Lohio Release “Adelai” Music Video
Interview with Director Thom Glunt
By Andy McNeil, Assistant Editor
(See Video At Bottom of Interview)
Late last week Pittsburgh’s indie darlings Lohio released a sparkly new music video for “Adelai” onto wilds of the Internet. Blow The Scene’s resident giant tracked down the director, Thom Glunt, for a lengthy conversation about his team’s creative process, their adventures on set and the issues that took place behind the scenes. Glunt has directed music videos for a number of artists including Anti-Flag, RJD2, Punchline and Meeting on Important People.
Andy BTS: The concept for “Adelai” seems to be a blend of the timeless best-buddy relationship of Calvin and Hobbes with the slightly darker undertones inherent in the relationship of Max and the beasts from Spike Jonez’ big screen vision of Where the Wild Things Are. How do you sum up the concept for this music video?
Thom Glunt: The concept was actually not the first one that I came up with. I think we went through about three or four iterations before settling on that one. Originally I was working with the band in a different time. I think June was when I was first contacted to do the video and the idea was a lot larger in scale and more abstract than it is now. It wasn’t much of a narrative story. It was kind of based on these visceral emotions and if you tried to look at it objectively and like write down the ideas – it would sound like a bunch of nonsense, but I knew it would translate well through visual medium.
Through us talking and changes to the budget and things like that we ended up refocusing the idea on something that was a little bit more focused and a little bit more story driven. The song had this real happy vibe to it that – It reminded me of childhood so I kept trying to visualize the world through a child’s perspective and figure out how to capture that. I guess the whole imaginary friend – best friend type vibe – was a way to do that.
And that’s when you get the influences of like Calvin and Hobbes because, you know, everyone loves that comic.
Andy BTS: The little girl in the video is cute as a button. Where did you find her? Was it difficult working with a child actor or was she totally stoked about the fluffy monster?
Thom Glunt: Yeah, you’re always told not to work with children and animals because they take a lot of time – it’s very difficult. I have to say that Kyra – I had almost no problems with that girl. She was very good – very attentive and, you know, she’s definitely a kid – she’d play around between takes, but it was very cold and I think that’s where any of the issues really stemmed from as far as taking direction and things like that. She was surprisingly easy to work with. I guess I lucked out.
There were times when she would become impatient and you would just have to come up with creative ways to talk with her, but I feel like the most interesting part of the two days we shot with her were the parts where she had to emote heavily because of the disaster that happened with her friend. It was something that we needed to really cinch or else I thought the video would fail.
She had a decent part in the remake of Nightmare on Elm Street and there were some traumatizing things that happened to her in that film – I decided to talk with her mother to see how they got her to emote for that movie. They would prod her to get a reaction to where she was actually frustrated and wanted to leave. And I didn’t feel comfortable doing that so I took her aside and tried to find sad moments in her life where she lost a pet or something and just had her reflect on those moments when she had to be emotional, which she really responded to. She didn’t freak out by any manner, but when she needed to emote – I could just remind her to reflect for a few minutes and then she’d start to get these heavy eyes. Sadly the most emotional parts of the footage I didn’t get to use because of continuity.
But there were many times throughout the editing you’d start tearing up and feel sad because she did such a good job.
Andy BTS: The creature in the video likes a bit like the Japanese Domo. Was this an influence in the design?
Thom Glunt: I’m familiar with Domo, but he was not the reference. I liked the idea of this peanut shaped body and we kind of started there. There was this Japanese illustrator who would use holes as eyes on his creatures and they also had these organic shaped mouths – very ovular. I really liked the idea of having these two eyes that were just these black pits that could also emote and a mouth that just receded into the puppet. That was originally suppose to move, but due to time and budget we had to make it so you could just flex it and different expressions with the mouth, but it couldn’t be animated like the Minotaur was in the RJD2 video.
So after I had the idea I amassed a large collection of reference material just looking for monsters and things like that. The idea for the puppet itself stemmed from our original idea with the band. We wanted to juxtapose two elements against each other such as a real horse and a fake horse – like one that looked like it was craft art.
I liked the idea of having this monster that was also made out of quilts and patterns. So trying to adapt the horse idea into the creature – having this soft, blush real looking thing was a challenge. I didn’t want it to look too much like a Muppet, but at the same time I wanted it to have some similar qualities.
Andy BTS: Who actually created the creature?
Thom Glunt: Technically Magic – two of my friends – in upstate New York – Chaz Vance and Jay Morrisey. They worked on the large puppet and they puppeteered him. They also worked with a girl Diane Meyer who created the doll for the piece. She did the art design; handled the dyeing of the fabrics and found the patterns and the different textiles to use.
Andy BTS: Who was inside of it?
