Rising star Javeon and director Ben Strebel have been collaborating on a series of gritty and compelling music videos of late. They have created a set of five interconnected promos to be released before the summer: the third is out today. CR talks to the duo about the experience of making the videos.
The three videos so far released in the series have introduced us to a number of characters. At their centre is Katy, a young bride who is caught up in a wedding day from hell, as captured in the video for Lovesong, which came out last September and is shown below.
The next two videos, for tracks Give Up and Intoxicated (out today), take us to a dingy roadside café, where we find a new cast of characters, some sympathetic – the hardworking chefs that star in the Give Up video – but most unpleasant. Katy makes a reappearance working in the café in the Intoxicated video, which ends on a cliffhanger.
Strebel has skillfully created a gripping, complex storyline across the videos, and has also drawn out some excellent performances from the actors starring in them, which include Sarah Smart and Josef Atlin. Below, CR talks to both him and Javeon about how the series came out.
CR: How did the collaboration start – did you know each other?
Ben Strebel: We’d never met before. I first met the boys from PMR Records. They were looking for a director to collaborate with on a gritty British series of videos for their exciting new artist, Javeon. Although there was talk of embarking on a trilogy, we decided to tackle Lovesong first and then take it from there. The success of the first one lead to what has become a fruitful relationship and a lot more than we had ever planned on making. It’s been a very organic project from the outset.
CR: What appealed about each others' work?
Javeon: I knew I didn’t want to just make a normal music video, so what drew me to his work was the balance between film and music in past videos that he’d directed. There’s a classiness about his work that I thought was interesting, from the tones and colours to the narrative. Everything seemed quite thought through and that’s what I was looking for.
BS: We both share a profound fascination with the eccentricities of the Brits and love British Realism as a genre. I love the freedom I was given by Javeon and his team. I think we share the same ethos of wanting to challenge preconceptions of what a music video should be and creating contrasts between the song and visuals. When the music is fast, the visuals should be slow and so on, which was the stylistic rule I set for Lovesong. Give Up was just supposed to be a side project – a B side. In the end we agreed to create an anti music video – it’s as much a chamber piece as it is a music video. I wanted to create the simplest, most intimate story based in the confines of one sticky, sweaty room. The music ends up playing a key role in the story. Its presence is felt, as it divides the two squabbling chefs at first before bringing them together. With regards to Intoxicated and the films that will follow, Javeon and I agreed we wanted to contrast the compassion and emotions of his songs with the gritty harshness of Katy and her world.
Javeon and Strebel on set
CR: Is there an overall theme to the videos, or is each one unique?
BS: The theme and story is Katy’s harrowing downfall. There is an overarching story, but I tried to retain a certain level of individuality within each film. Adding a layer of surrealism to the straightforward realism meant I was able to create abstract strands of narrative. As a result each film could be a standalone piece as well as part of a continuous narrative. There seems to be a new wave of British independent films that are starting to embrace the surreal. I liked the idea of opening up a discussion and creating metaphors, without prescribing too much to the viewer. It gives you the freedom to invest your own imagination, which is kind of fun. I tried to do this by obscuring the boundaries of what’s real and what isn’t.
Strebel on set
CR: How did you come up with the stories in the videos? Did you do this together?
J: Generally, the way we’ve been working is that Ben would have my music along with any initial ideas me and my team may have come up with. Ben then would come back with the master plan and we’d tweak slightly it together. I think because I don’t like straightforward thinking and like to bury meanings behind things in both the artwork and songwriting, that’s where Ben and I are very much alike. Before we’ve even started a new video it already has a mystery about it that leaves it wide open to interpretation, which I love.
BS: It’s funny because when we first spoke of continuing with Katy’s story we really connected over a similar fascination for roadside diners. Javeon turned around one day and asked, 'hey why doesn’t the kid in Lovesong drop Katy off at a roadside diner?' Obviously the story has evolved since, but I loved the idea of Katy seeking refuge at a roadside café. There is no place like it. They attract people from all walks of life – a place full of characters, where Katy would fit right in. The lyrics and sounds are full of heartache and compassion. I wanted to reflect this deep felt sentiment through our main protagonist, Katy. She suffers.
CR: Do you see this as an ongoing collaboration?
BS: I feel like it’s definitely an ongoing relationship and hopefully we’ll continue to work together in the near future. I love the way his songs are stories in themselves – highly emotive pieces based on personal experience. But there’s always another level of meaning to his lyrics. He’s a visionary, thinks outside the box and wants to subvert and abstract what appears so straightforward. There’s something haunting about his songs that really pulls me in and gets me excited.
