Music videos are like funny math, where 1+1=3. That is, images have a meaning on their own, music has a meaning when you listen to it alone, but put images and music together and something new is born. 1+1=3. Try it randomly: put on a piece of music and watch a cartoon or an old movie ... people did it famously with The Dark Side of the Moon and The Wizard of Oz.
The imagery in this video, Yellowbirds' "Young Men of Promise," was chosen by songwriter and director Sam Cohen specifically because it didn't directly relate to the song. Sam animated the video using cut-out images created by artist Kara Smith, who he says he admires. "I love her ideas and colors — she's the coolest," he says. "The song is inspired by experiences on the road when I was younger. That doesn't connect in any direct way to her work, but with my animations, the connection to the lyrics is almost never literal, and if it is, it's only for a split second."
Though the abstract nature of the imagery and the song leave interpetation wide open, Sam Cohen says he was able to make connections between the lyrics in his song and Kara Smith's pieces. "The images are just flying by," he says. "Some of my favorite parts are the jogging ladies because, to me, they have ambition and discipline, like a young band, and that kind of connects with the pompous little boy at the end, the little 'young man of promise.'"
He also loves the images of the boy juggling balls with his head and the unicyclist on the tightrope. "They're sort of clowns to entertain, a feeling I had spending eight hours a day in a van for 45 minutes onstage," Sam Cohen says. "Of course, Kara wasn't thinking anything like that when she painted these amazing pictures. One of them is of Billy Joel crashing his car into that house in Long Island. My song happens to say 'car crash' in the first sentence. There's a dialogue between the images and the song that you only hear when they're together. That's fun."
Yellowbirds' second album, Songs from the Vanished Frontier, will be out on May 28.