As far as I'm concerned, pop music is the most exciting frontier for musical innovation. From the mainstream radio-friendly mash-ups of Beyonce, Ke$ha, Lady Gaga, and Justin Bieber down to your favorite neighborhood indie pop band or danceable electronic act, pop music is encompassing of a wide world of sounds, full of ground-breaking firsts. Yet it's safe to say that in the current indie music climate, with its constant breaking and building of narrow-minded subgenres like dream pop, vaporwave, chillwave, and the like, oversaturation often leads to myriad bands which sound more or less identical. Of these, most lack a truly distinguishing spark that makes them stand out. Which is why I get really excited upon the discovery of pop bands who don't easily fit in anywhere, and are able to -- if not reinvent it -- at least give the wheel a furious and energetic spin. My latest and greatest finding lies in Royal Canoe, a group of musicians from the uncommon birthing ground of Winnipeg, Canada. While undoubtedly considered "indie pop" by any wide-casting use of the term, Royal Canoe aren't actually easy to define, especially with non-abstract terminologies. With two drummers, two keyboardists, and four vocalists, the six-member band is kind of all over the place stylistically -- yet somehow, it just works. Royal Canoe Band Interview After talking to Royal Canoe's vocalist and guitarist Matt Peters, I came to realize that what sets Royal Canoe apart from other indie pop bands is not exactly the genre tags they fall under -- of which there are many -- but their fascinating communal character. For a pop band, they are remarkably tenacious. They make a point of having extremely high standards for creation and performance, in service of being the best musicians they can be. Any self-imposed rules they have set for themselves are balanced by a willingness to share artistic duties, as well as an openness to inspiration and experimentation.
"I think everyone definitely has an appreciation for letting their voice be heard but also trying to reach a greater good..." -- Matt Peters

 

Dead Oceans' Sun Airway, comprised of Philadelphia's Jon Barthmus and Patrick Marsceill, is are not only indie pop extraordinaires, but are musicians with an understanding of aural-visual relationships. The choices they make in selecting collaborators result in visuals richly sympathetic to their musical output and evoke the same sense of wonder and romance that their music does. The album cover for Sun Airway's 2012 release, Soft Fall, is adorned with a beautiful woman caught beneath a stringed web of falling flowers, porcelain china, and fine silver. It was painstakingly crafted by Japanese art collective NAM. In the bi-lingual Japanese and English interview and feature below, Barthmus and NAM's art director and designer Takayuki Nakazawa offer their perspectives on the creative process, as we further explore the work of both parties.
JAPANESE TO ENGLISH TRANSLATIONS BY MORGAN HARKNESS Takayuki Nakazawa (NAM): Our aim was to perfectly match the world of Sun Airway's music and take that world of sound and enlarge its image visually. I believe that the music and the cover visuals that go with the creation of an album have an extremely intimate relationship. Music and visuals have the power to overcome country and language to convey a message. Creating something so intimate between the US and Japan was an incredible experience, and most of all it was fun! We would like to take this opportunity to extend our appreciation to Jon Barthmus for inviting us to this wonderful project. 私達が今回目指したのはSun Airwayの音楽の世界と完全にマッチし、さらに音の世界をビジュアルによってイメージの視覚的拡大をする事でした。アルバム制作における音楽とカバービジュアルは本来とても密接な関係性をもっているものだと思います。音楽やビジュアルは言語や国境を超えて伝達していく力があり、今回、日本とアメリカの間で密な相互関係をもって制作が行われた事は、私達にとって大変良い経験で、なによりも楽しかった!このような素敵なプロジェクトに私達を誘ってくれたJon Barthmusさんに、この場をお借りして感謝をしたいと思います。

 

Adorable husband and wife duo The Last Names, consisting of Justin Rice of Bishop Allen and his wife Darbie, have now released Wilderness, a 12-track indie pop record that floats through dual-vocaled harmonies with the peacefulness of a '60s haze. To bring their intimately self-recorded and self-mixed project to life, the couple decided to go one step further, by incorporating a one-of-a-kind hand-woven LP cover. Inspired by German education theorist Friedrich Froebel, who created the concept of "kindergarten" and is credited with laying the foundation for one system of modern education, the 15 x 15 grid which graces the cover of Wilderness offers a pattern-based playground of visual satisfaction to anyone with a latent curiosity and child-like love of play. Read on as they explain how the album artwork came to fruition, how patterns influence The Last Names' music and vice versa, and more.
"Play is the highest expression of human development in childhood for it alone is the free expression of what is in a child's soul." -- Friedrich Froebel