J: This collaboration of ours has been going on since the summer last year we’re both enjoying it because it’s fun and exciting, which makes for the best kind of work! There are a few potential videos for the future we have spoken about, but it’s still very early days yet. Beyond this album, we’ll definitely work together again. That’s the great thing about when something works: we can always revisit the way we’ve worked together, but on a new project.
Intoxicated by Javeon is out in March on PMR Records. More of Ben Strebel's work can be seen online here.
The Jullien Brothers are graphic designer Jean, and his brother Nicolas, who as well as being a director and animator is an electronic musician. He works under the names of both Niwouinwouin and The Coward and is behind the music in this vid.
The first project out of Party's New York office has launched, and it's a sweet one: a stop-motion music video for Australian band Cut Copy that features 200 3D-printed figurines. And as an added bonus, the entire video is available for download as an open source BitTorrent bundle, so fans can make their own versions...
The video is for Cut Copy's track We Are Explorers, and the finished work has a lo-fi feel, despite the modern technology used to create the miniature figures that star in it. The characters were all printed using a 3D printer with a UV reactive filament, meaning that they glow in the dark. Two hundred different figures were printed for use in the animation and these were then filmed in stop motion on the streets of Los Angeles to create the post-apocalyptic promo.
Party and Cut Copy have also made all the content, including the music, video and 3D printed files available for fans to download via BitTorrent. You will need access to a 3D printer to bring it all to life, but the directors are hoping that people will download the files and make their own versions of the video.
The second video from Damon Albarn's forthcoming album Everyday Robots has been released, and features scenes shot by the singer during travels in Tokyo, London, Dallas, Utah, Colchester, North Korea, Iceland and Devon.
Among the imagery featured in the promo, which is for the track Lonely Press Play, are shots taken from taxi and plane windows, alongside snatched glimpses of Albarn sleeping or driving. Travelogues of this kind are familiar territory visually, but the promo features excellent editing which knits the scenes together with the music perfectly. Plus there is undoubted interest in the fact that the visuals have supposedly been shot by Albarn himself, offering fans an intimate glimpse into his recent travels.
Noah Harris's video for Julio Bashmore's new track Peppermint (feat. Jessie Ware) is a sexy and stylish piece of stop motion animation. Beautiful to watch, it was hugely complicated to make, as Harris explains to CR...
CR: What's the concept behind the video?
Noah Harris: The base concept is the evolution of a loop really. The film is a 3D visual sequencer where individual looping elements sync perfectly to specific parts of the track. The film kicks off with a piece of graphic design, printed and foiled on paper, where five symbols represent the five sounds in that part of the track, I call these symbols amoebas. These 2D symbols then evolve into three dimensions (first life), and an illustrated diva is born who sings the vocal refrains (sentient life).
The overriding clap track is represented as God – a disembodied pair of marble hands that appear to have been hacked off some classical statue, flying fast over the clouds, a nod to the maximalist rave flyers of yore (hands in the air anyone?) It made me chuckle throwing quasi-religious references in there amongst the core concept of evolution. The sequencer evolves throughout until we get to the last section where the sounds are represented by inane looping objects encircling the demented love child of God and the diva…
Whilst stylistically the film occupies its own space, I referenced the work of Jeff Koons in selling the idea – big, shiny, sexy, sleazy, surreal pop with a little bit of chintz thrown in for good measure. The track, and in fact all house music, embodies this idea of evolution really. The track is based around a sample of early 80s disco queen Karen Young, but Julio has recreated it with vocals from Jessie Ware, there’s evolution right there.
CR: How was it made? What techniques did you use?
NH: The film is largely stop frame animation. Whilst my intention was for the film to be an incredibly precise piece of graphic design, I didn’t want it to be clinical. It had to have an organic edge, imperfections and errors included. The track is very precise and regimented yet it also connects strongly on a human level. It was important to me that the film reflected this, hence shooting as much as possible in-camera and animating by hand. The first section of the film was printed on paper then animated under a rostrum camera. Quite a bit of the stuff that follows is 3D printed, all the lip sync and many of the loops. The 3D printed stuff sits nicely with found objects trawled from car boot sales and junk shops, which brings a really unique aesthetic. Alongside this there is some more traditional modelmaking – the marble ‘God’ hands for example, which were cast from real hands by Amalgam in Bristol. And of course there’s a little bit of CG in there too.
