t ready for that.

Reece Bowden: I don’t know if it’s my favourite bit of the finished product. But probably my favourite moment of the shoot – at the risk of leaning into my own vanity – there was a moment where we’ve got like maybe 10 or 15 of the cast all had to get down on their knees. And I had my guitar and I sort of lean back onto them, doing the end solo-chorus bit. 

Creation Saffigna: I think it’s amazing that you said that. We all have a favourite bit of ourselves in it. One of my favourite moments is and this would also be hard to catch, but there’s a moment where Prince is dressed up by one of our female friends, Jenna. She fucking rocked it. And then one of our other friends played Frida Kahlo. In one of the opening scenes in the artist’s suite, they start fully making out. No one asked them. I think it shocked Jesus.

Loki Liddle: I thoroughly enjoy the dancing scene at the end. The dancing on the table and then there’s the choreography.

Reece’s cousin Savannah, who is a dancer at the Leda in Paris, she choreographed the thing. I was like is there anyway she’s going to be able to teach all of these people this you know, piece of choreography. No one here are dancers, but she has experience in teaching kids dance. And when you consider the volumes of Young Henry’s consumed…I’m sure we were all quite akin to children. 

It’s one of those videos that you can watch 10 times and still pick up new things – which is genius when it comes to streaming algorithms. 

Loki Liddle: A lot of credit should go to Elliott and Isobel (who are actually partners) as well. For making it happen. Elliott’s just an amazing director. And Isobel is an amazing producer. What you should know about them though is they’re as wild as the rest of us. So it wasn’t like when they came in the residency, we had a pair of stiffs. Elliot in particular was getting into the trenches and always does, like he’s very unhinged. It’s good. 

Creation Saffigna: He’s a member of Selve, just as much as we are.