By Randi Altman
The Peach Kings, an LA-based blues-rock duo comprised of Paige Wood and Steven Dies, needed a music video for the title track of their album Mojo Thunder, which was released in June. They had an idea of what they wanted it to be but needed a creative partner to make their vision a reality.
That partner ended up being New York-based design and animation studio Ataboy. The almost four-minute animated offering tells the story of how pain and abuse can lead to self-destructive behavior. The band told Ataboy to think, “swamp, dark and psychedelic” for the Mojo Thunder video. Ataboy owner/creative director Vikkal Parikh brought in directors Kris Merc and Benjy Brooke, who took that direction and crafted what Parikh calls “a sexy, graphic and engrossing visual story.”
He explains, “We wanted to tell the story of a man trying to find escape in vices, only to sink himself deeper into the grim realities of life. And the song really brings out that feeling of darkness, voodoo dreams, and Santeria wishes. In the design, we were inspired by late ‘80s/early ‘90s noir — Bruce Timm’s Batman, Abuli/Bernet’s ‘30s Spanish comic Torpedo, Frank Miller’s Sin City, and also by Michael Deforge and Max Fleischer’s weird Bimbo/Betty Boop/Koko the Clown work.”
We threw some questions at Parikh, with co-director Brooke stepping in for one, to delve deeper into their workflow on the project, which they call a labor of love.
How did you flesh it out, and once you settled on a look, what came next?
We decided on graphic, white-on-black sketches right away. We sent the band a storyline and mood boards, along with some character sketches. They had a one-line response: “Go for it!”
We sketched out the entire process as a detailed storyboard that explained the camera moves and angles. These storyboards also served as a foundation to start the illustrations. Kris and Benjy came up with a lot of small illustrations and animations that set the look and pacing of the spot.
(Benjy Brooke: Our timeline for the project was very short, so we all came at the project with a fast, wet-on-wet approach. At Ataboy, I worked with a team of four other animators, predominantly in Photoshop. Photoshop animation is a weird beast, but it allows for a really direct, textural animation style. We were after a look and feel as close to handmade as a computer can offer.)
Then it was finding help. As this was a labor of love, we reached out to many fellow animators and illustrators. We were particularly happy to have designer Ellen Su on board. She did all the female dancer shots, including drawing and animating. Finding footage for references was the key, and she nailed the style and animations.
What other tools did you use?
As mentioned, we did all the drawings and animations in Adobe Photoshop. Comping was all done in Adobe After Effects. We used Autodesk Maya for some previz shots to set up references to start drawing. Editing was done in Adobe Premiere by Jeremy Baumann.
How did you review and approve with client?
The band was super cool to work with. We shared animatics and then some animation with them along the way, so they were clear on what we were doing. They didn’t really have any changes. More importantly, they trusted our vision and judgment from the onset, which was great validation for us as their creative partners. We knew we wouldn’t disappoint!
What was the most challenging aspect of the piece?
The greatest challenges were the time and the budget. We had to meet the deadline for the release of the EP, which only gave us about two months from start to finish. We were excited to have an incredibly talented team on board that not only believed in the vision, but also brought something unique to the table.
What are you most proud of?
The Peach Kings were really happy with outcome. I think the look and visual story really spoke to their emotional lyrics. They were also keen on the slightly NSFW nature of the video. It amplified the sexy-swamp-rock feel of their music.