Life through the lens: Rare Americans delve into the lives of drug addicts, gamblers and cartoon dogs


Rare Americans is one of those bands that read the rule book cover-to-cover and then set it alight. They’ve repeatedly proved their pioneering mentality with both their innovative pop punk sound and their high-production music videos. (Of course, it does help that frontman James Priestner owns small production company where the band are based in Vancouver.) Since the band dropped their first music video over a month ago for ‘Cats Dogs & Rats’, they’ve dropped a new one each week. With their self-titled album release looming (Aug 10), we’ve decided to do a run down of their incredible visuals.


Is about choices, decisions, and the company we keep. How seemingly small choices can become life altering, and how groups of authority influence us all.”

‘Cats, Dogs & Rats’ ticks all the boxes of a pop-punk anthem without regurgitating the tried and tested formula. The pioneers playfully disregard the genre’s tropes, opting for acoustic guitar and horns as their weapons of choice and incorporating a love of hip-hop.

The colourful video was created by Brooklyn-based animator Harry Tietelman (Killer Mike of Run The Jewels).


“Is the story of Toronto’s infamous Moss Park, and the people who inhabit it. Drugs, booze, addiction, and people just trying to stay alive.”

Plagued by issues of drug overdoses, homelessness, and crime, Moss Park has made headlines recently due to unprecedented attempts to tackle the Opioid crisis. Rare Americans’ timely cut seems to be from the perspective of a rough sleeper with a drug addiction, who can’t remember ‘if I was just fucked up or abused’. The lyrics read like a harrowing documentation into life in Moss Park, especially with front man James Priestner’s surly delivery. His typical hip-hop influenced phrasing and half-spoken vocals are backed by an upbeat, unaffected jaunt which possibly mimics the attitudes of residents that have become desensitized to the emergency over the years. The bleakness of the crisis is emphasised with the video’s black and white hue and candid shots of the park’s inhabitants.


“Is a song about a drug addicted woman who can’t kick her habit, knowing that every use could bring the end. She ends up living at Vancouver’s infamous Balmoral Hotel, pulling tricks and taking hits.”

Indie Crush contributor Callum Oliver said:

The track is complemented by the hazy soft-focus of its video, mirroring the lyrical references to drinking and drugging until you’re “numb in the face”. This is heightened by the video’s drab monochrome giving way to an eerie swaying blue that slips in and out of slow motion during the intoxication sequences. Although it all ends, with dispiriting inevitability, with footage of the band playing in a bar, this traditionalism is at least cushioned by the narrative caveat of the performance being filtered through the unreliable perspective of the video’s protagonist.


“Is the story of a professional athlete turned conman who lost all his money from lavish spending. He ended up conning his own adoptive mother out of her house, after she raised and nurtured him from a young age. Not gonna tell you who though, see if you can figure it out!”

As far as Rare Americans’ songs and videos go, ‘Pay Me Back’ takes the biscuit for the most on-the-nose approach. The chorus chant of “you fucking idiot, you fucking gambler…pay me back/pay me back,” is mimed by a cast of misfit characters around a blackjack table, waggling their fingers in the face of the antagonist. After the hard hitting narrative of ‘Balmoral Hotel’, this is the boys at their most outrageous and entertaining.


“This is a song about living between your own ears, feeling lost, and finding the courage and self-belief to stand up for yourself.”

Arguably, the video for ‘I vs I’ is the most generic. At the centre of the narrative is the typical down-and-out teenage and the familiar skate park setting, both of which make the basis for countless pop punk videos. But, ride it out till the end and you’ll be surprised by a dramatic cliff hanger, which left us wondering if there’s a final chapter to this video series. Even when the band touch on stereotypes and well-worn ideas, they never fail to put a twist on the traditional.

Rare Americans’ self-titled album is due out August 10.

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