Sharon Van Etten Is Finally Ready to Share the ‘Serpents’ Video She Made 11 Years Ago
Sharon Van Etten has dug up a previously unreleased music video for her classic song, “Serpents,” off her 2012 album, Tramp, which will get a special anniversary reissue this year.
The video for “Serpents” was directed by Galazie 500’s Naomi Yang. It begins with Van Etten singing the song against a white brick wall, though the space is soon filled with an entrancing light display that adds a moody, slightly surreal tinge to the clip.
In a statement, Van Etten recalled why she chose not to release the “Serpents” clip back when it was made. While she was comfortable as a songwriter and performer at the time, she still felt “insecure about being the focus a video. “…baring my soul on camera felt like an entirely different thing, and when I looked at myself, I felt uncomfortable in my own skin.”
It was Yang who rediscovered the video and sent it to Van Etten, who was already thinking about the anniversary of Tramp (the LP celebrated its 10th anniversary last year, but the new reissue will arrive on its 11th). “While reading Naomi’s email during the pandemic, and watching this younger version of myself, I felt empathy for the emotions I was trying to express in the song and the video form,” Van Etten said. “I could see the drive within me to share my soul and connect with others that felt a similar drive and desperation for answers, resolution.”
Yang also shared her recollections of hearing “Serpents” for the first time and making the video: “Upon hearing ‘Serpents,’ I was struck by the emotion in the song, the raw anger. I imagined showing this fury escaping and overtaking the room — Sharon’s rage as expressed in the song manifesting itself in physical space. We made the video on a cold January day in 2012, in an East Village walk-up loft borrowed from friends. It was me, on camera, with Susanne Sasic running the projections she had designed, and Sharon performing.”
The 11th-anniversary edition of Tramp will arrive on March 24 via JagJaguwar. The reissue, which is available to pre-order, will feature one previously unreleased song, “This Is Too Right.”
“I had almost forgotten about a song titled ‘This Is Too Right’ that didn’t make it onto the record,” Van Etten said. “It was one of the first guitar ‘riffs’ I had ever written and [Wye Oak’s] Jenn Wasner sang on it with me. A song about not believing how good I had it. Like the other shoe was about to drop.”
Tramp was Van Etten’s breakthrough third album and first with JagJaguwar. The National’s Aaron Dessner produced and played extensively on the album, which featured contributions from various indie heavyweights like Wasner, Bryce Dessner (also of the National), and the Walkmen’s Matt Barrick, Doveman’s Thomas Bartlett, Beirut’s Zach Condon, and Julianna Barwick.
“I feel so blessed to celebrate this anniversary with you,” Van Etten said. “It means so much that all these amazing musicians gathered around me to help me find my voice. I still have so much to figure out, in my life and my work, but I still feel the support and community to this day, even though we are all a bit scattered. I hope everyone that helped make this record, and that supported it, feel the love and admiration that I continue to hold for all of you.”