El Lago debuted its first music video on October 28. The band collaborated with local director Kristen Massa to make the video for “Colors,” the eponymous song of El Lago’s first full-length album. The video explores, in part, the intersection between reality and dreams, and for good reason: It was inspired by a series of dreams singer/guitarist Lauren Eddy had leading up to the election of Donald Trump. Over brunch, Lauren and Charles Eddy (drums) told me about making the video and the story behind its conception.
Set in Galveston where El Lago resides, the video opens with a slanted shot of an old wall whose red bricks have faded to gray, an image that seemingly alludes to the border-wall Trump so fervently promised his supporters. After the opening shot, the camera cuts to a row of brightly colored houses, then to a close-up of a grey building, just before Lauren is shown walking down an alley with her back to us. She is next shown standing on a street corner with more grey buildings behind her, and then walking through a green, sunny garden, where she begins digging at the base of a mimosa tree.
Everything seems pretty normal so far. Then this happens: Lauren closes her eyes, and the scene dissolves into a slightly blurred shot — indicating that we have crossed over into dreamland — of an albino python coiled up on a wicker chair.
The general election was in full swing, and Donald Trump and his devotees were proving just how arrogant, ignorant, and menacing they could be. Tensions were rising around the country. Lines were drawn. Ties were severed between friends and family members. Lots of shouting and name-calling. And some nights, Lauren dreamed of wandering an abandoned house in which she would find the same peculiar snake.
Naturally, she wanted to get away from it. But it wasn’t the instinctual fear of a potentially dangerous animal that urged her to flee. As Lauren recalls, the snake looked “sickly, pale, and yellowish.” There was something sinister about the reptile. She felt compelled to destroy it, but knew that doing so would be messy, which is precisely why she hesitated. The dream would always end while Lauren deliberated.
In the video, however, Lauren is seen with the python wrapped around her, and later she swings an axe downward at some unseen thing that we are to take as the snake (which, of course, wasn’t harmed), mutilating it.
So why the change from the dream? Lauren was prudent about speaking out against Trump and the hatred he was and is abetting. She knew that voicing her opposition could cause a rift in her family. But it became increasingly difficult to ignore the growing enmity for people of color and other minorities.
One particular incident in the Eddie’s neighborhood, just two blocks from their apartment, was especially alarming. During the summer leading up to the election, the front of the ZaZa Bar and Bits, a restaurant owned by a Muslim man who immigrated from Pakistan in 1993, was plastered with bacon and smeared with bacon grease. The owner received a number of death threats afterwards, and closed his business for fear of his life.
Trump’s inflammatory comments about Mexicans also influenced Lauren’s decision to denounce his cruelty. His remarks are personal for the musician, whose grandfather came here from Mexico as a young man. At 1:43 in the video, Lauren is shown tented in flowing red fabric (an allusion to the Mexican flag), turning the pages of a himnario bautista, a Baptist hymnal that belonged to her grandfather’s church where he was a pastor.
As a child, Lauren, who is of mixed heritage, attended her grandfather’s church, where he would preach in Spanish, and she would sing the hymns in Spanish “without really knowing what they meant,” she recalls. She was never taught her grandfather’s native language, and admits to feeling estranged from yet bonded to her Mexican heritage. One of the video’s central images is the mimosa tree. Mimosa trees are hearty and can root themselves in bad soil, and gardeners consider them a nuisance. Lauren explains that the tree in the video represents her newfound commitment to stand strong in this hostile environment (bad soil), and defend her heritage, regardless of her ambivalent relationship to it.
With all this in mind, Lauren began understanding the snake in her dream as symbolic: it came to signify white supremacy, hence its “sickly pale” tint. Lauren knew that calling Trump’s “movement” for what it is (racist) and taking an active stance against white supremacy would get messy, much like killing the snake. But, just as she does in the video, the singer decided to get her hands dirty.
Kristin and the band began filming on August 12, the day activist Heather Heyer was killed in Charlottesville, Virginia when a white supremacist plowed his car through a concourse of counter-protestors. Suddenly, Kristen’s and El Lago’s video became even more poignant and relevant. As Lauren puts it, remembering that day: “When Charlie suggested adding in a group of threatening human figures to illustrate hostility, it was surreal to think that it was no longer necessary; everyone had just seen it in the national news.”