You might not know who Gotye is, but you’ve definitely heard his song. It’s a tidy little ball of emotional wreckage called “Somebody That I Used to Know,” and it’s currently burning up both the Billboard Hot 100 and Modern Rock radio (and it’s becoming a go-to track for the CW’s stable of teensploitation programming).
The thing you might not know is that the roots of the Belgium-born (Australia-raised) singer/songwriter’s signature hit actually stretch back more than a year … when he was struggling to finish his Making Mirrors album. Though now, as Gotye begins his U.S. press push, he’s more than happy to tell you the backstory.
” ’Somebody That I Used to Know,’ like a lot of the record, was a bit of a struggle to finish,” he told MTV News. “It was written fairly quickly — I wrote it in November 2010 — but it took six months to find Kimbra [who features on the track] and really realize she was the right vocalist to make the female part come to life. There were constant hurdles.”
Then again, that’s been a fairly common occurrence. Because the making of each of his studio albums has been a battle, though Gotye is quick to chalk that up to the way he chooses to work. And “Somebody” is a prime example of what happens when he pushes through his struggles.
“Sometimes I’ll have sections that I’m not quite sure how they fit in the puzzle of a tune, they’ll get moved around; what I think was originally a verse ends up becoming the chorus, or what’s an intro gets dropped as a hook, things get shifted around a lot,” he explained. “That song was written in a very linear fashion; and then I hit this brick wall of not knowing where to go with this one person’s story, and that prompted me to add another perspective.”
And then, as his legions of female (and male) fans around the world are surely aware of, there’s the matter of the “Somebody” video, which features Gotye and Kimbra sans clothing … but loaded down with body paint. And yes, making the clip certainly presented a rather unique set of challenges.
“The shots I did by myself, I chopped up a pair of my underpants and had them sort of gaffer-taped strategically around certain areas. But at one stage it just became a bit absurd, because the gaffer tape would just keep coming off, and my friend James, who was actually filming behind the scenes on the video, he’s got some pretty incriminating footage,” Gotye laughed. “There was just a point where the cinematographer of the clip was a bit more vicariously embarrassed for me than I was, because the underpants would just fall open and I’d be like ’Let’s just keep going, there’s nothing nobody hasn’t seen here before.’
“We shot it over two very full days … I quite clearly remember driving home at 9 a.m., after shooting all day, in a bathrobe, with bodypaint all over my face, and going through McDonald’s drive-thru,” he continued. “I ordered a coffee to make sure I didn’t crash on the way home. And the girl working there, she didn’t even bat an eyelid. I guess it’s a regular thing down in Hastings [Australia] McDonald’s.”
What do you think of Gotye’s “Somebody That I Used to Know” video? Leave your comment below!