The dance-centred music video for Philip Selway's new song is hauntingly beautiful

Uncommon brings the Radiohead drummer's new song to life in an ethereal, monochrome video shot by director William Williamson.

These days, most music videos are pretty formulaic. But as their name suggests, London-based creative studio Uncommon doesn't like following the crowd. And so when they were asked to make a video for Check for Signs of Life, a solo track by Radiohead drummer Philip James Selway, they took the opportunity to craft something a little different.

Working with director William Williamson, the studio has produced an evocative black and white piece featuring a quartet of renowned and award-winning dancers and choreographers: Siobhan Davies, Kenneth Olumuyiwa Tharp, Simone Damberg Würtz and Liam Francis. (Davies is one of the UK's most celebrated dancers and choreographers, while Damberg Würtz is a leading light of the Rambert Dance Company.)

Taken from Philip's forthcoming solo album Strange Dance; the song finds the musician musing over where he finds himself in his life and thinking about human connection. It's a powerful track matched with a video that – like the epic production for Little Simz's 2021 hit Introvert – makes you wonder why more producers don't take advantage of the wealth of professional dance talent in the UK in this way.

Initial concept

"The video comes from an idea I had to develop a dance piece over a series of songs from Strange Dance," says Philip. "I wanted the piece to explore imagined conversations between future and past selves and to be based around this particular quartet of dancers."

Over a series of rehearsals, director William Williamson and director of photography Adric Watson worked with the dancers to bring the camera into the mix as a fifth dancer. The video took the lead from the choreography, aiming to enhance and interpret the work whilst not overshadowing the subtle movements of the dancers.

"Working closely alongside Philip and choreographers Simone and Liam, we set out to explore the complex relationship between future and former self through the medium of contemporary dance," William recalls. "Transcending time and moving through varied emotions, we wanted to create a film that will inspire the audience to hang their own narrative on."

Unity and power

"As we rehearsed," William continues, "the intimacy and fragility of the choreography became so clear I decided to shoot it all in a single take. It meant pulling together the dance, camera and lighting to communicate a sense of unity and power, which stays focused and in the moment."

It's been a landmark project for Uncommon, enthuses Nils Leonard, co-founder of Uncommon Creative Studio. "The studio has set out to matter from day one, and we have been very intentional with the energy and ambition of our productions," he says.

"With Nick Cave's This Much I Know To Be True and our second feature 'In Camera' about to launch, we wanted our first music video to be meaningful and to speak to something larger than just the music. Working with Philip and his team to communicate his beautiful work was a privilege."


Get the best of Creative Boom delivered to your inbox weekly