Steve Warne has shown another, more pensive side to his illustrious animation portfolio with a new music video for Foals’ Into the Surf. The animator, whose credits include work on major animated films such as Isle of Dogs, Kubo and the Two Strings, and My Life as a Courgette, not to mention his compelling self-directed film Pombo Loves You (subject of his Nicer Tuesdays talk), has drawn from the song’s lyrics and the beautiful landscape of a Greek island, to create the understated and melancholic film.
Foals’ singer Yannis Philippakis wanted the video to follow the song closely, Steve remembers from the original brief, bringing to life its story about a person waiting for a loved one to return – with a tragic twist. “There’s poetic ambiguity to the lyrics too,” Steve tells It’s Nice That, “although I think the emotions cut through clearly, so the narrative had to follow suit.”
His animation follows two characters, one more abstract figure swimming through the sky, and another waiting wistfully by a window. In the sky is a current of glowing flowers, flocking towards a brightly lit orb. From the outset, the visuals suggest ideas of loss, separation, grief, and other worlds beyond our own. The painterly scenery was inspired by the Greek island of Amorgos, where Steve happened to be just after he received the brief, a serendipitous event given that Yannis is Greek and the song is “rooted in that landscape,” Steve says.
“I spent a lot of evenings walking around a mountain top village with the track on my headphones trying to soak up as much of it as possible,” the animator recounts. “The window that bookends the piece was based on a place within a 1000-year-old monastery half way up a cliff on the side of the island. The view out to sea was incredible. Even though only a tiny percentage of all of that stuff made its way into the video, it helped me find an atmosphere and world that was at least grounded in something real.”
As per Steve’s practice, the characters in the video are stop-motion, but for the sea and sky landscapes, and the stream of glowing flowers, he enlisted the help of fellow animator and “composting wizard” Will Anderson. “Pretty much everything you see is taken from something photographic or filmed,” Steve says, “so the skies and water are actually real footage thats been manipulated and collaged together.” This mix of techniques gives the video an ethereal quality, with the stop motion bringing real textures, and the composited backgrounds expanding this world and capturing “the heightened dream-like quality of the music,” he says.
“The idea was to lean towards something a bit more illustrative and painterly rather than anything too realistic,” Steve continues, citing Russian filmmaker Tarkovsky’s book of polaroids as a reference for making the video feel meditative. Similarly the colour palette conveys the song’s melancholy. “Using that chiaroscuro style helps keep things a bit mysterious too,” Steve concludes, “hopefully leaving room for the imagination to fill in the gaps.”