Here’s the brand spankin’ new video for the synthy, minimalistic art-pop duo Grape Soda’s new song Obvious Signs, brought to life by artist Lauren Gregg and Craig Sheldon of their animation company, Kangaroo Alliance. The video tempers Lauren’s signature adorable animation style with violence and cheeky humor, and the song itself is a mellow, drum heavy jam that sneaks up on you with its catchiness. Lauren took a little time to catch us up with her artistic process and what it was like working on the video.
Nerdist: How did you and Grape Soda connect?
Lauren Gregg: Mat and Ryan (of Grape Soda) are good friends of ours and we’re all ex-bandmates! The four of us used to be in The Buddy System together. We’re huge fans of their music (and them as people in general). There wasn’t anybody else we’d rather work with!
Nerdist: How did you conceptualize the theme of the video? Were there several ideas before the ghost deer one?
LG: The video actually stemmed from an idea Craig and I came up with during our last year of college, about 10 years ago! I used to have a pet skunk and for some reason we came up with this weird concept that when he died, he’d come back to haunt me to the point of where it was just really annoying and not scary. Then he’d stop haunting me because I wasn’t scared anymore, and then eventually I’d get sad because I missed him haunting me. It wasn’t very well thought out and we never ended up filming it, but it was always a funny concept that we hung onto. When we convinced Mat and Ryan (of Grape Soda) to let us make a video for them, they were getting ready for a wider release of their first record, Form a Sign. They didn’t have a specific song in mind that they wanted a video for, so we just picked our favorite – “Obvious Signs.” As we worked more on storyboarding the video, the story fell naturally into place with the song. A lot of the shots were straight from our original ghost skunk idea, like getting haunted when checking the mail!
Nerdist: What was the shooting process like?
LG: Shooting the video was a lot of fun! I moonlight as a wedding photographer so I’ve got a bunch of sweet photo gear that I was able to put to use. Craig is an amazing storyboard artist, so we worked shot by shot from a huge stack of boards. It took us about 2 months to get everything shot. We borrowed our friend’s pickup and drove out into the country, shot a bunch of stuff inside my house, and rented out a little club here in Athens to shoot the show footage. We were nervous about getting a bunch of people to help an invisible ghost deer crowdsurf, but everyone was so awesome and helpful! We have so many friends to thank!
Nerdist: How long did the video take to animate?
LG: Since this was something that we were tackling on our free time (which we don’t have a ton of), it took a long time. Like 6 months long.
Nerdist: You’ve also worked with Of Montreal and The Buddy System (in which Lauren played bass) on music videos, but this seems to be your first foray into incorporating animation into live action videos. What was that process like?
LG: A year before we shot this video, Craig did animation for a short film directed by a friend of ours called Rooney’s World. It was live action and featured an imaginary animated elephant. So with that experience under his belt, we felt pretty confident about blending live action with animation. But a lot of things were very similar to the process of a straight 2-D animation. We storyboarded every shot just as if we were going to do a straight up cartoon. In some ways it was way easier doing a video like this in that we didn’t have to draw background art and there was only one character to worry about. But it was still very challenging having the deer interact with and be in the scenery.
Nerdist: That deer ghost seems like he was a real diva. Comments?
LG: Ghost deer’s just tryna party!
Nerdist: You and Kangaroo Alliance counterpart Craig Sheldon have been working together since your days at the Ringling School of Art and Design. What’s it like being business partners with a close friend?
LG: It’s amazing. People always tell you to never start a business with your friend, but I’d encourage it unless your friend is a real asshole. We’ve been working in the industry together for 10 years now! He inspires me daily, and we get to make all of our dumb inside jokes into animations. I wouldn’t be able to do what I’m doing without him.
Nerdist: Your work seems to be highly influenced by pop culture, comic books, movies, and television; do you receive a lot of requests for work like this, or does it come more from being a fan?
LG: I participate in a lot of gallery shows that are pop culture themed, which is why that stuff is all over my website. The galleries basically just send out a list of shows they’re doing for the year, and I get to decide which ones I want to paint for. All of the pop culture stuff I end up making is from movies/comics/television shows that I really love, so it’s a little bit of both!
Nerdist: Any up and coming projects in your art you’d like to talk about?
LG: Yes! I’m currently painting David the Gnome for an upcoming show at LTD Gallery in Seattle in late July! I’m in a band called Woodsy Friends with my good friend Lucas Jensen, and we will hopefully be releasing an album with a little illustrated book to go along with it later this year. Craig and I also have a pretty sweet music video idea on the back burner, so if any bands have songs about long distance relationships and want a music video a year from now, get in touch with us (ha ha). Grape Soda is currently working on their second record called “ii” that’ll be coming out early next year!
Nerdist: One more burning question: The video reminded me so much of ’90s cartoon sensibility. What were some of your favorite cartoons growing up, and did these influence your style at all?
LG: Craig and I both grew up on Nickelodeon in the 80s. All the cartoons I loved were the super weird Japanese/French ones like The Mysterious Cities of Gold and Belle and Sebastian. In the 90s we were both fans of the kinda gross-out cartoons like Ren & Stimpy. I was also really, really into Ninja Turtles. We weren’t necessarily “growing up” when we watched these, but stylistically, and as far as sight gags and stuff, Dexter’s Laboratory and Powerpuff Girls were huge influences on us. We’d sit around and watch those shows in college kind of in awe about how fresh they were.
Check out Lauren’s sweet art and fantastically geeky tributes to pop culture, movies, and tv here and her band, Woodsy Friends (how cute can one person even be?!). And the rad dudes at Grape Soda will even let you listen to their whole album, Form a Sign, here.
What other artists, animators, and musicians are on your radar? Is there a song you’re dying to see a video for? Comment below and let’s get a dialogue going – talk to me!