Jack Kubizne directs a surreal tale of ropes, a magical well, and respecting your elders.
Last year Animal Collective released their ninth studio album Centipede Hz, a sensory blast where tracks were interspersed with static and radio chatter to make for an infectious and exciting album. To coincide with the announcement of their new tour dates The Creators Project, who have a long-standing relationship with the band, is pleased to present their new video for single "Monkey Riches"—an experimental pop number whose mixture of styles and samples demands a video of equal intensity.
Stepping up to that task is Jack Kubizne—he previously directed the video for the band's track "Brother Sport"—and for this outing he's made a cautionary tale about an old man teaching a young couple a lesson in how to respect their elders. It features a lot of rope, a lot of knots, and a magical well and its mix of animation, stop-motion, and CGI make for a surreal journey that beats in tandem with the raucous rhythm of the song.
We sent some questions off to Kubizne to find out what it all means.
The Creators Project: Can you explain a bit what's going on in the video, with the old man and the dancing ropes and a magical well?
Jack Kubizne: The story came to me more or less as a whole, so I wanted to try and get as close to that as possible. Some of it I think came from an irrational place but for me, the whole video is about consequences. The old man is that elder figure whom everyone has met in their life. He possesses some kind of knowledge or teaching he would readily hand down if only we could see it right in front of us. Whether we are able to receive that knowledge is something I think a lot of people struggle with nowadays. 'There's only room for the new' is the mentality that I struggle with. It's a really ugly mentality because I think a lot of things are out of control today as a result. These things could be avoided by learning a little instead of just trudging blindly forward, tying your messy, hasty knots and being all pissed off instead of learning from what's around you.
The old man has some cosmic humor in his lessons so that's why he might come off a little cruel, but really he's trying to teach. So if you lay it all out, the video posits the fact that if you don't learn from those that came before you or if you treat them as a simple amusement, a quaint relic from the past, you're going to be in a lot of shit. It has nothing to do with nostalgia, just taking what you need in terms of values and leaving what you don't. You don't keep old stuff if it isn't worth keeping or if it's bad for people.
The video features quite a lot of rope, in many different forms. Why all the rope?
Rope and knots have been a basic ingredient for survival that, for the most part is lost on many people these days. I was interested in the visual beauty of knots as well as their practical use. They can also easily evoke a sense of confusion if used improperly, which is mostly how they're employed here. Also I wanted to learn how to tie knots, though I never did. Now I must face the consequences!
Who comes up with the ideas, is it a collaboration between you and Animal Collective?
Animal Collective didn't have a part in the conception but encouraged me and approved the treatment. I have known the guys for a few years and have worked with them before. They place trust in me which is the perfect hotbed for creativity and also feels really good from people you deeply respect.
I came up with the core concept, my producer, Patrick Ryan, helped me streamline it for the realities of shooting. My girlfriend and production designer Julianne Irene turns my sketches into sets along with the set designer, Benjamin Spinrad. That was the core group right there. We had to tweak some story elements so it could actually be executed but the flow is pretty much how I planned it originally.
The vid's action fits very well with the cadence of the song. How difficult is it to get that right?
Thanks! That's something that's essential for me when I watch or make any video. For every part that's excruciating to edit there's always a part that just seems to fall into place the way I originally imagined. You try and make those crap parts somewhere near the level of the dope parts. That's a good compass for me. Those parts that fall into place set the precedent for the rest of the video and kind of orbit around them until it all locks into place. Ideally you want the whole thing to fall into place because that's how the best things happen, right? So I try and branch off from those parts that work like magic in hopes they inform the rest of the work.
I don't know how easy it is for people to edit to the pulse of the song right after logging all their footage, but for me it's tough. It takes many revisions and lots of eyes on it. My cousin, Josh Kubizne, a long-time filmmaker, helped me edit and so did my post-/animation guys Steve Meyer and Tommi Gweilo. Musically Animal Collective has so many interesting ideas and changes that lend themselves to visual accompaniment. Not because their music is complicated, because it isn't, it just locks together so well and presents so many opportunities for an effective visual experience. So that helps too.
What are the key ingredients that make a good music video, in your opinion?
You just know it when you see it. It's the same thing for a piece of music. You know when you hear a song and no love went into it, no struggle, someone just shat it out. Same thing for a music video. You just know. For me, it's just locking onto the heart of the song whether it's with abstract imagery or a narrative. Doesn't matter, I like both. Find the cadence, like you said. I don't think I could make a list. Just have heart.
Photo credit: John Miles Codding