‘Putting a twist on a classic fable, it’s a beautifully striking visual.’
Following on from previous music videos that have accompanied their tracks, Flor and the Sea’s latest visual provides us with high quality production, striking imagery and inference-filled storytelling. However, while music videos from other artists may carry similarities in approach, it’s rare that a sequence of visuals will present a longer narrative. This though, is exactly what the Munich duo achieve. Using the theme of recurring characters and a running storyline, each of the visuals available for all but one track on their EP ‘Kings and Queens’ feels more like a chapter of a film than a standalone video. And as we discovered, there are very good reasons for this.
“The Fox and Rabbit concept was a crucial part in rebooting our project and it helped us distance ourselves from the first incarnation of Flor and the Sea. The whole idea for Dark Minds – our first video since the line-up change – originated from the car chase scene in Radiohead’s Karma Police video.” If you’re familiar with both videos, you will be fully aware of how these influences work themselves into Flor and the Sea’s visual. But there is more to it than first meets the eye. “To put a spin on it, we wanted to treat it almost like a classic fable, hence the humanoid animal characters. It’s basically a traditional revenge story: the weaker species gains the upper hand through the use of technology, and the hunter becomes the hunted.” As intentions go, it’s an incredibly strong starting point, but this idea actually developed into something bigger than initially expected.
“After we finished the video, we immediately realised that we were holding a treasure trove that literally begged for further exploration. In fact, Mrs. Fox and Mr. Rabbit advanced to becoming our beloved band-mascots, and we even take them on stage with us for every single live performance.” Briefly touching on those earlier releases, in ‘A Candid Lie’ for example, the carefully crafted masks adorn the stage, while the wearing of them brings ambiguity as the characters explore the funfair. Likewise, combination of silhouette-generating lighting and drum skin graphics in ‘Reconnect’ hint more subtly at their relevance. However, what is most intriguing about all this, is the relationship between these, and the visuals for ‘Kings and Queens’.
“We just set Mr. Rabbit on fire and filmed the whole thing!”*
“The story is meant as a prequel to Dark Minds and delivers the psychological background leading to the proceedings depicted there.” When you watch it as a single video, you wouldn’t be aware of this at all, you would simply appreciate the visuals you’re experiencing. However, in knowing this you have a real appreciation for the extra levels of creativity within Flor and the Sea. Equally, in discovering more about the exploration of identity, which lies at the heart of the video, extra levels of meaning become apparent too: “Identity and self-discovery is a decisive theme for every human being, and not everyone has the fortune to be able to find it. The depiction of our protagonist as a rabbit is a crucial factor here. It serves as a parable on exclusion and oppression and the inner struggles emerging from trying to oppose it.” A thought-filled approach indeed, and wonderfully for us, in the duo collaborating with the right people it comes across in a truly striking way.
“We’re really happy and grateful to have a number of professional cinematographers in the vicinity of our project. They mostly work in advertising or German TV, which usually doesn’t allow for a lot of creative freedom. Two of them are also active musicians, and therefore have a very keen sense for the unity of picture and sound. They’re also quite happy to have the opportunity to express themselves more artistically and they tend to give a lot of creative input into our videos.” Expanding on how it all comes together the duo continues:
“Generally, we work out the storyline, discuss possible locations with the film maker and shoot in just one or two long days – with a lot of driving around. For this video in particular, the whole process took about two weeks, with most of the time spent in the cutting room. Filming together as a team is always very intense and a lot of fun, but this time it really was a joint effort. There was a lot of input from everyone involved and especially Markus Böker (the protagonist) who is a seasoned film and theatre actor.” It has to be said that regardless of the identity being portrayed, the physical mannerisms and expressions used come across in exactly the right way.
Almost statue-esque and full of confidence, the opening circular pans are simple, but with Mr Rabbit alone in a field, there is a sense of grandeur too. Later on, and with the rabbit mask removed, the continual shifts between ‘disguises’ have us guessing which one will appear next. Each time they do appear though, they are accompanied by just the right strength of smile, level of contentment, degree of anxiety, or inference of thought. The real beauty of these though is how they direct the storyline and relate to the occurring lyricism. There are though two moments in particular where this is strengthened, the first of which also utilises archive narration.
“We really love putting hidden messages into our music. It’s a real quest to find the perfect sample where meaning, metric and also the history behind it somehow fit the song. In ‘Reconnect’ we included the first ever spoken words on film taken from The Jazz Singer. “Wait a minute, you ain’t heard nothing yet”, which also hints at the very unexpected turn at the end of that song.” If you’ve heard that track, you’ll know exactly how that sonically foreshadows what occurs much later, and with a brief cut to original film footage, it really works wonderfully. For this release though, the deployment and story behind it is somewhat different.
“In Kings and Queens we included a snippet from a very special John Lennon interview in 1969, where a young boy snuck into John’s hotel room, and recorded it on his tape recorder. It’s such a strong statement about how to approach music and art in general. You just have to “look long enough” fully immerse yourself, and you will find your very own meaning behind the music.” Visually bringing our attention to this, among the more sweeping and tracking shots, it occurs at a moment of stillness where Mr Rabbit is trying to hide within the city. Taking this further, with the narration hinting at finding answers, both the literal hunt for Mr Rabbit, and the internal search for identity are beautifully depicted. It has to be said though that the closing culmination of these elements, while containing a piece of luck, is truly stunning.
“Meticulous planning is key to getting it all done on a budget”
“We set Mr. Rabbit on fire* and just filmed the whole thing, but the police car – with flashing lights in the background – was just the happiest of accidents imaginable! A little miracle actually. The masks are handcrafted from paper and with one left for the final shot, it basically was a hit or miss situation. We couldn’t be happier with how it turned out! Like the look of the whole video, this moment is a point where everything really works so wonderfully as one. This though is only fully achieved by the overall look of the visuals, which as the duo tell us, is just as integral to their music as the sound.
“We think that good visuals can emotionally enhance the musical experience of a song in a multi-sensory way and some people say our music is “cineastic“. Maybe it’s because we put a lot of effort into making videos that connect with the mood and ambience of the song. We also really like this kind of artistic collaboration and it feels great to work with creative people to realise this additional dimension to our music, and put the images in our heads on film.” However, this isn’t always without issues.
“The most exciting shoot we have done so far was the car-chase at night in the Dark Minds video. We did this on a public country road in the middle of the night and every now and then a car drove by wondering what the hell was going on. It must have been so strange for them to see a girl with a fox mask running away from an old Ford Mustang driven by Mr Rabbit! Someone eventually called the police, but they were really nice and let us finish the shoot.” As is the case for all Flor and the Sea’s videos, this shows true dedication to the art, and a genuine sense of wanting to achieve what they have set out to do. For them though, the importance of doing this goes beyond that.
“High quality visuals have also become kind of a necessity, especially for upcoming bands in times where the importance of social media is ever-increasing. Feeling the need to constantly create content on social media can also be a burden, and distract from our primary musical passion though. Hence we’re looking forward to locking ourselves away to write some new songs after the current social media marathon!” Who knows when those tracks will arrive, but with the visuals for releases to date being as strong as they are, you can only hope that the new ones will be just as enticing.
Thanks Flor and the Sea for chatting with Listen to Discover
Find out more about Flor and the Sea at:
Guest Writer Track Review: Flor and the Sea: Kings and Queens.
*Disclaimer: This scene was filmed under controlled professional conditions and therefore you should not attempt to recreate it.