Harry Butt on how he won the pitch to make Tame Impala’s latest music video
The London-based animator, director and designer explains how he visualised Tame Impala's first ecstasy experience in the video for new track, Breathe Deeper.
- Jyni Ong
- 6 January 2021
Britain’s first lockdown in the spring of 2020 produced a gargantuan amount of creative projects from individuals and studios far and wide. Harry Butt, a multidisciplinary designer heading up the self-titled Butt Studio, is part of this cohort with last year’s lockdown actually serving up his most sizeable project to date. Pushing his experimental approach to animation one step further, Harry teamed up with the one and only Tame Impala for the video of their latest release; Breathe Deeper.
Working as the director alongside production company Blink Ink, executive producer Josef Byrne, and producer Rosanna Morley, Harry is no stranger to visually expressing chart topping hits, with previous clients including Dua Lipa, Nike, Boiler Room and MTV. But when asked to pitch for the job to accompany the psychedelic tones of multi-instrumentalist Kevin Parker (AKA Tame Impala), he found himself up against some of the biggest names in the industry, and the pressure kicked in.
“The brief was just one sentence about what the song was about,” Harry tells us, “Kevin’s first ecstasy experience.” The idea for the music video came to Harry while he was feeling “super paranoid” about pitching against other renowned studios. Taking one step at a time, he decided to deconstruct the brief down to its core elements: an ecstasy experience being beautiful but fleeting. Up until this point, Harry had also spent his mornings in lockdown rather usefully. At the beginning of each day, the first thing he’d do was spend ten minutes writing a story. “I was reading a lot of fairy tales and British folklore at the time,” Harry adds, another influence which made its way into Breathe Deeper.
Though the narrative for Tame Impala’s video didn’t jump out directly from one of these writing sessions, it served as a useful exercise in crafting a storyline and communication. After deconstructing the brief into that beautiful but fleeting feeling, Harry tried to find a home for these ideas “in a completely foreign and detached place to the drug experience,” in order to set his idea apart from the usual cliches of visualising inhibition. “We’ve all seen the drug experience played out in film and TV over and over again, and it’s the same every time,” he notes. In turn, Harry chose to do something distinctly different to the “big dog’s” interpretation, a contrast he would stumble across one day at his local park.
Like most of us Harry spent much of lockdown wandering around his local park, even once spotting a dragonfly zip across – a moment where the whole film was instantly answered, in its really short but beautiful life cycle.” The director does note however that the former statement is factually incorrect as it is mayflies that actually have the short lifecycle, not dragonflies. “What do I know?” he remarks on the line of thought that produced Breathe Deeper’s dragonfly motif and symbolism nonetheless.
After securing the job with this spark of an idea, Harry and Blink Ink got to work on making the concept a reality. Bringing on a team of creative excellence (including George Dyson, Dexter George, Jess Herrera, Ben Swanwick, Katy Wang, Jade Evans, Hannah Lau-Walker, Connor Campbell, Ewa Paniotowska and Black Kite Studios Ltd), the team worked throughout the trials of lockdown to create the six minute final film. A mesmerising piece of moving image, Breathe Deeper bears signature Butt Studio traits in its kaleidoscopic compositions and personable point of view camera movements. Subtly retelling Tame Impala’s unique ecstasy experience, Harry credits his collaborator’s with the ability to take his ideas out of his head and realise them with creativity and authenticity.
“We spent a long time modelling everything and it was a final sprint in actually getting the shots to tell the story,” he recalls of the process. In hindsight, he remarks, it was “not the best way to split the time.” Nevertheless, it was no mean feat to animate while directing at the same time, on top of providing feedback for other shots, and although “a little overwhelming at times,” the job was finally released at the end of 2020. “I had a really dark day when it went live,” Harry goes on to tell us, talking of this final hurdle. “I really struggle to be proud of anything I make, so it’s normal for me to not like a project once it’s live.”
But this time round, after an exceedingly tough year, Harry was able to couple his familiar feeling of dissatisfaction with gratitude for all the collaborators’ hard earned work. Not to mention “the clear understanding of the privilege to direct a music video for Tame Impala.” When we last spoke to Harry about the project just after the music video launched, he still wasn’t sure how he felt about the final work, but with a little time, hopefully he can come to appreciate the collaborative brilliance of the work, especially when created during a trying time.
Butt Studio: Tame Impala, Breathe Deeper (Copyright © Butt Studio, 2021)
About the Author
Jyni joined It’s Nice That as an editorial assistant in August 2018 after graduating from The Glasgow School of Art’s Communication Design degree. In March 2019 she became a staff writer and in June 2021, she was made associate editor.