Over the course of three minutes, lo-fi indie-rockers New Beard display 1,001 hand-drawn faces in their video for their flute-spiced new song, “Solamente Cloud,” which comes off their latest LP, New Beard City. As the flipbook style gallery changes faces at a fast pace, frontman Ben Wigler sings some tongue-in-cheek lines about what sounds like quitting a job, as he declares, “Buy me out, buy me out.” That’s not quite the way he sees it though. “It’s about how to deal with your own anger, and also maybe something to do with focusing anger externally as a means of cauterizing one’s own sense of shame,” he says, adding that the chorus popped into his head while fiddling around with a classical guitar at Guitar Center one day. “It’s basically my ’You can’t fire me, I quit’ or, rather maybe my ’Get the fuck out of my life forever and it’s fine if it will cost me something to be rid of you’ song. All heavily tinged with ’did I really mean to cross/draw that line?’ type of uncertainty.”
It’s easy not to pick up on that, though, when there are so many cute, hideous and abstract faces singing Wigler’s words. That turn of event wrests with the singer’s friend Deems, who illustrated and animated the video. “After, like, an hour of sitting on a couch staring into space this idea came to me,” Deems says. “I thought it was something I haven’t seen before. I did a little test loop with about 60 quickly drawn characters, sent it to Ben, he loved it, and it was on.” The artist says the whole process took about five months to complete.
The hardest part, of course, was making each illustration unique. The pressure to create took its toll about halfway through, as Deems was drawing about 120 characters per “set.” “You start falling into certain patterns, where inevitably some of them begin looking similar to one another,” he says. “After I noticed that, I had to really force myself to try and break these patterns, and pay close attention as to not make them look the same.” To make matters more difficult for himself, Deems tried as hard as he could to draw characters he liked, and as such found himself erasing and redrawing many of them.
“There’s a great part in Deems’ video where all of the faces have their eyes closed,” says Wigler, who sports a tattoo of the animator’s work on his left arm. “I feel like a lot of people wish they could just go through the world with eyes wide shut, and I often wonder if I’m one of them.” The frontman says one time he made it a point to keep his eyes shut, though, was during Deems’ creative process. “I really try to just stay out of his way, because he always surprises me,” he says. “When I saw the final product for ’Solamente Cloud,’ I knew that it was a real culmination of something Deems and I have wanted to do for almost 10 years. He nailed it out of the park.”
So now that it’s all done, which one of the 1,001 characters is Deems’ favorite? “As far as characters from the video go, Ben and I couldn’t decide which one character should be put on a New Beard shirt,” he says. “So 10 were picked to be voted on by fans. I would say that all of those are my favorite.”
New Beard’s album New Beard City is out now via Shoulder Tap Records.