We love a good game of Freeze Dance, but someone always needs to be the designated “freezer.” Not anymore! “Robot Dance,” a track from The Pop Ups’ Grammy nominated album Appetite for Construction, reinvents this dance party classic and makes sure everybody gets down on the dance floor.
For today’s video premiere, the kings of electro-kindie-pop once again enlisted the talent of animator Garrett Davis (“Box of Crayons,” “Subway Train“), who brings this pants splitting discotronic adventure to life. Together these guys are just crushing it! Garrett’s artistic talent and wild imagination masterfully captures The Pop Ups’ vibrant energy and playful spirit. Plus, dancing robots!!
Read on to learn more about the collaboration and creative process behind the scenes with Jacob Stein from The Pop Ups and animator Garrett Davis.
Jacob Stein, Musician and Robot (featured above)
KCG: What initially appealed to you about Garrett’s work?
JS: We’ve been huge fans of Garrett’s work since the very beginning of the Pop Ups. Jason came into the studio one day and said, “Check this out!” It was a video I was already a big fan of called “Song for North America.” It was edgy and hilarious and weird and beautiful, so we reached out to him, and a wonderfull relationship began.
We’ve made at least one video per album with Garrett; Subway Train, where he was still working in a hand drawn and photographed animation format, to Box of Crayons where he mixed live action, hand drawn animation and some computer hand drawn stuff. And then Robot Dance, which he drew on the computer and really got to go places in..
KCG: What is it like to work with an animator and create a video versus writing a song?
JS: We’ve only really worked with Garrett, but that process has really grown as time has gone on. In the beginning we left him to his own devices, but we’ve finally found a good balance of storyboarding/conceptualizing together, and then setting him free to go places only he can go. We usually go through a set of revisions until we’re all happy.
KCG: Can you give us a behind the scenes breakdown of how you approach the making of a video with an animator?
JS: Our process usually involves giving him a concept and often a narrative, and Garrett jumps right in. For Robot Dance, he made an animatic, a rough set of black and white drawings that move with the song, to show the flow of the story. We also worked with Garrett to make all of the bits of animation you see throughout our web series.
I have been a serious fan of all eras of animation since college. I had a friend who would come to our house and play old 16mm animated films on our living room wall. Everything from “The Sinking of The Lusitania” by Windsor McCay and “Gertie the Dinosaur” to “Dreams of a Rarebit Fiend” to “Allegro Non Troppo” the Italian Fantasia from the 70’s. So usually I’m thinking about a certain look or an animation era that I’m interested in referencing. We are currently working with Garrett on a song about a Disco Dog, and I sent Garrett a bunch of pictures of Andy Warhol’s Factory parties as a reference, as well as 70’s fashion…
KCG: What do you like best about this video?
JS: I love the wildness and feeling of openness. It moves through such a variety of wonderful locations and is filled with huggable robots.
KCG: Who is your favorite robot of all-time?
JS: My favorite robot is Johnny Five from “Short Circuit.”
Garrett Davis, Animator
KCG: How would you describe your style?
Garrett Davis: I would describe my style as “eclectic.” I bring in any element I like and don’t worry whether or not it “works.” It all comes together in the end and adds up to a richer and more fun visual language or style than if I had pre-defined it.
KCG: How do you feel your style fits in with The Pop Ups style?
GD: I like to make characters REALLY MOVE in funny ways like kids do intuitively. Kids are naturally ultra-creative so I try to be too.
KCG: What was most appealing to you about this project?
GD: I liked all the little sounds throughout the song that could be assigned to different characters, like the little gong-hitting robot with the baseball hat, or the tiny robot who drums on his buddy’s knees.
KCG: For Robot Dance, did you listen to the song before animating?
GD: I listened to the song before, during, and after animating, constantly, over one hundred and fifty nine thousand times per day.
KCG: What is your creative process like in terms of how you are inspired to create music videos? For example, does the music influence the art and vice versa?
GD: I listen to the music and see in my head what characters and scenes it suggests to me then I just go for it and start drawing.
KCG: Can your share a behind the scenes breakdown of how the video came to fruition?
GD: I drew a rough storyboard/animatic to show what I was thinking for the video and once that was approved I broke down the time into manageable chunks so I knew how much I had to finish each day in order to complete the video according to our schedule.
KCG: What was the balance between self-expression and collaboration?
GD: There was a very good balance between self-expression and collaboration. Jacob and Jason had some ideas of their own but were more interested to see how I responded to the song and what ideas I came up with on my own. They are great to work with in that way.
KCG: The Pop Ups are a kids’ music band, did you have to find a balance between your aesthetic and creating something that was kid-friendly?
GD: No. My aesthetic is very fluid and I make much use of so-called “chance” in creating. I basically am in a kid-like mindset when I do creative work so it’s naturally kid-friendly I hope. Kids are so spontaneous and hilarious on their own and they live creatively without over-thinking everything, it’s very inspiring. Most kids still have some kind of inherent understanding of the magical nature of life so making things for them is way more fun than making things for adults, who usually go on and on about how things don’t make sense or are arbitrary, etc, etc. If you’ve ever been around young kids you are familiar with what I call “the endless WHY”…no matter how clear something is, there’s always a kid who keeps asking “why” without stopping. And you can only answer that question so many times. It’s nice to just embrace the fact that some things don’t need a logical rationale.
KCG: Were you given direction in terms of what elements (besides robots) to include in the video?
GD: The Pop Ups had some direction for things that could be in the video, but most of it was just dictated by the song itself. We wondered how we could show pants splitting in a “tasteful” way and I think we solved it pretty ingeniously by just having classic polka dot/heart boxers underneath the trousers.
KCG: Most importantly, did you do the robot dance til you split your pants at any point during this process?
GD: I ruined many perfectly good pairs of pants to get all the robot dances just right. Please pass along to The Pop Ups that they will be receiving a bill from my tailor shortly.