The energy of Ferns caught our attention around the time of their DIY video for "Impulsive", and today the band gets the full animated rendering in the debut of Jay Marks' video for "Surf Song". Based on concept drawings and sketches taken at one of the band's Brooklyn shows at Pianos, the group and their audience become part of their cartoon episode with a classic Pinocchio twist. An outspoken group of enthusiastic and multi-talented friends known to give us manifesto statements, we should have known that it was only a matter of time before they got the Jamie Hewlett-style Gorrillaz treatment.
Marks' video starts in the mellow way "Surf Song" eases its way into play, placed in the smoky bar setting. The audience enjoys stogies, pints, games of pool, and classic arcade racing games as Ferns' play it deceptively slow. As they shift into gear on the second verse, all hell is about to break lose as the venue sign gets switched around from, "come in, we're open" to red "beat it, we're closed." The animated avatars of Kelly, Kevin, Phil and Brandon bring down the house where the audience becomes possessed by the band's board busting boogie. As the concert goers become unruly and enraptured by the unleashed audio aggression of the band's sound and howls, things take a turn for the malevolent. While Ferns play on and louder in their cartoon environment, the crowd regresses into Lord of the Flies anarchy from spray painting their surroundings, sling shot delinquency, and more under the observance of a suspicious barkeep. Making literal jack-asses of themselves, the rowdy and untamed audience are ultimately transformed into donkeys, a la Pinocchio. Then as "Surf Song" reaches its frantic climax, the infamous Pleasure Island scene is revisited as the dizzying end leaves you wanting more cartoon capers from the Brooklyn quartet.
An already animated bunch, we are joined by Ferns' vocalist Kelly Jackson, guitarist Kevin Dedes, bassist Phil Maves, drummer Brandon Starniri and video animator, Jay Marks to talk about this wild, visual creation.
First of all, how does it feel to have become animated?
Kevin Dedes: Awesome! I’ve lost weight!
Phil Maves: Are you suggesting we’re a bit dull? I kid, I kid. Actually, it’s pretty incredible! Jay Marks directed the video, and he did a great job capturing an exaggerated version of the band.
Kelly Jackson: I think he did a great job of relaying our energy throughout.
Brandon Starniri: It inspired me to apply for CHiP.
How much of a role did you have in the concepts at work?
Kevin: I went to college with Jay, and we’ve worked together on different projects. He pitched the main idea to us and we just kind of did what he wanted. We were on board from the beginning and thought it was rad from the get go.
Phil: Our previous video, “Impulsive”, was a low-tech, DIY video that we filmed in our drummer Brandon’s living room and edited over a weekend. “Surf Song” was the polar opposite approach, and it was entirely Jay’s concept.
Kelly: Jay took pics of us at our show at Pianos for reference. I’m glad he got my red shoes in!
How long did this take to make?
Jay Marks: A few months, juggling it with other projects. The tricky but fun part was combining completely different approaches: the characters are all drawn by hand in the real world with pencil, then scanned in, colored, and animated on the computer, then placed into three dimensional environments that are rendered to look paintings or sketches.
Love how it turns into the Pinocchio goes to Pleasure Island cautionary tale, that is often called one of the most horrifying scenes in vintage animation. How did the multi-faceted fun of "Surf Song" turn into the donkey transfiguration epidemic?
Jay: It came from the vibe of the song. During the earlier, quieter parts I could picture Kelly singing in a smoky, dark venue, like a scene out of an old noir movie, and then when it kicks in and she's doing those crazy howls, I just imagined that same mysterious environment exploding into chaos as the band played on. Then the idea of mashing it up with a tribute to the classic Pleasure Island scene gave the whole thing a kind of sinister angle, like the band was hired as entertainment for the Pleasure Island bar and were complicit in the nightly abduction and transformation of the kids. Basically celebrating the idea of the music corrupting the youth, I suppose.
Kevin: I also like the notion of ‘surfing’ in this ‘mixed-up-crazy-topsy-turvy’ world. Once you’re here, you gotta navigate somehow, and hopefully not look like too much of a jackass.
Is this video a sort of ad council public service announcement to curb hedonistic vices to the tune of a song that incites a hedonistic feeling of raging and tearing the joint apart kind of thing?
Kevin: All of the above.
Phil: None of the above.
Kelly: I saw it to be reflective of the lyrical content, as the theme of what I wrote describes a Faustian situation that is hard to get out of.
Brandon: … [sips whiskey]
What do Ferns have in store for 2014?
Kevin: New record! New shows! A MILLION BILLION DOLLARS.
Phil: A jump to the left and a step to the right.
Kelly: A subscription to “Boobs Monthly” with every album download?
Brandon: [more whiskey sips]
Ferns' Whatever We Plan LP is available now via Bandcamp.