Alice in Wonderland but make it Khruangbin: Inside the video for the band’s single May Ninth

Jenny Lucia Mascia, Jeremy Higgins and a wider team of 2D and 3D animators endow the band’s world with spellbinding visuals.

27 March 2024


Khruangbin is a universe. The musical trio own their position at the trailhead of a nostalgic age, incorporating psychedelic funk, rock, dub and soul to a perfect balance that avoids all notions of mimicry. They’re long-lasting. Profound enough to have their instrumentals sampled by the likes of Knxwledge and humbly assist the laments of Jay Z and Jay Electronica, while maintaining a partial anonymity that is often substituted by their visual domain. Their videos when looked at together don’t offer up a visual consistency, but are inextricably dealing in human emotion – the desire to be happy, connected and free.

For the band’s upcoming album, A La Sala, the visual sentiment seems to be the same. Of its singles, May Ninth is standing out to many for its liking to that of a soft stream of consciousness (there are Reddit threads of fans proclaiming it to be an instant favourite after three studio albums and five EP’s worth of music). The animated video for the track, directed by Jenny Lucia Mascia and Jeremy Higgins, leans into this through the motif of a child’s discovery and ascension, that portrays a clear understanding of the potential that each Khruangbin video has. “We first started by doing research and writing the story. It included things such as ancestral plants, simple life forms, and things in nature that represented interconnectivity,” Jeremy tells us. “It helped us to design this world of ‘life before life’,” he adds.

The May Ninth video’s ethereal feel hinges not only on the 2D hand drawn animations, but the 3D generated camera movements, that sum up the contrasting visual approaches that Jenny and Jeremy have in their work. Jenny was born and raised in the outskirts of Urbino, a municipality in Marche, Italy, by her artist parents, and could be found illustrating stories from elementary school age. “I remember creating an ‘epic journey’ following me, my dogs and cats venturing into the forest surrounding my home,” she tells us, “rather than relying solely on words, I always approached things visually with accompanying text. Words always seemed a bit elusive to me, whereas pictures feel like home.” And Jeremy grew up in northern New Jersey, a lover of animation from Studio Ghibli to Disney, but he just didn’t consider himself a producer in the realm, until he began studying at the School of Visual Arts. “Once I started, I couldn’t stop. It quickly became clear to me that animation, and maybe one day films, was what I wanted to focus on,” he shares. “And as for directing, it just felt like a natural direction to head in if I ever wanted to create stories as beautiful as my inspirations growing up.”


Jenny Lucia Mascia and Jeremy Higgins: May Ninth (Copyright © Dead Oceans in association with Night Time Stories, 2024)

Created over approximately 3000 frames, the May Ninth video is an intricate process between the 2D and 3D. After the digital animations were composited together, the team printed the video, using it as a ‘base’, “essentially like rotoscoping”, Jeremy shares, before Lucia and the 2D team drew over each individual frame with pastels, adding the rich colour and texture that bares the translation of Khruangbin’s themes and essence. A lot of this process was made possible by the number of 3D animators on the project and the 3D animation director, Alice Aires, who modelled the majority of the world. As well as the complex character scenes, largely done by Elena Galofaro. “The collaboration between 2D and 3D animation was crucial because the video aimed to complement hand-drawn artwork while predominantly utilising CGI for animation,” Lucia adds.

Although the video and its process presents a certain balance and cohesion, both Jeremy and Lucia found there to be particular challenges at every single stage. “We had to wear many hats to get the video moving,” Jeremy shares, “if the project was only 2D animated or 3D animated the pipeline could’ve been simpler, but of course felt we had to take the harder path”. While Lucia found it challenging to connect the scenes into a narrative. She says: “It was difficult to reshape the given story draft (from the label and the band) to something that resonates personally. While the original focused on the character’s relationship with her plant-like parents and her life before being born, the instinct was to expand it to encompass all life and interconnectedness.”

Now that Khruangbin have another wildly ethereal video to add to their canon, it’s clear that this one was made possible by the instincts of two deeply inspired directors who wanted to tell the story whole. Get lost in their world.

GalleryJenny Lucia Mascia and Jeremy Higgins: May Ninth (Copyright © Dead Oceans in association with Night Time Stories, 2024)

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Jenny Lucia Mascia and Jeremy Higgins: May Ninth (Copyright © Dead Oceans in association with Night Time Stories, 2024)

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About the Author

Yaya Azariah Clarke

Yaya (they/them) joined It’s Nice That as an editorial assistant in June 2023 and became a staff writer in November of the same year. With a particular interest in Black visual culture, they have previously written for publications such as WePresent, alongside work as a researcher and facilitator for Barbican and Dulwich Picture Gallery.

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