Home Is A Fire

Boing Boing is thrilled to feature the premier of Death Cab For Cutie's "Home Is A Fire" music video, by artist Shepard Fairey and Death Cab bassist Nicholas Harmer. The song is from Death Cab for Cutie's exquisite new album, Codes And Keys, available May 31, 2011 on Atlantic Records. Below, Shepard and Nick share their inspiration and thoughts on this perfect collaboration. -- David Pescovitz

Shepard Fairey:

I have been a fan of Death Cab for years so I was excited to hear from bassist Nick Harmer about his idea to collaborate on a video piece for their song Home Is A Fire.

I love the democracy of music and I'm always excited to bundle visual art with great music. Nick sent me the lyrics to Home Is A Fire and they evoked the duality of "home" both as a place you inhabit, and also as a place that inhabits or traps you. One's relationship with home might be complicated, but ultimately it can be a two-way dialogue, of which we can at least affect one-way.

The city can be an impersonal place, imposing, simultaneously anonymous and claustrophobic. However, there are opportunities for us to affect the city(and life) experience rather than accepting things as passive voyeurs. We all have fears and insecurities about ourselves and our circumstances, but if we have the courage to take risks and participate we can adapt and embrace the flux, rather than fear it. This video is about illustrating these ideas and the multiple dimensions of the city experience by taking the viewer on a journey to encounter the Home Is A Fire lyrics as street art. Street art appeals because it makes the landscape a little less dreary for the viewer, and it is a bureaucracy free creative outlet for the participants. I would say that a street art call to action is "if you don't like your home... reshape it".

The power of street art is in its intrigue and authenticity , so it was crucial to actually put all the lyrics and images up on the streets. We wanted the viewer to experience the urban environment in a very real and intimate way that celebrates that one persons wart is another's beauty mark. Some of the art was put up prior to the video shoot in places that seemed appropriate to the lyrical themes, while other pieces were put up during the shoot. We filmed the preparation of materials as well to demonstrate the energy and process involved in becoming pro-active. Some of the street art was cleansed within a day.

Street art, like everything, is ephemeral but I hope that in watching this video and listening to the song, people see a little magic and potential in the unappreciated details of the landscape of their lives, no matter how fleeting they may be.

Thank you to all the people who helped make this video happen.


Nicholas Harmer:

For me, Home Is A Fire is about redefining familiar space. The narrator in the song seems unsettled, searching and yearning, scanning the environment for something comforting in an uncomfortable place. I knew that if the band would give me a chance to make a visual accompaniment to this song that those would be the themes and mood that I would most want to highlight and accentuate. As a parallel to this, I have always been intrigued and excited about the street art movement that has really exploded during my lifetime. It's a movement and expression that I feel defines my generation in many ways, and some artists that for years worked as shadows have now become known by name. One of those names is Shepard Fairey. And not only is he an artist that I hold in the highest regard, but he is also a friend.

You can probably see now how these things connect. It was a logical step in my mind to take a song about redefining familiar space and connect it to the visual artistic expression of street art, which also, to me, is rooted in artists redefining familiar spaces. So I called Shepard and asked him if he would be into figuring out a way to do this and also make it compelling. From the very first conversation, Shepard could see this intersection between his world and mine and knew exactly what to do and how to do it. We agreed on key points, we could see it in our minds. I was beyond happy and honored to have his involvement in this.

So I left him to do his thing, to make the art and he left me to mine, to assemble a team of equally creative cinematographers to help document and capture not only the final moments of the art being on walls, but the process leading up to that. This wasn't a typical music video shoot in that there was no shooting script, no real specific direction to give other than "here's the song, here's the art, react." In every way, while the concept, the music and art, came from Shepard and I, the execution and realization of this project came from Aaron Stewart-­‐Ahn who acted as our Producer and was also one of four cinematographers that also included the talents of Tarin Anderson, Todd Mazer, and Justin Mitchell. Without their eyes behind the lenses, this would not have come together has beautifully as it has. I also have to give credit to Christopher Hills—Wright who, as our editor, had to sort through footage from four cinematographers and somehow weave it all together to make a cohesive, watchable experience. And that is what this has ultimately become, an experience, something interesting to watch and to listen to. There are many narratives here or there are none, it either makes sense or it doesn't. But regardless of whether or not this "means" anything to you I hope there is a mood and atmosphere in the music and images that makes you think about your familiar spaces and how you define them.




22 Responses to “Home Is A Fire”

  1. Mujokan says:

    So thrilled about this exquisite exclusive.

  2. randomguy says:

    Exquisite, yeah? The album is exquisite?

  3. millie fink says:


    Sometimes it seems that the big corps really will co-opt EVERYTHING worthwhile.

