Why indie rock videos are suddenly very NSFW

The Flaming Lips music video for “Watching the Planets” depicts naked frolicking in the park.

There’s a new four-letter word in indie rock. With increasing frequency, videos are popping up online with the letters NSFW next to their listings. For the uninitiated, this stands for Not Safe For Work, which is a warning that you probably don’t want your co-workers to catch you watching something like a few hundred nude bikers cavorting with Flaming Lips frontman Wayne Coyne, who is also nude as he sings “Watching the Planets.”

“Well, I think it depends on where you work,” jokes Coyne before considering his honest answer. “What we do was always geared toward hip adults anyways — we’re not really trying to make kids’ videos — but when you’re stuck with the rules of TV, that would take an element of the ridiculous out of it. … No one is telling us what to do anymore, so let’s not worry about it.”


Michael Reich, who has directed several NSFW videos, mostly for the band Yuck, seems to share Coyne’s sentiment.

“It’s awesome that you can basically do whatever the f— you want on the Internet right now,” he says.

Zac Pennington, singer from Parenthetical Girls, says he was intrigued by the racy videos he was seeing his peers make, which led to the single-shot video in which Pennington is shown singing while lying in bed. The screen only shows the top portion of his naked body, while a woman offscreen works on the lower portion. The song is called “The Pornographer.”


“We’d been sort of fascinated with the recent glut of ‘NSFW’ music videos ourselves — wondering how far otherwise innocuous indie rock bands were from becoming propagators of outright pornography,” he says. “‘The Pornographer’ video was in some ways a comment on the phenomenon, removing the barrier between band member and actual pornographer.”

Pennington says that while it’s new for these “otherwise innocuous” groups to express themselves in such an uncensored manner, it is a successful selling point reminiscent of an earlier brand.

“I think what the NSFW label suggests at this point is similar to the implied danger that a parental advisory once held,” he says. “It’s as much a means of selling the product to a certain audience as it is a detractor to another.”

Reich says bands have sought him out to direct his videos because of his previous NSFW vids, but he doesn’t believe in doing nude or crude for the sake of it.

“I think you should come up with the idea and if it happens to be a little scandalous or not safe for work that’s cool,” he says, “but you can’t seek out shock value because that’s all it is. It’s just gratuitous and shocking.”

How much more shocking will it become?

“I think it’s trend that will kind of die down a little bit,” he says, “just because it’s so oversaturated in the past couple of months.”

Below are some of Reich’s videos that he did for Yuck. Needless to say, they are not safe for work.


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