Thom Glunt: No one. It was all puppeteered by multiple people. We would drive poles into the ground and the arms and legs were made with these locking universal joints so that we could lock them in a specific position or leave them loose so that we could shove a rod in an elbow and kind of move it like a Muppet. We could have it free stand. We could hang it from a fishing pole and have him walk through different shots. There was no one inside of it so it was carried, pushed or manipulated someway.
Andy BTS: That should be a huge compliment to you –I thought there was a person inside of that. That shows that you pulled it off by making it move somewhat organically and it doesn’t seem to dance in the air like a marionette.
Thom Glunt: It was a huge challenge due to the time and the manpower we had on set. We didn’t really have the means of being incredibly picky so we kind of chose the best plan of action between everyone there and had to dedicate ourselves to making it work. I think one of the most effective shots was when he’s laying on his back while the sparkler burns on his stomach. I think that we had about four or five people moving different parts. I had my friend Brad laying there using his head inside the creatures head to wiggle around – we had people on the legs shaking the body, people controlling his arms. That’s one of the few parts that really sold him for me – the realism.
Andy BTS: Did you come up with a nickname for this creature?
Thom Glunt: No. I’m sure I called him a variety of horrible little names, but I remember none of them. But Kyra on set – I thought she was going to become attached to the larger creature through the process and feel really bad when it came time to burn him. But she became really attached to the doll instead. She kept trying to hide it from us and when we had to schedule a second day we let her take it home and bring it back to set. We had to burn the little guy so Diane made a second one and had it sent to her for Christmas so that she could keep the doll afterwards. I recently spoke with her mother Stacy and she said that Kyra loves “Mr. Monster” and takes him everywhere with her.
Andy BTS: That’s awesome. You were talking earlier about thinking about shooting it in June . The fall leaves it looks really crisp and vibrant, but you said there was snow and other issues. Did you have a really hard time pulling this together continuity-wise with the change in the season?
Thom Glunt: Yes, we were getting really close to production, but it had to be postponed multiple times because there were issues with puppet. Mechanisms weren’t quite working out. Once again unlike the suit that we made for RJD2 it wasn’t based in reality and there was no reference that could be found as to how this puppet should move or work or look. It felt like we were exploring new territory. The puppet had to be pushed back – in total three weeks in pushed production back.
I set out one day and just filmed leaves for a couple hours getting as many shots of different leaves and trees so if we got to the concept and the leaves were gone I wouldn’t be screwed. And that ended up happening – by the time we arrived to our location, had the girl and the puppet, the trees were bare. It snowed the first day so there was a huge amount of issues. Fortunately, we had enough foresight to bag a bunch of leaves and bring them to set. We were able to pull it together and through color correction I was able to match a lot of it because I really wanted the video have a warm feeling. Originally, we were going for a summer vibe, but as the idea progressed and time pushed back autumn really appealed to me. I enjoy the aesthetic of the leaves changing and all of the warm colors – it’s my favorite season.
Andy BTS: I liked it with autumn. It really looks good with the performance shots of the band. You used a lot of really, really tight shots. What made you forgo the larger establishing shots of the group and just zoom right in?
Thom Glunt: That was the concept – using nothing but intimate close-ups and macro shots. There were multiple reasons, but I feel that it allowed me to have more control over the type of world I created. If we were to show wide shots of the band – if we were to establish where everyone was and what positions they were in – there would have been a chance that it would have taken you out of the atmosphere that we were creating.
I have watched so many videos with a band playing on a mountain top or in a field or all these different obscure places and it doesn’t really tie in with the concept at all. It’s like “Hey, here’s a performance” and “Oh, there’s the concept.” It allowed us to focus more on the music itself and those close intimate moments with the instruments. At the same time it didn’t really pull you out and say “Now we’re going back to the band” and “Now we’re going back to the concept.” The only wide shots exist within the concept – with her and the monster and a lot of that I tried to shoot close up anyway.
Andy BTS: You weren’t doing the old “Hey, look there’s a band playing in an abandoned warehouse.”
Thom Glunt: Yeah, if I put them in a field and used wide shots I feel like there would be way too many variables that in my opinion would negatively affect the piece.
I’ve seen many videos where in a wide shot you’ll notice a lot of different things. If the energy isn’t up it just looks weird. You’ll have questions like where are the cords going? Do they have amps plugged in?
By having them against these warm backdrops you just see the leaves in the background out of focus – it’s not saying “Hey, look where they’re at.” It more about the instrument and how it’s being played and that’s 90 percent of the screen most of the time. It’s an overlay of the concept – not like you’re being transported to this other occurrence of music being played over a story.
Thom would also like to thank the following people:
Matt Burek – Producer
Ange Vesco – Make up and all around support
Brad Fombelle and Chad Calcagno – Camera operators and all around handy guys
Elisa Llera – Wardrobe
Special thanks to Kate Romutis