tUnE-yArDs – “Bizness” + “My Country” Music Videos (w/ Director Mimi Cave’s Q&A)

The music video for tUnE-yArDs’ “Bizness” fluttered through the internet as a colorful extension of main lady Merrill Garbus’ long-standing style of bridging movement, geometric facepaint, and playful insanity. It was Garbus’ first video to reach the extreme masses, and it, along with the music video for “My Country”, were directed by San Francisco’s Mimi Cave. They are both exercises in give and take between dancer and creator, and spontaneity and choreography, and both give young children the opportunity to participate in a professional art project.

In the Q&A below, Cave speaks with REDEFINE about the creative process behind the videos, and we take a look backwards at the role of movement in tUnE-yArDs music videos through the years.

The music video for “Bizness” will also be featured at REDEFINE magazine’s Motion & Movement In Music Video panel at Bumbershoot and MusicfestNW 2012. SEE FULL DETAILS


REDEFINE magazine interview with Merrill Garbus of tUnE-yArDs See all articles related to tUnE-yArDs


Looking back on tUnE-yArDs music videos reveals that there is a longstanding tie between contemporary dance and her music. Was building off this history and maintaining a sense of cohesion important in your work with “Bizness” and “My Country”?

Yes. I think Merrill and I have always connected on the grounds of movement, particularly modern dance. I got to know Merrill while I was backup dancing for her at a few shows, so elements of dance have always been there.


How was it working with children in both the “Bizness” and “My Country” music videos? Had those children worked with performing or dance-oriented music videos before?

I love working with kids and think they have the capacity to be some of the most natural performers. The kids in these videos each have different backgrounds and experiences, although everyone has had a common interest and willingness to experiment with movement and expression. We had a blast.



tUnE-yArDs – “Bizness” (2011)

tUnE-yArDs – “My Country” Music Video (2012)


REDEFINE magazine interview with Merrill Garbus of tUnE-yArDs See all articles related to tUnE-yArDs

About The SF Rock Project Lending Library Kickstarter


“To create the “My Country” video, tUnE-yArDs had immense help from the San Francisco Rock Project, a nonprofit music school that offers musical education to kids through the experience of learning and performing rock music.

Many of the kids you see in the video are Rock Project kids: they’ve taken private lessons in electric guitar, bass guitar, drums, keyboards and vocals from working musicians, they’ve rehearsed in bands made up of kids of all ages, and they’ve learned the art of performance through regular live, public shows in legitimate music venues. They learn the basics through performing rock music, and as a result, they develop into original, confident, inspired musicians…

SF Rock Project would like to start a “lending library” of instruments to offer students. If our Kickstarter campaign succeeds, they will be able to reach even more young people with their unique form of music education. The school will use the funds to purchase guitars, bass guitars, ukuleles, percussion instruments, a keyboard, and more to be used in the SF Rock Project LIVE SHOW this summer, which will be a celebration of this campaign!”

“I just feel like I’m finally seeing an intersection of a way where you can be an activist and concerned with your community. [But] it’s hard; I want to live my life and have money, but it’s good to… question yourself… like, ‘Am I giving back enough?’ or, ‘Am I doing enough?'”

— Merrill Garbus of tUnE-yArDs, in a REDEFINE magazine Interview




Are the children in the “Bizness” and “My Country” music videos both from Brightworks and San Francisco Rock Project? Can you tell me a bit about those organizations and how they were benefited from these videos?

Each video had a different cast of kids. The “Bizness” cast was mainly students from a public elementary school in San Francisco, while the cast from “My Country” came mainly from Brightworks and SF Rock Project. After the “My Country” video, Merrill started a Kickstarter campaign to raise money that would go towards purchasing instruments for kids. She exceeded her goal and I feel like the best thing that resulted from the video was the generous participation in that fundraiser.


Is there an underlying narrative or concept to the two pieces? How closely did you and Merrill work together on those themes?

Although they both incorporate kids, to me they are very different pieces. “Bizness” was a narrative I had in my head that morphed and transformed as the production went on, whereas “My Country” has a more direct, visual correlation to the lyrics in the song. Merrill and I worked together to make sure each idea represented the music music in a way that she felt excited about. Outside of that, Merrill was extremely trusting and encouraging of my direction throughout both processes.


Who was responsible for the choreography?

In “Bizness”, I was lucky to work with my great friend Sonia Reiter developing choreography for the dancers. A lot of the movement you see in “Bizness” is improvised as well. “My Country” is almost all improvised movement from both Merrill and the kids. Often we will improvise together — them in front of the camera, me off-screen, building something as we go. I like working with performers that aren’t afraid to experiment and push themselves a little. Merrill has a fantastic energy and is easy to work with.


tUnE-yArDs – “Gangsta” Music Video (2011)

tUnE-yArDs – “Real Live Flesh” Music Video (2010)


Written by
Vivian Hua 華婷婷

Vivian Hua 華婷婷 is a writer, filmmaker, and organizer. As the Executive Director of Northwest Film Forum in Seattle and Editor-in-Chief of the interdisciplinary arts publication, REDEFINE, much of her work unifies her metaphysical interests with her belief that art can positively transform the self and society. She regularly shares human-centered stories through her storytelling newsletter, RAMBLIN’ WITH VEE! In 2020, she will [hopefully] begin production on a comedic Asian-American series entitled Reckless Spirits.

Ask Vivian about MARSHMALLOWS, cuz she's gross... and being tips for being frugal while nomading!

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Written by Vivian Hua 華婷婷