HP Lovecraft’s short science-fiction story “The Colour Out of Space” is set on a piece of poisoned land in Arkham, Massachusetts, where a meteorite crashed many years ago. As a result, the plants are overgrown and foul, the animals are grotesquely deformed and the nearby inhabitants are all insane. The story might seem a strange place to find inspiration for a music video, but not for Marie Larrivé and Lucas Malbrun, two Paris-based directors.
The pair, part of the Eddy production company in Paris, have long worked together on animation projects and were approached last summer by Sabrina & Samantha (AKA producers Julien Briffaz and Laurent Bardainne) to direct the video for their latest single, SABA. Marie and Lucas listened to the track, with its driving bass line and dancing saxophone melody, and were instantly intrigued.
The initial brief was simple: the musicians had asked for something colourful and punky, and with cute animals thrown in for good measure. As Lucas explains, he and Marie took this as a starting point and ran with it. “We wanted to tell a story, where the music is the disrupting element and decided to locate the clip in the North, so that the music could warm up and transform the landscape and the people,” he says. “As animation is a perfect medium to depict transformations, we also wanted to reflect modern issues like global warming and natural catastrophes, in a psychedelic way.”
He and Marie have certainly achieved that goal. The video follows a technicolour cloud that sweeps over some nondescript countryside and into a city, raining colourful drops onto people, plants and animals. These are then, in turn, transformed into grotesque animals and alien forms. It’s here that the influence of “The Colour Out of Space” becomes really obvious.
As the video progresses, the army is called in to deal with the crisis and a war is waged on the streets of the city. “We liked the psychedelic aspect of the music,” says Marie, “and immediately thought about a story of mass hysteria.”
If the storyline is psychedelic, the process of making the video was more painstaking. “We started working on the story and the visuals in August and finished it in December,” says Marie. Lucas talks us through their process: “Marie and I work very closely on the preparatory stages, the storyline and the visuals. After that we did the storyboard and the animatic. Then the real production starts: we drew the whole clip with markers and animated frame by frame.” They worked with a team of animators at Brunch studio in Paris to bring their vision to life.
This marker-pen style is interesting, giving the whole video a feeling of childhood simplicity. The illustrator Christoph Niemann told us at Nicer Tuesdays in December that, as a kid, it had caused him endless frustration that colouring in with a marker pen, you could never get a consistent colour (as we all know, when two pen-strokes overlap, the colour darkens a shade or two). Marie and Lucas were clearly unafraid of this when they made this video – their use of marker-pen illustration really embraces this inevitable side effect and relishes this analogue imperfection. And we have to admit, it’s grown on us too.