All Songs Considered Blog
Tue May 15, 2012
Spinto Band, 'The Living Things': Adventures In The Primordial Ooze
Originally published on Tue May 15, 2012 5:32 pm
Can a song that's about the fragility of life and the struggle to survive make you want to bounce around merrily? Somehow the Spinto Band's new song, "The Living Things," does just that. The song's lyrics that on their own could seem depressing — "true to life and in the flesh / though hanging on by just a thread" for example — are pushed aside by the jangly afrobeat-like melody. It's a song that, even though lead singer Nick Krill's voice wails about how he'll "be no good," leaves you with your toes tapping and a smile on your face.
The band's video for "The Living Things" also mixes this darker edge with a cheery outside. The video can be divided into two parts. The first segment follows a series of cute blob critters as they bend, twist, break apart, devour each other and explode. The drawn animation feels raw and reminds me of a few classic Sesame Street segments or a sunnier Don Hertzfeldt. The work is fluid and impressively keeps up with the jumpy instrumental bridges. My favorite part of the entire thing happens near the 1:50 mark into the video, when the band kicks up and an assortment of fantastic creatures quickly pop up on the screen and then vanish as fast as they came. It makes me want to go through frame by frame to see exactly what is drawn when.
"The Living Things" then switches its style but not its tone in the second part of the video — transforming to stop motion animation of the band wriggling and floating around an abandoned rooftop. While the people lack the impossible flexibility of the goo monsters, their herky-jerky style (very much like a flip-book) has an endearing charm.
Spinto Band singer Nick Krill told us he was surprised to see how similar director Phil Davis' take on the song was to his imagined music video:
It is strange, when I listen to this song I imagine people dancing under a big tent made of colored lights ... and when the song gets more rambunctious I picture them running at each other, jumping in to the air, locking arms (like in a square dance) and spinning around in mid-air until they kind of meld into each other. kind of strange, but there you go ... anyhow, I was excited to see that the director, Phil Davis, independently came up with a sort of similar idea and brought it to life ... but instead of people they are little amoeba things.
In an email, Davis described how he created "The Living Things'" animations:
"The Living Things" is a combination of hand drawn animation and pixilation (stop motion animation of humans). All of the roughly 2,000 drawings in the animation were created frame-by-frame by me over the course of 20 months. The animation frames were timed and synchronized to the music using an x-sheet, a method that dates back to the earliest sound cartoons created by the Walt Disney studios. The pixilation animation was greatly influenced by the work of Canadian animator Norman McLaren.
The Spinto Band's new album, Shy Pursuit, is out now.