Somehow over the course of their 18 years as a band, Explosions in the Sky has skated clean past the standard practice of regularly releasing music videos.
To be fair, the band has dabbled here and there with giving some of their tracks visual treatments. However, it’s become a rare sighting of Sasquatch proportions for there to be a traditional music video in even the broadest sense of the term–part of the reason being that all of their music is instrumental.
“Our music has always been described as cinematic or visual, so maybe there was part of us that felt like it’s better to have people imagine their own visuals to play throughout the songs,” says Explosions in the Sky drummer Chris Hrasky. “The music is very much open to whatever the listener wants to interpret it as.”
When their seventh album The Wilderness dropped last year, the band tossed around the idea of breaking their visual fast with something a little more orthodox for their single “The Ecstatics.” Yet according to Hrasky, the pitches they received from directors all felt like commercials.
“A lot of them were like, ‘[the video] opens with a beautiful landscape and then a a beautiful woman is walking through a field,’” Hrasky recalls. “What was being offered to us were these bland narratives that didn’t really appeal to us at all. We didn’t have a very specific vision–we just knew we wanted something that was interesting and unique.”
As vague as that sounds, the band’s manager turned the guys onto stop-motion animation director Hayley Morris, whose previous credits include client work for Samsung, Burt’s Bees, and Kate Spade, and music videos for Iron & Wine and Pure Bathing Culture. Morris’s only real guideline from the Explosions in the Sky guys was to create something within the context of the phrase “wilderness of the mind.”
“I immediately thought of the beautiful chaos that is in the mind space and how that space has a multitude of transitions, whether it’s a transition from life to death or going from unknowing to knowing,” Morris says. “Their music really lends itself to that. When you listen to it, you kind of just float into this other space.”
Unburdened by the constraints of lyrics, Morris’s turned a stop-motion clip that combines paper, translucent materials, hand-blown glass, and projections into an abstract odyssey into the nether regions of the mind.
“It was hard to imagine exactly what this was going to end up looking like from the way she described it, but it sounded very different than pretty much everything else that was pitched to us,” Hrasky says. “ We didn’t have a very clear or specific vision other than we wanted someone who did have a clear and specific vision to do it.”
And Morris’s vision involved marrying something so tactile as stop-motion animation to Explosions in the Sky’s visceral opuses.
“When you listen to their music, you can feel the vibration of the guitar and the drums–it’s a very human experience. And stop-motion is a very human art form. Everything you see on the screen was handcrafted–I’m actually touching every single image and making it move,” Morris says. “Everything is so steeped in technological innovation these days I just feel like getting back to making handmade images and pushing what that could be. It’s important for me to keep that alive.”