CR: How long did it take to complete?
NH: It took a very intense ten weeks. Making the film required a full-on but methodical process. We designed and animated the whole film in 2D first to ensure that all the visual sequencing with the specific sounds was frame perfect. Then this was painstakingly rebuilt in 3D to form our working animatic. Then of course we had to create it all again for real…. Although this seems like a slightly perverse way of going about things – making the film three times effectively – it does make sense, the film is really a huge piece of graphic design and required immense attention to detail throughout the process. Elements of the animatic were then developed to be 3D printed – the girl, her lip sync, loops like the jumping dog and the black shapes flying through the air etc. We shot for 14 very long days straight, and then only had just over a week to put the film together in post.
CR: What were the most challenging aspects of making the video?
NH: Each part of the film threw up its own challenges. I really wanted to involve the illustrator Gerrel Saunders (Gaks) to bring the girl to life in the first part of the film. I love his style but it’s very detailed, which isn’t ideal to develop into animation. We went through a long process with Gerrel of finding a way to simplify the imagery of her liquid gold lips in order to animate, whilst retaining the essence of his original illustration. That process took a long time and the painstaking animation of just that element went on throughout the production really.
The art department, Stripeland, had a really tough time, not only in dealing with my slightly OCD approach to working (the first section has to be printed on Colorplan etc!) but generally in trying to bring this idea to life in a limited budget. The entire film has a very specific look, so there wasn’t any real opportunity to cut corners. The actual shooting of the film itself wasn’t straightforward – whilst I think it's very important to allow stop frame animators the freedom to bring their own style to the table this needed to fit into a very rigid structure of timing, and it's testament to the animator's patience that the job ended without me having been punched in the face once.
And then of course there is the post-production. Whilst much of the film is shot in camera, it's often shot as several elements or layers that make up one shot, so these all needed to be put together after the event … 82 shots to post in a week? Seems impossible, and without calling in all manner of favours from the majority of Soho it wouldn’t have happened. In terms of the whole process … whilst I’m really happy with the end result … I’m seriously glad its over!
Credits: Director: Noah Harris Production company: Blinkink Post: Prodigious
Our March issue is a craft special and examines how a range of creative work was made, including Maya Almeida's underwater photographs and a 3D-printed slipcase by Helen Yentus. We also explore the science behind Jessica Eaton's extraordinary images, and go behind-the-scenes of new ads for Schwartz and Honda...
On top of all that we look at the BBC's new iWonder platform, review the Design of Understanding conference and books by Wally Olins and on the Ulm School of Design, and Paul Belford explains the power behind one of the most famous posters from Paris 1968.
The March issue of Creative Review will be available to buy direct from us here. Better yet, subscribe to make sure that you never miss out on a copy – you'll save money, too. Details here.
Opening the issue, our Month in Review section looks back at the The Lego Movies' 'ad break takeover'; Black + Decker's new identity; the return of the Old Spice guy; and the debate around the new Squarespace Logo service.
Daniel Benneworth-Gray raises a sleep-deprived toast to working through the night; while Michael Evamy's Logo Log salutes the Mobil identity on its 50th anniversary.
Our craft features begin with a look at the work of underwater photographer, Maya Almeida. Antonia Wilson talks to her about what it takes to create her beautiful images...
And Helen Yentus, art director at Riverhead Books in New York, talks us through her radical 3D-printed slipcase she recently designed for a special edition of Chang-Rae Lee's novel, On Such a Full Sea. (Yentus also created this month's cover.)
Rachael Steven looks at the thinking behind iWonder, the new online storytelling platform from the BBC...
...While six of the objects that appear in BarberOsgerby's In the Making show at the Design Museum are featured – each one 'paused' midway through its manufacture and beautifully shot by György Körössy (two pound coin shown, above right).
Antonia Wilson also talks to photographer Jessica Eaton about the process behind making her stunning images of cubic forms.
And Eliza Williams discovers how over a hundred sacks of spices were blown up in a new ad for Schwartz...
... while a more sedate approach is explored in a behind-the-scenes look at Honda's Inner Beauty spot from Wieden + Kennedy.
We also look at why VFX is becoming more invisible, and (above) look at the latest trends in packaging.
In Crit, Nick Asbury reviews Wally Olins' new book, Brand New...
