Neon Trees' 'Sleeping With a Friend' Music Video by Surround
Island Def Jam approached directors Brian and Brad Palmer of Surround to create the music video for "Sleeping With a Friend," the first single off multi-platinum band Neon Trees' forthcoming album, "Pop Psychology."
"Keeping in mind the high expectations and the references we discussed at the beginning of the project, Brad and I presented a flexible treatment that spoke creatively to frontman Tyler Glenn," Brian explained. "We usually have every detail worked out on the front end, but for this, it was okay for us to not know everything from the outset and that allowed us the opportunities to take creative risks." Brad noted: "We were able to a step back and think, 'What's missing from this shot or sequence? What can we add?' We did that through every step of the process, so our direction wasn't so paint-by-numbers." Brian added, "There's something comfortable about embracing the unknown when you know everyone on board has the same goal ... it leads to moments of discovery that otherwise aren't possible."
Surround shot for three days and post-production happened over several weeks at its full-service studio in Brooklyn. "This project embodies the choreography of a spectrum of methods – there's stop-motion animation, hand-drawn illustrations, 3D and CGI, 2D animations, and life-size character design," Brad said. Brian remarked that it was challenging to composite the range of techniques into the live-action scenes already rich from set design and wardrobe, "but this is our way of working and we really enjoyed evolving further."
"Music videos aren't made like this anymore," Brad continued. "It's refreshing to have this Neon Trees piece out there, carrying the viewer into a such a visceral world." For Brian, seeing the band use elements from the video for album artwork and during performances makes the project more than just a music video: "It's become a keystone piece of Neon Trees' identity, which is crucial leading up to the launch of a new record."
Surround Video Introduces Rihanna at the AMAs
Surround, led by directing team Brad and Brian Palmer, created the 90-second-long video that honored Rihanna, the recipient of the first-ever Icon Award, for Sunday night's American Music Awards.
"The video needed to capture the scale of an artist like Rihanna, so this was about designing a lot of information to fit a single frame," said Brad. "She's the best-selling digital artist of all time; she has a tremendous presence on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram; her YouTube channel is widely watched. To process all of this, we recreated certain imagery – forming a visual timeline of her career – and collaged the elements."
"Working at the convergence of graphic design, live action, and animation, we're always playing with how a certain moment is defined through motion," Brian added. "This piece could be called graphic design and it could be called animation … by operating in both the physical world and further manipulating footage digitally, we blur the boundaries." Brad said he was "excited to put Surround's techniques in front of such a large audience."
Brad and Brian have a longstanding relationship with Rihanna, which abated any anxiety during the AMAs. "We've become part of her team, so we think more about what we can bring to the table instead of being nervous," Brian said. "She's a very grounded individual – she's not interested in the pedestal and maybe that's why she's there."
Surround Directs AFI's New Music Video
Universal Records and Californian rockers AFI asked Surround to direct the music video for "I Hope You Suffer," the band's new single following several years without an album release.
"We've been very interested in manipulating the camera lens to create visuals and design 'in camera,' so for the video, we created and customized an additional optics layer that we attached to the front of the camera," Surround's Brian and Brad Palmer explained in an e-mail. "We used it to control certain areas of the focus. It was like a futuristic hand crafted swing/tilt system. This allowed us to create the mood we were after, while keeping the video minimal and intimate. There's a closeness that you feel when you watch Davey [Havok] sing."
Surround previously created a five-part film series to reintroduce AFI to listeners. It explored identity, solace, and rebirth through a protagonist who falls into two parallel worlds.
AFI's forthcoming album "Burials," produced by Gil Norton, drops October 22.