“It made me feel like I’d sneezed my entire brain out”: The story behind Molly Fairhurst’s funny music video for Deerhoof
Boarding, directing, animating and editing an entire animated music video by oneself is no mean feat. Here, Molly takes us behind the scenes of her visuals for rock band Deerhoof.
- 27 August 2021
- Jyni Ong
When Satomi Matsuzaki (the singer for band Deerhoof) sent Molly Fairhurst a kind message about her work, the illustrator leapt at the opportunity to work with the band she’d long been a fan of. “I volunteered a video on the spot!” she tells us, and luckily for her, the American band reciprocated. Released earlier this week, Plant Thief is the joyful result of this collaboration; a lively rock tune featuring haunting vocals by Satomi, accompanied by a story about a protagonist and an anthropomorphised onion courtesy of the It’s Nice That former Grad.
Molly has often viewed her livelier work as a visualisation of a Deerhood song, so the chance to work with the band was a dream come true. In terms of the process behind the music video, it all started with a rare feat; Molly was given a few new songs to listen to, and the option to choose the track that “felt good to work with”. There were a couple of close contenders, she remembers, “but Plant Thief’s story and rhythm grabbed me,” she says. “It grabbed me because I listened to it first at night, a bit giddy, and the middle crescendo made me feel like I’d sneezed my entire brain out.”
The lyrics were the key to the creative interpretation, acting as a starting point – or as Molly calls it, “the spices” or “the portrait” of the overall song. She particularly enjoyed the tension of the song, the way it flits between being sharp and rolling. “Something happening in every bar,” she observes, “so I made something happen for every bar too.” Though the song had a set rhythm and story, Molly had the luxury of following her own experimental tuition to come up with the visuals of the music video. She played with a number of different ideas as to how the protagonist could express herself in the short.
Looking around her, she saw a brick in the studio which, in the animator’s mind, could signify a building. It also made her think of a bus. In this instinctual way, Molly began thinking up more abstract visuals: “What if the sun became an apple?” she ponders. “I wanted more to happen as more was happening.” Along her creative journey, she started adding colour, collage and negative space – a myriad of processes and expressions that could fit with the characterisation of the protagonist. In this natural way, Molly created the music video. And step by step, eventually, everything fell into place.
Stylistically, Plant Thief is minimal, featuring a number of wet brush strokes on the page. “Some may argue that it’s not animated at all,” says Molly, “maybe more of a comic that boils. But I believe it suited this cadence.” The intentionally naive compositions have a charming simplicity to it, only adding to the character of the protagonist and the onion and the buzz of the song. She hand drew all the frames on paper (“partly because of my skill level”) but also because she was boarding, directing, animating and editing the whole production herself. You can’t deny it’s a joyful and chuckle-inducing piece of animation; a song beautifully nestled in Molly’s painterly strokes. The only down side may be the fact that now, “my house is full of even more paper,” Molly jokes. “The frames are currently sitting in a big pile on the kitchen table and I don’t know why.”
It was no mean feat to carry out the whole production by herself and the process consisted of a flurry of editing together a few hundred different drawings. For this reason, it was great to work in such a lo-fi method, as Molly could run with her creative freedom while the band, on the other side of the world, welcomed her vision. It’s a highly enjoyable music video whatever your taste or age group. Whether the viewer follows the storyline literally or purely enjoys the colours and shapes on display, Molly is happy either way.
Even though she’s watched Plant Thief just short of “a million times” she still gets a chuckle out of the absurdity that can be interpreted by the stern-faced protagonist and friend. She ends our interview with a rundown of the narrative in question: “The story is, I suppose, about when you are so angry you could dissolve into ink. Nothing can stop those shivering atoms other than being swallowed whole into the dark. Maybe a big bird will do you that favour. At the time of boarding the animation I did feel a bit like that. I have been swallowed and hatched since.”
GalleryMolly Fairhurst: Plant Thief (Copyright © Molly Fairhurst, 2021)
Molly Fairhurst: Plant Thief (Copyright © Molly Fairhurst, 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.