...Mark Sinclair reports back from the recent Design of Understanding conference...
... and Professor Ian McLaren looks at a new book on the influential Ulm School of Design, which he attended in the early 1960s.
Finally, this month's edition of Monograph, free with subscriber copies of CR, features photographs of Norfolk by designer Pearce Marchbank.
The March issue of Creative Review will be available to buy direct from us here. Better yet, subscribe to make sure that you never miss out on a copy – you'll save money, too. Details here.
Art director and illustrator Kate Moross has published a book offering advice for aspiring creatives and a look at her impressive career so far...
By the time Kate Moross was 21, she had set up a record label, designed a clothing range for Topshop and created work for Cadbury's, Sony, Vice and Dazed & Confused.
We first featured Moross as one to watch in 2008, when she was in her final year of a graphic design course at Camberwell College of Arts. In the six years since, she has set up a successful studio and produced record sleeves, music promos and campaigns for an impressive range of clients, including MTV, Jessie Ware, Disclosure, Paul Smith and Ray Ban.
As someone with a career that many twice her age would be proud of, Moross is well-placed to advise future generations on achieving success - which is what her forthcoming book, Make Your Own Luck: A DIY Attitude to Design & Illustration, aims to do.
As its title suggests, Make Your Own Luck is a guide to creating your own opportunities - something Moross has done since her teens, when she designed the school magazine and sets for school plays. She also made flyers for local gigs and club nights, designed Myspace profiles for bands and created logos and avatars for anyone and everyone she could.
"I followed a simple DIY ethos inspired by the riot grrrl and punk music culture that I had been absorbing...through pirated music, gigs, zines and, more importantly, the Internet," she says in her introduction. "I didn't emerge into the world with a fully formed style or approach. Rather, I've worked hard for years," she adds.
The book stresses the importance of self promotion throughout, offering advice on setting up your own website and selling your own prints. It also provides a guide to agreeing fees and rates, being sensitive to clients' wishes without compromising your style and sticking to your creative vision even if your tutor doesn't 'get' it.
But while she offers plenty of tips for students hoping to make the most of art school, Moross also stresses that having a degree isn't everything. "When I read a job application I don't look at the CV until after I've looked at (and liked) the portfolio," she says. "Having a Bachelor of Arts doesn't make you employable. Experience is just as important," she says.
As well as being full of practical information, Make Your Own Luck is a hugely enjoyable read. It's littered with examples of personal and commissioned projects - from t-shirt designs and large scale murals to music videos and packaging - and the thoughtful commentary provides a fascinating insight into how Moross works. Designed by Praline, it features doodles by Moross throughout and the cover image, a collection of objects showing her range of work, was shot by photographer John Short.
For anyone interested in starting a career in a fiercely competitive industry, Make Your Own Luck is an essential read. It's also an inspiring book for fans of Moross' fun, varied and colourful style. As Neville Brody says in a foreword to the book, "Kate Moross is...brilliant, creative, fun and unique. And obsessed. You have to be. To not only survive but prosper in this industry requires all the driven craziness you can muster."
Make Your Own Luck: A DIY Attitude to Design & Illustration is available to pre-order and will be published by Prestel Publishing on March 24. For details, click here.
A new video installation for the window of Parisian department store Printemps Du Louvre from creative consultancy Big Active, creates a moving kaleidoscope of archival imagery in the shop window.
Printemps Du Louvre is the new flagship branch of the luxury French department store situated in the Carrousel Du Louvre, an underground shopping mall close to the Louvre museum in Paris. It is Printemps' first new space for 30 years, and exhibits from contemporary artists occupy much of the inside, with emphasis placed on the in-store experience, in turn drawing consumers away from online shopping.
The project brief - in simple terms, to attract visitors towards the window and into the shop - meant competing with prestigious neighbours, whilst developing something that would work with the existing, modestly sized windows of the store.
"The environment itself was a challenge, the windows are opposite the Apple Store and the iconic La Pyramide Inversée," says Greg Burne, of Big Active. "We knew we had to produce something visually highly impactful, brand neutral, which would hold it's own and lure people away from the endless Louvre museum queue."
In keeping with the type of high-end, experiential shopping experience that the store prides itself on, the windows needed to welcome in visitors with something a little bit different.
Tasked with directing and designing the film, was Mat Maitland with a team from creative consultancy Big Active, who specialise in art direction, graphic design, illustration and moving image, with animation from Paul Plowman and music by Buffalo Tide.
