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.