While it's great to talk about music with musicians, inspiration comes in many forms. As part of our new Under the Influence series, we spoke to A Grave With No Name (Alexander Shields) about the films that helped shape his new album, Wooden Mask. Dive in below.

Old Joy

Old Joy is a 2007 film by director Kelly Reichardt starring Daniel London and Will Oldham (who is best known for his music as Bonnie "Prince" Billy), which tells the story of two distanced friends who embark on a weekend camping trip to a hot spring. It's an understated film, depicting the drift of relationships; how in adult life, the tides of responsibility gently pull us further apart from the people we were once close to. There's an elegant, but heavy melancholy that resounds throughout the picture and its cinematography, which is a mood I aspire to when I am writing and creating my music.

You can by the film by heading here.

Leviathan

Leviathan is an experimental documentary depicting the experiences aboard a Massachusetts-based fishing trawler. The filmmakers clipped small waterproof cameras onto themselves and around the ship, editing the results into a non-linear, dialogue-free whole, bringing the viewer into almost hallucinatory contact with the footage. The manner in which distorted images and sounds collide, creating an oblique poetry, has been present in my mind as a powerful creative tool since viewing this exceptional piece of filmmaking.

You can by the film by heading here.

Rashomon

Although I read the short story of Rashomon several years ago, I had not seen Kurosawa's film until recently. The use of unreliable narrators, different perspectives, a mutable notion of truth and a lack of moral clarity were facets that I tried to incorporate into the writing of Wooden Mask.

You can by the film by heading here.

Frozen River

Strictly speaking, Frozen River is a crime drama, but to call it such would be underselling the main virtue of this seriously underappreciated movie, which is its humanity. The film revolves around two mothers living in house-trailers, who forge an unlikely partnership fuelled by economic need, smuggling immigrants from Canada to the U.S. It is never sentimental, there are no scenes of forced misery tooled for maximum emotional manipulation, yet in its own small way 'Frozen River' moves like no other film I have seen.

You can by the film by heading here.

Dark Horse

Just as I am drawn to the undervalued, uncharacteristic albums within an artist's discography, so Todd Solondz's Dark Horse (surely the dark horse within his filmography?) is my favourite of his movies. For perhaps the first time, we feel pathos towards one of his deeply unlikeable characters, whilst we slip between fantasy and a horrific reality fuelled by deep suburban anguish. It also scores for the most accurate on-screen depiction of a Jewish wedding that I've ever seen.

You can by the film by heading here.


Wooden Mask is out on August 12th. A Grave With No Name plays London's Servant Jazz Quarters on August 18th.