Premiere: Michael Waugh’s ‘Dark’, toxic masculinity and country town nightclubs

Premiere: Michael Waugh’s ‘Dark’, toxic masculinity and country town nightclubs

Words by Lucas Radbourne

Beat can exclusively premiere Michael Waugh's new music video, 'Dark', a chilling ode to the unique experience of Australian country nightclubs.

Renowned alt-country singer-songwriter Michael Waugh is one of Australia’s most celebrated storytellers and ‘Dark’ – filmed at Brunswick’s Retreat Hotel – is a gutsy portrayal of Friday nights in a country town.

The song’s titled after Bruce Springsteen’s Dancing in the Dark and has the same powerful, uplifting guitar and vocal refrains, with a video inspired by Springsteen’s ‘Dancing in the Dark’, Pat Benatar’s ‘Love is a Battlefield’ and David Bowie and Mick Jagger’s ‘Dancing in the Street’.

Keep up with the latest music interviews, news and reviews here.

Three albums in, Waugh evokes relatable images of Australian life in beautiful, sometimes brutal, brushstrokes. ‘Dark’ marks Michael’s directorial debut, bringing his unique storytelling talents to the screen and making some bold statements about toxic masculinity, while conjuring the spirit of pub anthems of the 80s.

“The chorus of ‘Dark’ is a direct reference to Bruce Springsteen’s ‘Dancing in the Dark’ – which, for me, is part of the soundtrack of a Friday night in a country town,” Waugh says.

“In Sale, near where I grew up, ‘Ringers Nightclub’ was the place to be, and The Boss (Springsteen) was boss on the dance floor. There’d be farmers, FIFO workers from the nearby oil rigs, local tradies, under-aged drinkers… a cast of characters chugging Lemon Ruskies, dancing around handbags, fighting in the toilets, pissing away their week’s wages. Imagine ‘Dark’ as being the story of that character from Springsteen’s ‘Dancing in the Dark’ or the protagonist in ‘Khe Sanh’ as if he was out for a night on the piss at a nightclub in country Victoria.”

Waugh uses his experiences of life in rural Victoria to dissect representations of gender in the 1980s more broadly, and rather than merely homage, ‘Dark’ stares into the soul of alcohol-fuelled masculinity.

“I designed the video clip to play out like a palindrome: we reverse through action to the point of a climax, then replay back chronologically through the events in forward motion,” he continues.

“In the second part of the clip, the audience recognises that what they first thought was a fun night, was actually something much more violent and threatening to others. It’s like when you’re under the influence; everything is fun and a little surreal at the time, but when you play back through what happened in the cold, sober light of day, you have a better sense of how your actions might have affected others.

“Our amazing editor, Jeremy Teh, took on this challenge and pieced together this complex narrative really well.

“More than just making a music video, it felt like we were really creating something special – and I think that we were all impacted by the experience.”

Waugh’s fourth album, The Cast (produced by prodigious alt-Country producer, Shane Nicholson) is out August 27th on Compass Bros Records. Keep track of tours here.