Video Chats: LAMAR+NIK on 'Magnolia' by Lushlife
Posted by Doug Klinger on November 13, 2012 in Interviews
Last week, LAMAR+NIK (directors Jesse Lamar High and Nik Harper) released Magnolia by Lushlife, a music video that features 188 different handmade cardboard word-heads. We talked to Jesse and Nik about the process behind making the heads, how they were able to travel with them, and whether or not cardboard word-heads are effective for packing your stuff in when moving to Seattle.
Doug: I wonder if you guys could start by talking about where the idea came from in the first place.
Nik: We have these books of ideas, whenever we think of something we write it down. Once we get a chance to work with an artist that will fit with one of those ideas, we bring it out and use it. I think Jesse had that one tucked away for a while. We tried to do a video for an artist from the same label that Lushlife is on, Western Vinyl, but it ended up falling through. But, through that contact it was shown to Raj, who is Lushlife, and he hit us up that way. We always thought that the traditional lyric video is played out, and unless youre doing something amazing with it, it doesnt end up looking cool.
Jesse: It all started with a photo-shoot idea for skateboarders. We were going to make the same heads, but they were going to be the words of the trick that the person was doing. Usually with photos in skate magazines theyll have the trick, and then the caption of it underneath. We were trying to do it all in one photo, thats how the concept originated for me. Then Lushlife approached us, and we were already about to do that idea on our own, so we decided to apply the idea to him.
Doug: Did you know going into the project how everything would workout logistically, or were you figuring out how to make the heads after the idea was already talked about with Lushlife?
Nik: We do this stupid thing where we just think yeah, were just going to make this video where all the words in the song are made of cardboard, and itll be sick and really easy. Then once we start, it turns into this way bigger deal. I guess it was apparent to everybody else except for us, but it tuned into a much bigger thing. Our whole thing is no CGI, all practical effects, because we just think thats more amazing and it looks a lot cooler. I think thats turned into our style in a way. Going in, we just knew we wanted to make all the words out of cardboard. Once we got into it, I designed the font, and went through and made stencils for both of us, and figured out if how we would make it 3D like that. We werent sure it we were going to cover the top or leave it open. Im glad we covered the top, it would have looked really stupid otherwise.
Jesse: The first words we made were actually the LAMAR+NIK heads, which no one probably saw, so we actually made 190 words. We used those 3 heads to test out how the cutting would look and went to different locations to test it before we really go into it. After a while, making the words just became a process. Its easy, but its time consuming. We got blisters and stuff.
Nik: Yeah, I have a scar from touching the hot glue gun to my arm.
Doug: Those things are dangerous. Was it just the two of you working on them all? Or was Lushlife breaking out the hot glue gun as well?
Nik: No, it was just us making the stuff. One of our friends who is a PA, he came by and helped a few times to do some of the outlines. But, other than that it was completely us.
Doug: So, the process for each word was basically stencil, cut, then reassemble?
Nik: Basically, we would get standard boxes that youd find at a grocery store or I went to the mall, because they have their cardboard compactor outside, and if it hasnt been compacted yet there are a bunch of boxes in there. Then we cut one end of the box so its a super long piece of cardboard. The words are each 11 inches tall, so Id cut them into an 11-inch strip, and then put the stencils on there and trace around them for a whole word, then cut it out. We had to do that twice, one for the front, and one for the back. We split up the song half way, took out all the repeated words so wed only make one of those, and basically each got a verse to make. We did all the fronts and backs first, and then we went through and cut 9-inch strips for the sides and the top to put them together.
Doug: Can you tell your boxes apart?
Nik: I think we could probably tell, but I dont think anyone else could.
Jesse: Yeah, I mean, he misspelled rhyming in there.
Nik: I spelled it right, I even had all the letters. But once I put it out there and traced it, I forgot to put the "H" on there. I thought I was going to have to do some surgery, but in the video it says Rhyming and bombing graffiti and shows a guy spray-painting onto some other dudes heads, and the guy with the spray-paint has an H for a head.
Doug: Did you run into any problems with any of the words? It looks like some of the longer ones might be getting a little extra support on the ends.