The video installation features archival iconography and other images from Printemps the Louvre, which plays in a three-minute loop. The screen sits inside a mirrored frame, designed to reflect the film and create a kaleidoscopic effect, with the products physically placed in the centre.
Some of the Prime Minister's "key moments" since 2010 are celebrated in a new Facebook-style compilation from the Labour Party...
While applying 'likes' and 'dislikes' to party politics might suggest a rather simplistic approach, this spoof video hits the mark pretty well.
Soundtracked by a well chosen and whimsical piano track, A Look Back at a Tory Government features photos spotlighting several moments from the coalition's years in power.
From "your first moments" and "your most unliked posts" to a brilliant "photos you've shared" gallery of shame (George Osborne is very much 'that guy' here), the film apes the tone of Facebook movies very convincingly.
It also ends nicely with a block of FB photos recreating Ed Miliband's observation last week that the coalition front bench was an all male bastion. And then, well, there's a big 'thumbs down'. Not exactly subtle, but quite amusing nonetheless.
UK studio Universal Everything has designed an immersive app for Radiohead using artwork by Stanley Donwood and music from the song Bloom. We spoke to UE's Matt Pyke and Mike Tucker about how it was made.
Polyfauna is free to download on iPhone, iPad and Android. Radiohead frontman Thom Yorke says the concept was born out of an interest "in early computer-life experiments and the imagined creatures of our subconscious," and provides "a window into an evolving world."
The app guides users through a series of different landscapes, from vast forests to mountainous regions in daylight, darkness and at sunset. Visuals are set to expanded versions of Bloom and sounds from the band's 2011 album, King of Limbs, composed by Radiohead and producer Nigel Godrich.
Users are greeted with a different virtual world each time they open the app, which they can explore by tilting their device to look up, down and around. They can also interact with it, creating lines, shapes, spiny creatures and plants by touching or swiping their screens.
Universal Everything has been working on Polyfauna for around six months and was first approached by Radiohead in 2011. "I received a mysterious email from Yorke under a pseudonym - he said he'd seen some of our work [an installation in Paris and a website for Warp Records], and would like to collaborate on an app," he says.
The app was to be "an audio visual expression," says Pyke. Donwood, who has created artwork for Radiohead since the early 1990s, had produced a series of sketches and paintings of trees, woods and landscapes, and the band were keen to bring his artwork to life.
Working with the artist and the band, Pyke and Universal Everything developer Mike Tucker created a series of 3D worlds that can be explored from all angles. "It's not supposed to be used at a desk but while you're stood up and moving around, like you would with a pair of binoculars," says Pike.
Users can also take snapshots of the various scenes and shapes they have created and upload them to Radiohead's new website.
"We wanted to add a nice layer of interaction so users weren't just passively looking around. Stanley's work has strong evidence of being created by hand, so we wanted to allow users to create life, too," says Pyke.
The code which allows users to create these 3D creatures was generated using mathematical formulas that calculate the geometric pattern of a spine or fern growing in the wild.
Each user's shapes will be unique, and Pyke says he hopes the ability to take and share screen grabs will create a sense of discovery. "It's like users are taking on the role of an explorer and documenting a new place they've found. Every place will be different, so they are all undiscovered," he says.
The number of scenes in the app is, in a sense, infinite, as each time users enter, they are met with a different combination of light, weather, landscape and moon phase, says Tucker.
"There is a disposable culture surrounding phone apps - people tend to download one, give it a play for a few minutes and subsequently delete it if they aren't impressed. With Polyfauna, we created an experience to be completely unique each day, making a reason to come back and enjoy it days or months later," he says.
The overall effect is designed to simulate a sense of living inside the band's music, says Pyke - Godrich and Radiohead's atmospheric compositions include snippets from throughout the King of Limbs album, and are exploded, distorted versions of tracks rather than traditional remixes.
There are 31 sound track mixes in total and each is broken into four individual channels, which Tucker says are "physically located in the 3D environment. This means as you physically turn your body, each channel will shift, as if you are hearing instruments from afar," he adds.
It's an impressive piece of work from Universal Everything, and Radiohead's most intriguing digital experiment to date.
"It was a really nice collaborative process," says Pyke. The band has such an experimental ethos - allowing fans to pay what they wanted for their album, Rainbows, for example - and they were all really interested in creating an experiential process, one that stretches the traditional structure of music," he adds.