  4. swankgd says:

    Nice visual tour of one of my favorite ares of Los Angeles

  5. Anonymous says:

    Thats PFG.
    (Pretty eFfin Good)

  6. thekinginyellow says:

    wow, what a boring video. i like dcfc and find a lot of their work to be exquisite. however, i’ve never like fairey’s work and i certainly don’t like this video.

  7. Anonymous says:

    i didn’t expect much (not into dcfc) but it was surprisingly charming.

  8. Mujokan says:

    My comments seem so much more serious in this cool font.

  9. Aloisius says:

    Wow this song reminds me a lot of Radiohead.

  10. MacBookHeir says:

    Does anyone know whether music videos have a direct affect on music sales anymore? Besides YouTube, the only places I see music videos are in clothing stores in malls. Video of all sorts is so omni-present I’m wondering if music videos have any affect like they did in the late 1980s, or are they released mostly (today) as vanity additions to band contracts?

    • millie fink says:

      “Does anyone know whether music videos have a direct affect on music sales anymore?”

      Why yes, seems to me I’ve heard that they do. I think the affect is sadness. Or maybe, ennui.

  11. Ediblejams says:

    While I love BoingBoing, I’m a bit wary of their music recommendations since they gave their stamp of approval to the new Decemberists LP, a record with…Numerous issues.

    I do like this video, though! Quite a lot. And the song, mostly, until the chorus comes in. I think it’s a bit contrived, especially when you consider DCFC’s earlier LPs. Looking forward to checking out this LP though, I hope we get to hear something more like Something About Airplanes or We Have the Facts and We’re Voting Yes rather than their more recent albums. I’ve missed those subdued, almost-punk undertones they had in their earlier songs.

    • paulj says:

      There are numerous issues with the new Decemberists LP? Maybe you need to replace the needle on your turntable. It’s the best REM album in years.

  12. Rob Beschizza says:

    “While I love BoingBoing, I’m a bit wary of their music recommendations since they gave their stamp of approval to the new Decemberists LP”

    Dude, we recommended “Science Fiction Dance Party” and you’re pointing to a Decemberists endorsement? At any moment there could be a chiptune remix of Engelbert Humperdink on the front door.

    • penguinchris says:

      That’s an excellent rebuttal, but to be fair, there’s a bit of a difference between “recommending” something like “Science Fiction Dance Party” and recommending the latest release by a well-known indie band.

      The first falls into typical BB territory, which often includes mentions of crazy/funny old stuff, often just for the novelty value. The second is music journalism territory, where people decide what music to seriously listen to based on the opinion of respected critics.

      Don’t get me wrong, I do like to see the music recommendations/reviews on BB, be it this (I enjoyed the video, overall), a review of a Decemberists album, or crazy stuff I don’t even like such as Die Antwoord.

  13. marcel says:

    Music is music, i’d hate for BB not to give good tips that they like. Never was into dcfc a lot but now I look forward to their next album. Cheers! I love the track.

  14. james4765 says:

    That’s an awesome video. I’d wondered what a LensBaby would look like on a HDSLR camera – I was planning on using one in some future shoots. Watching Shepard Fairey at work is a treat as well. I’m not the biggest indie rock fan in the world (I like my music loud, angry, and fast) but Death Cab For Cutie is very good at this music thing, and the video did a very good job of illustrating the ambivalence in the song.

    I’d say this is a great example of why I read Boing Boing – it’s something awesome I would not have found on my own.

  15. adralien says:

    Not sure what codec they’re using, or if it was the tilt-shift and focus-pulls, but that looked -phenomenal- in full screen… Good stuff!

  16. onebeerglass says:

    What makes the song independent and good – as opposed to boring pop? The b(l)and are signed to warner (of all people) and the song is directionless at best.

    I usually quite like boingboing music links but you’re off the mark with this one.

    Pasting your lyrics around the streets and then filming it does not a good video make, especially when you rely on a single effect, it’s like watching a skate video obsessed with fish-eye. As regarding the subject I think that street art has a hard enough time without this kind of crap littering the walls. Not only is it hackneyed but rather than popularizing, can only serve to give more creative street art a bad name.

    It also worries me that it’s “exclusive” and sticky, which suggests an effort to flog some life into the release by association with, and approval by an otherwise popular website, parasitically drawing influence and recognition, undeserved, from yourselves.
    If you’re being paid to recommend it then have the decency to say so.
    if you’ve fallen for the excitement of an “exclusive” then back to critical school for you, exclusive ≠ good.
    If you just like it, let it drop off the front page with every other story.

    Poor Show Indeed.

  17. Borgs_of_Canada says:

    There is nothing to say. That song is just incredible. I was thinking “Oh, not crazy… too bad” until he started with “plates they will shift…”. I am a huge fan of DCFC and that song does not disappoint me at all. I look forward to the album.

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