Nik: Im sitting right next to four of the long words, they cover my windows and insulate my room, and we tried to fix them so they wouldnt do that. For that last shot, which we had to do when Raj was in town in Oklahoma, we had to pack all the words into this trailer that one of our friends Spencer got from one of his relatives. When we packed them all in there, a lot of them got messed up in little ways, which caused a lot of the longer ones to go back to sagging.
Jesse: It also rained at one point. Storage was a big issue because the words are a lot bigger than people think. At one point, Niks group of words got caught in a thunderstorm. We didnt lose them, but like 10 of them were like flowing down the street.
Nik: It was pretty stupid, Oklahoma is just terrible when it comes to weather. They were all out on my porch, and I put plastic over them, and taped it to the wall and the ground, but the wind just fucking took it off and starting blowing them all over the place. I just thought I heard something, so I walked out there and they were going everywhere. I looked over the porch and there were a few just sitting in the pouring rain in the driveway. It was terrible.
Doug: Oklahoma is pretty bad for weather, as is Seattle, which is where you guys are going to be moving soon. Are you going to pack any of your stuff into lyrics?
Jesse: Were actually going to either (a) destroy them, or (b) were trying to ship them around the world and then have people take a picture of themselves with the head. They just pay for the shipping, we though that would be a cooler alternative to just burning them, which was our first idea.
Nik: We thought we could stack them up in the spiral spike looking thing, like a circle of words, with a smaller one on top, and keep going up until its just I at the very top, and then just burn it. But, someone from Austrailia hit us up today for some, so were trying to figure out how to send him his words. Well sell them for $5, or for the shipping, or whatever.
Doug: I think it's worth it. But, I dont think burning 200 cardboard boxes sounds very safe, especially not near anything. However, about these 200 boxes, you shot at over 65 locations. You mention having a trailer, is that how you managed to do that? Load them all up and then pull them out as needed?
Jesse: Nik made a spreadsheet, and we had places that were nearby that we knew, but it was really just my car, which is an SUV. Wed load up like two bars at a time, because we could only have the trailer for that last shot. Other than that, wed just pack as many words as we could into my car, go to one spot, shoot, come back, dump those off, check them off the list, shift through the words, find out next lines, then go to the next spot. That was the basic process of it. Then when we got to the spots, if there was a person there, wed ask them to be in it. It was really funny the direction we gave them, because wed just tell them rap. We wouldnt say action or go, wed just say alright, rap. There was an older woman at the end in her 60s, and it was really funny to see her interpretation of what rapping is. I think a lot of people were down to make of fool of themselves mainly because you couldnt see their face.
Doug: Yeah, I saw in the behind-the-scenes video you guys put out there that shows you guys just shouting "rap" at people. It's great.
Nik: It was different when Raj was there because he actually knows the words, so he was able to actually rap. We could tell it was a little bit more natural with him. But, I think in the video it doesnt matter.
Doug: How did you find the other people? Did they just see what was going on and walk up to you guys? Or did you go after them?
Jesse: It was a little bit of both. For the most part we had to approach people. We just went up to them with energy. We told them it would just take 5 minutes of their times, that they just need to put on these heads and rap. I think most people were put-off by what we were asking, to where they couldnt analyze and say no.
Nik: Whats what was awesome about some locations. Some we had to actually call, like to bowling alley. But for the other ones, thats what was so awesome about them. We were just going to be in there for five minutes, they couldnt deny us that. Youre only shooting each word for a couple of second after weve got the shot figured out.
Doug: You guys also built a homemade rig for this video as well, was that just because you needed to add one more difficult task to this video?
Nik: Thats what that fucking felt like, because I was the one making that. I went to Home Depot, because I used to work there and know a bunch of people there, and theyre used to me coming in there with some weird thing I want to do. I have a RED Scarlet, and there are mounting points on the bottom and on the top, and I was able to use those to build the rig around the camera. It was ridiculous, it was just stupid. But the shot was really awesome.
lamar+nik, lushlife, magnolia, video chats
Doug Klinger is the co-founder/content director of IMVDb and watches more music videos than anyone on earth. You can find him on twitter at @doug_klinger.
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