And And And are stuck in perpetual motion. Like the bus in the 1994 classic, Speed, they can’t seem to drop below 50 mph, but this time there is no Keanu in sight to intercede. They aren’t sweating it though, in fact, they are laughing. Hot on the heels of this year’s full-length release, Idiot, And And And present us with another dose of weird in the shape of a multimedia project four years in the making: And And And & the Philosopher’s Stoned.
As with their music, all aspects of the band’s film, The Philosopher’s Stoned, were handled in-house, from concept to finished product. Indulging in gratuitous shots of raw meat, amatuer surgery, and a healthy dose of surreal imagery, And And And continue to march to their own beat with a collection of videos to complement five choice cuts from their catalog.
Throughout the collection, there is a preference toward physical props over CGI, a narrative progression through claymation, and evidence of creative workarounds that emphasize the artistic vision over the creator’s tools. The band even attempts to recreate a Smashmouth music video. There are allusions to some of their favorite films, a Facebook livestream of a backyard funeral, and more amateur surgery.
I had the opportunity to catch up with lead singer, Nathan Baumgartner, over email and ask him a few questions regarding the hilariously engaging film. Check out the interview, as well as an exclusive trailer for The Philosopher’s Stoned, below.
Trailer for And And And’s upcoming music video.
Osgood: Is The Philosopher’s Stoned intended to be a narrative from start to finish, or are these five independent narratives?
Nathan Baumgartner: The intent is to keep an ongoing tangential narrative. We did the first video where everybody except Berg eats all this nasty meat I caught out of the river and then it ends. When we got around to planning the second video we just thought, “Where does this go?” We make sure to operate within the rules of the narrative and we could go anywhere with it. So we just brainstormed and came up with the idea that the four of us who ate the crazy meat get really sick and hallucinate ourselves into some wacky Ghostbusters/Smashmouth world. Berg didn’t eat the meat. What is he gonna do? He’s going to try to heal us, naturally. So he is performing surgery and whatnot. This then led to alternate dimensions, wizard transformations, more surgery, and some Dune and Matrix stuff. We are currently trying to figure out where we are going to go with the 6th video. We have a lot of ideas and it could really go anywhere from some sexy Giger Alien thing to Muppet style puppetry. Maybe both. This all started when I was a little inebriated at the PDX Pop Now! festival and stepped away to sit under the Morrison Bridge. I’m thinking, “It’d be real nice if I had a fishing pole and could catch a beer right about now. Maybe I could catch a chicken.” Now we are learning puppetry.
O: And And And are no strangers to making music videos in-house, can you explain the creative process you all go through from concept to finished video?
NB: When we are at practice, or driving around in the van we will often talk about different places we could take the narrative. We come up with random absurd ideas and every once in a while we come upon an idea that we have to do because it is so weird or funny to us. Right now we are really interested in attempting a single shot video which would be a great challenge to take on. We also are really tied to this idea of having Jon operate a Muppets style puppet of himself, complete with cigarette and smoke. Once we have the general idea one of us writes an initial treatment and after some back and forth editing with that, we try to get a storyboard going (we didn’t really storyboard the first two). Bim and Jon take care of the direction, camera work, editing and technical aspects for the most part. Bim makes most of the paper mache props and claymation. There is a great deal of preparation before we start shooting. It takes a day or two to shoot each video. We put in a lot of thought and labor to make the videos work. We are not striving for perfection. I’ve seen a lot of “perfect” music videos that suck real bad. We are trying to create absurd, humorous videos full of little details. We don’t need expensive cameras to do that. We just need a paper mache fat cat on a remote control car.
O: Media crossover: there are a lot of obvious allusions to several blockbuster movies–Ghostbusters, Back to the Future, The Shining, The Matrix–to name just a few. What is the intended purpose of utilizing this content that has become part of our pop culture collective consciousness? Are And And And sampling this footage to recontextualize it?
NB: Initially, we were trying to do a shot for shot recreation of the “All Star” video by Smashmouth for our second video. We just thought it would be fun. We also had this crazy paper mache Slimer that Bim’s brother Jesse had made for a Halloween costume. He had it in this tiny apartment in San Francisco and it was taking up a lot of space. We were staying with him when we were on a tour and he asked us if we wanted it. We took it and it was too good not to use in a video. So we had these food poisoned dudes in the second video who hallucinate themselves into a Smashmouth video and become Ghostbusters. From there we gave ourselves license to reference different movies and videos that we love. The third video is based almost entirely on the “Pillar of Salt” video by The Thermals, but it takes place in a mirror room that Bim built in his basement. Using other art as points of reference gives us a good jumping off point for us to explore our own ideas, and it also gives the viewer something familiar to hold onto. Sometimes.
O: What were the visual inspirations for this project? Are there other filmmakers, visual artists, or art movements that played a role in the eventual video?
NB: I wouldn’t say that there is any specific visual inspiration with the project. Mostly, we just had a dumb idea for the first video in the series (“A Real Case of the Blues”) and pitched it to a reputable music video director and it was going to cost many many many thousands of dollars. That was out of the question because we’ve never had any money. Time was ticking and we were releasing an album that needed a video. At that point we decided we could just shoot it on our phones and the humor would still come across right. We were so happy with how it turned out that we decided we would only make our own videos from that point on. We used different movies, videos, and books as content inspiration, but mostly we were trying to bring our stupid ideas into real life.
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O: How long did it take to bring this project to completion?
NB: We shot the first video at the end of 2014. Since then, we try to do one or two every year. The first two were for our 2015 album “The Failure”. The third video for a song called “Tragedy” we had on a compilation. The last two were for our new album “Idiot”. We shot those two videos back to back over the course of a few days. We always talked about stringing them all together at some point and making a DVD. Actually, the original idea was to record them to VHS, buy VHS players at Goodwill, and put the tapes into the VHS players and destroy the eject function so that you had a VHS player that could only play our videos. Anyways, upon the release of “Idiot” we decided to make the DVD to add to the PR hype machine all bands must involve themselves with. We are just thinking, “What can we do to make people think we are crazy and stupid and smart at the same time?”
O: The credits take up about 8 minutes or more–a third of the total length of the project. It seems evident that giving credit where credit is due is part of the And And And way of life. Have there been instances where the band has not received credit for something you all did, or is this in response to general trends you’ve seen in the entertainment industry?
NB: The idea to make long credits and a commentary version were mostly just to make a joke. But yes, credit has not been given in the past, and yeah, whatever.
Video Premiere this Thursday, May 3rd, at Holocene. Screening begins at 8:30pm, with performances by Ah God, Bryson Cone, Thick Business, and And And And to follow.