Formed via email, encouraged via blog love, and funded via kickstarter, the creative relationship between Brooklyn’s Holy Spirits and visual artist, Nathaniel Whitcomb, defines what’s been special about our community in 2010. Above is the latest piece of The Afternoon’s Blood to start moving, and in the next few weeks all of it will (as mentioned by The Road Goes Ever On‘s Cameron Book).
Thanks to a successfully backed project, Nathaniel was flown out from Cleveland to meet the band for the first time and perform together last Saturday at Space Space with fellow collaborators Gem Club accompanied by visual artist BriAnna Olson (pictures below), and again tonight at Issue Project Room. The act will then go west in January.
We all (Aaron, Michael, Nathaniel, Victoria and I) found ourselves hanging in one room on Monday, so naturally this thing called for a snapshot and came out like a roundtable interview:
D: OK, who first, Nathaniel, how did this all happen?
N: I guess it started this summer, I was really getting bored of coding websites, and started doing more explorations with my collage work, and got bored with that as well, so I set a goal for myself to start putting motion to it and just see where it went. Then I actually had a surgery and couldn’t really get out of the house too much so I decided to take advantage of the downtime. I discovered Holy Spirits from the blog Smoke Don’t Smoke, and thought it was kind of strange and cool that they were initially asking people to email them for the EP. This probably never would have happened if I just grabbed it from bandcamp, since it sparked a whole conversation about music and books. They actually sent me books [Michael works for a publishing company]. I wanted to repay the kindness somehow so I thought, why not use them in one of my experiments. I tried making something for the one minute track ["The Afternoon's Blood"], put it up online, and sent it over.
M: Nathaniel was one of the first people to actually email us. Then later out of the blue came this collage. We were pretty blown away. It was very different, and that particular track too, it’s really more of an opener than an actual song. So the idea came to ask him if he would be interested in doing videos for the entire EP. At the time we weren’t thinking of performing it that way, but we did want to go in a more visual direction with the band.
A: Michael’s been really into music videos for a long time [the two have been friends since childhood], he’s been talking about having music videos before we had music. And I like videos a lot, but I definitely have to give it to Michael for this project, for taking on as much brevity as it has, because he had such a yearning for their to be a complimentary aspect.
D: And then came the idea to do a show together?
A: We just sent him an email and said, “hey wanna do this?”
N: I’d never done live visuals, but why not? I spent the first couple weeks trying to figure out a live visual program for the shows before even starting to make the collages and that was a huge hangup because I didn’t know what I was doing. So I finally put that aside and focused on creating them, and once they were done, I backtracked and figured out how we could pull it off live.
D: So, I don’t think any of us really know how these images move. What’s that process like?
N: The very first video was only one image, scanned out of an old National Geographic, brought it into Photoshop, chopped it into pieces, and then brought into After Effects where I started to play around with motion. Once we committed to doing the entire EP I began to think of it a little differently. I wanted them to be more meaningful than an animated collage. I asked Aaron for lyrics, read through them a couple times to get an idea of his concept, put the song on repeat surrounded by a pile of magazines, a cup of tea and just let things flow. I’d go to bed each night with that track in my head. Hands down, these are now the most played songs in my iTunes.
D: Each video has a theme or what seems like a lyrical tie-in, can you talk about that role?
N: I read it more as a poem than a song and from that grabbed one overarching concept. One of the goals was to make someone walk away with this and feel like they experienced something instead of just heard music and saw images. I almost approached them as very short films rather than music videos.
M: When we started doing this with a visual aspect in mind, we wanted something well integrated. We’ve all seen bands use projections you know and it’s cool but we wanted to make sure these were cohesive. Nathaniel mentioned he could manipulate them live, slow them down, make them work with whatever nuances came about. We sent rough takes back and forth so he could start fitting them. Right down to the day of his flight. Even the first run through on Saturday, we only had about 10 minutes to physically rehearse.
N: Ha yeah, I think we got about two songs in, and then it was time. But I had prepared files to allow for areas to expand and make sure nothing would go all black or white. I left it flexible because, of course, the live songs wouldn’t be exactly like the EP.
D: The videos lined up perfectly at times, and when things didn’t land right on cue, it still fit really well; there was a forgiving element, looked great. You guys must be pleased.
M: Thanks! We treated Nathaniel like a band member, so we tried not to water down our feedback on his video drafts. I think that helped us bond stronger when we played.
N: It helped me a lot too. It’s really easy to get stuck in your own ideas. The videos turned out much better with their input.
A: I couldn’t really turn around to see. I might have to on Tuesday. I remember looking at Chris [of Gem Club] during “Fingertips” though and he was just like watching in awe…
D: So you have one more show on Tuesday, same setup, and then you get to chill with some west coast bloggers in the new year…
M: Yeah it’s been awesome that they’re willing to help us out, Tim of Smoke Don’t Smoke, Robert of See The Leaves, Cameron of The Road Goes Ever On, Jessi from Father/Daughter Records. It doesn’t feel like a business, just friends helping each other, it’s really pretty amazing. I’m always curious to see what ideas they might have too.
D: Yeah this type of thing would never happen, just a few years ago.
We went on to discuss the band’s closet-sized practice space; their teenage death metal/hardcore punk days growing up on army bases; fellow military brats Jim Morrison, the original line-up of the band America (that everyone thinks is Neil Young), and Shaquille O’Neal; as well as plans to record new material. And here’s what Saturday looked like: