Death Cab for Cutie Loves Boing Boing Video (and BB!) -- and we, in Turn, All Love Animator/Artist Bill Barminski.

Well, this is neat. About the video above, one of our viewers/readers writes:

My name is Nick Harmer and I play the bass guitar in Death Cab for Cutie. I'm writing to you because Bill Barminski of Walter Robot fame just informed me that you'd be posting something about the video they recently completed for our song "Grapevine Fires" on Boing Boing.
Nick is right, and that amazing video is embedded above. Feast your eyes, mutants! I asked Nick to talk with us a little more about how the video came to be, and he very kindly obliged. He continues,
I couldn't be more excited that you might post something about our video, because, actually, to be completely honest, you are responsible for pairing Death Cab for Cutie with Walter Robot in a cupid sort of way, whether you know it or not.

I personally am a avid reader of Boing Boing while off the road and on the road, and seriously, you and the Boing Boing gang are responsible for many, many smiles in my life, thank you for that.

Last November you posted an item on Boing Boing tv about the Walter Robot video for Gnarls Barkley's Mystery Man and when I saw that clip, I knew that Walter Robot was the answer. Especially for our song "Grapevine Fires." So thank you again and again, Xeni, for not only enriching my life on personal level but on a professional level too. I'm not sure I would have discovered Walter Robot without your help.

Wow. I'm a massive fan of Death Cab, as are my fellow bloggers and Boing Boing video production colleagues, so -- Nick, you just blew my/our minds. Thank you! He continues:
During our last album, entitled Plans, I got frustrated with the amount of sometimes suffocating input that bands and labels felt they needed to give to filmmakers making videos, so along with my friend, director Aaron Stewart-Ahn, we came up with a concept to have 11 different filmmakers direct a video for each song on our album. The set up was simple, a lower budget with complete creative control. We held the line that no matter what you make as a filmmaker we will stand behind as a band. The "Directions" project as it was called turned out beautifully and the videos that were made surpassed anything we could have hoped for. So it made sense to keep this hands off philosophy for the videos for our newest album Narrow Stairs as well.

After seeing the Mystery Man video on Boing Boing (and other Walter Robot shorts, too) I just had a hunch that Walter Robot's style would be a perfect fit for our song "Grapevine Fires." When I first spoke with Bill and Christopher, I really had no specific direction in mind. I told them that I felt like we would have to match the lyrics somehow, without being too literal and that I really wanted their animation style to remain fragile and delicate amidst such a tragic song. At first I was worried about how they would walk the line that the song holds.

(Nick's email continues after the jump! - XJ)

Sure the song is ostensibly about the imminent threat of a wildfire, but it also about hope, about moving forward and carrying on despite the chance of destruction. I think Ben's lyrics really capture that feeling of hope-despite-tragedy and that is a tricky thing to depict visually without going way over the top or straying into cliche and even more tricky to capture with animation. So I have to give all the credit to Walter Robot team for not only coming up with a compelling unique story but a story that doesn't pull the sentiment of the song too far from it's original expression either. They really did strike the perfect balance between giving emotional weight and being too heavy handed.

I had my initial conversations about direction, mood, and tone with the Walter Robot guys in late November/ early December but after that first round of basically telling them what we didn't want, I didn't hear from them until late January when then shared a snippet of what they had been working on.

I about cried. It was so beyond what I could have ever hoped for, like the best ever birthday present I didn't even know I wanted. There is always some level of gamble when you give someone complete creative freedom, and I was so relieved that Walter Robot nailed it.

To be honest, it wasn't a unanimous celebration, I do remember in that first snippet there were the first appearances of the words floating through the scenes. There was some debate at the label about the use of words in the video, about whether they detracted from the song or had too much personality, but ultimately, our philosophy from the Directions project held. If Walter Robot wants words, then the band wants words too. And really, I see them as vital to the overall tone and mood of this video.

Our manager Jordan Kurland and I were so excited about the snippet that we didn't even send it along to the rest of the band members to see. We wanted Walter Robot to finish it completely and then show everyone the final version in one sitting.

So really, this was the perfect collaboration. We made the music and Walter Robot made the video, and the two expressions married together beautifully, everyone on the band side of things could not be happier, this video is truly amazing and it is an honor that the Walter Robot team made it for us.


  1. That’s fantastic! I love it when all my favorite things come together at once, and love one another!

  2. @hohum, me too!

    And, truth squad here — I cried when I saw the rough cut of that video, too, it was so beautiful and sad, the music and the visual story together!!!

  3. Could we perhaps all get together and give this animator some sort of “Most Awesome Animation of a Fantastic Death Cab for Cutie Song of All Time” award? And how am I supposed to go on with the rest of my day as normal with those images floating around in my head? Absolute genius.

  4. DCFC is constantly in my music rotation and the few videos I’ve seen (thanks to subterrainean) have all been really great. This one ABSOLUTELY takes the cake.

  5. Last summer an entire subdivision nearby me went up in flames. It happened fast – I watched as one house became completely engulfed in flames in under a minute. Many people didn’t have time to save a single possession and were lucky to make it out alive.

    This song and video capture that experience perfectly. Well done guys.

  6. Amazing video on so many levels. I have to admit I turn a blind ear to a lot of new bands, but DCFC will be added to my playlist. Thanks!

  7. Mmm, wonderful. Off to Spotify to listen to some more. Thanks ever so much for posting this Xeni.

  8. Absolutely wonderful. I’d type more, but I’m afraid I’d tear up – and I’m at work where that kind of thing isn’t cool.

  9. We are in tears here… 200 people died in fires in and around the vineyard districts of Victoria (southern Australia) only a few weeks ago.

  10. Wow, what a tour de force! Great animation job. (Any guesses as to the software used to create the video?)

    Just like the band member in the initial post, I was initially put off by the floating words, but that’s mostly because I am unfamiliar with the song and I was trying to hear the lyrics as the video played. If I knew the song, I don’t think the floating words would bother me at all.

    “Where’s my keytar?” for the win!

  11. As is so often the case, Joel’s got it right; I think this deserves an individual “yay!” from just about everyone with half an elated mind, or a single watery eye.


  12. Well, that gave me a case of the sads. Been a fan of death cab for a long time, glad they havent lost it in any of their albums. Consistently amazing and meaningful music. Thanks for that post Xeni. So Nick, whats your handle here?

  13. if you are just getting into Death Cab please do not start with their newest effort (Narrow Stairs)

    Start with Transatlanticism or The Photo Album

  14. I do poster design for bands, and more often than not, the band wants all kinds of creative control over the final product. This usually results in a stifled finished product. Why even hire an artist if you don’t trust their vision?

    I’m glad to see DCFC has embraced the idea of letting the artists do what they do best without interference, and has discovered that the best work comes from this freedom!

    The poster I did for them is by far my most popular because of this!

  15. That’s the third DCFC song that’s made me wipe my eyes. Gorgeous video, even through momentary visual blurriness.

  16. Amazing video, however very hard to watch after fires hit so close to home so recently.

    Hell some of these fires are still burning, one month tomorrow from when they started.

  17. That was one seriously flammable girlfriend. Though i guess it makes sense since they were all made of paper.

    My new girlfriend Chrysotile is completely fireproof, but now i’m suffering from mesothelioma.

  18. I admit it.
    I only posted the snarky comment because i resent being made to feel human emotions.

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