Whether for a casual beer or a night of karaoke, Swizzles is a popular queer venue in Ottawa. For Ottawa singer/songwriter Fiona Noakes, the Centretown bar serves as the set for her latest music video.
“I wanted to have many different walks of life in the video, and so naturally, I thought the perfect setting would be a bar,” Noakes says. “It has real character and is smaller, which makes for a more intimate experience.”
Noakes describes her song “My Apology” as an anthem for those who have been made to feel shame for who they are. The apology, however, is more defiant than remorseful.
“Saying ‘I’m so sorry there’s no glory here for you,’” Noakes says, actually means “not conforming to that person’s expectations just so they can be happy.”
In the video, Noakes’s bandmates embody characters struggling with their identities while she portrays a hero.
“I play some sort of supernatural character who walks up to each character battling their demons, whispers something in their ear that shifts their mentality into thinking, ‘Fuck it, I am who I am and I am not going to care what you think,’” she says.
The video contains queer storylines, although Noakes says that shouldn’t be the focus.
“I don’t think it matters if the character in the video is straight or gay. Romantic relationships, whether straight or gay, all deal with the same challenges, feelings that anyone can relate to,” she says.
She resists being identified as a lesbian singer/songwriter, saying her sexual orientation should not overshadow her career, although she recognizes that being an openly gay musician can serve as inspiration for those struggling to reconcile themselves with their surroundings.
Deniz Berkin, who directed, filmed and edited the video, says the song highlights universal emotions — heartbreak, insecurity and low self-confidence — that are often experienced painfully by LGBT communities.
“I thought it was an amazing opportunity to collaborate on a story that empathized with characters that are often marginalized,” Berkin says. “It’s a theme Fiona and I explored in a previous music video for her song ‘Glow.’”
The video is produced by Francko Edge and features drummer Danae Tsikouras, guitarist Cliff Chamberlain and bassist Benoit L’Ecuyer.
“It was my first real experience being in a music video,” Tsikouras says. “It was very interesting to see how much work goes into it on all sides — took us a day to film a four-minute video!”
While Noakes says her songwriting is inspired by themes or events she’s intrigued by, she says “My Apology” is personal.
“Growing up I always felt different . . . and got to the point where I tried to conform, but it just didn’t work for me,” she says. “More so after high school I found I could connect with people who felt the same and liked me for who I was, not someone else I was trying to be.”