 

Everything the rainbow light touches in this music video for Onuinu's "Ice Palace" turns to psychedelic flourish and ethereal whimsy. A lack of contrast and many a post-production effect create a piece that is half sensual and half digitized, a well-paired visual aid for Onuinu's music, which possesses those same qualities. Director Andrew Sloan and choreographer Jin Camou discuss the visual decisions and the mentality that led to the final creation of "Ice Palace", in the following Q&A. Onuinu's "Ice Palace" will also be featured at REDEFINE magazine's Motion & Movement In Music Video panel at Bumbershoot and MusicfestNW 2012. SEE FULL DETAILS
"This is a very sexy song. The images are meant to combine to create a visual aphrodisiac for the viewer; alone, an orange might not be that sexy, but when you bounce it around next to a pomegranate, a flaming house, and some nice looking women, suddenly the meaning of the orange changes." -- Andrew Sloan, Director of Onuinu's "Ice Palace"

 

In the latest dubstep-inspired track by Brooklyn's The Mast, vocalist Haale Gafori took full directorial duties and turned scenes from her mind into a stark music video for public consumption. Covered with powder for a heightened ethereal effect, Los Angeles-based dancer Pandora Marie pop and locks her way in and out of Gafori's vocals, as monochrome simplicity eventually projects into full-color silhouettes that pulse in time with glitchy beats. In the brief Q&A below, Gafori describes the creative process for "UpUpUp" from start to finish, and you can expect to see this video in our upcoming Motion & Movement In Music Video panels for Bumbershoot and MusicfestNW.

 

 

Recent influence polls with REDEFINE artists and musicians have revealed that director Wes Anderson, known for such hits as The Royal Tenenbaums, Rushmore, and Life Aquatic, has a new film out in theatres! Set in the '60s, Moonrise Kingdom is the tale of two young kids who fall in love...

Rent-A-Cat chronicles the good-heartedly travels of Sayoko (Mikako Ichikawa), a woman who lives alone. Well, she doesn't exactly live alone; Sayoko lives with cats. A lot of cats. After her grandmother died, Sayoko operates a cat rental business where she loans out cats to the lonely individuals throughout the world...

Through the years, long-time collaborators and friends Lazerbeak and Minneapolis video artist Matt Scharenbroich have worked together to match their passions with one another's. In this feature below, we look back at their projects together, and Scharenbroich comments on his latest video for "Life Every Voice", which is a rippling animated delight that falls downwards through glitter and varying levels of psychedelic intensity.

 

INTERVIEW WITH MATT SCHARENBROICH CONTINUED BELOW
"The falling in the video could be paralleled with that of Alice falling down into the rabbit hole or the sensation of one's body falling into a dreamy hypnotic state. There is a certain freedom and release associated with this transformational and transcendent state. That release from the boredom and restraints of life can be incredibly uplifting." -- Matt Scharenbroich

 

The rambunctiously chaotic music of Portland's AU is translated into bright visual forms when processed by Japanese animator and video artist Takafumi Tsuhiya. Both the director and AU's frontman, Luke Wyland, speak below about their collaborations for this year's "OJ" and 2010's "Ida Walked Away", along with how they've each grown in that time period.

 

AU - "OJ" MUSIC VIDEO
"I believe there is something universal in [how] sounds correspond with visuals [that] is over the boundaries of language." - Takafumi Tsuhiya

 

Drawing from antiquated influences and software, directors Dawid Krepski and Jason Chiu translate the hazy pop sounds of New York musician Beca into a narrative about the understanding and acceptance of the self, whatever that may look like. Below, both directors and Beca answer a brief Q&A about the creative process and underlying message of the "Fall Into Light".

 

"The title 'Fall Into Light' is a bit of a paradox since I associate light with upward movement, and the concept of falling makes me think of darkness. So it's this juxtaposition of light and dark which can be taken literally or figuratively, and I like that it's left open for interpretation. Maybe it means opening opening up yourself enough to see your true self." - Beca