Devendra Banhart: Mondo Taurobolium

Animator Galen Pehrson Takes the Folk Star on a Psychotropic Trip Into the Dark Heart of Hollywood

Avant-folk singer-songwriter Devendra Banhart builds upon his stellar collection of video collaborations with a subversive and moody new piece from rising animator and director Galen Pehrson. Conceived in the tradition of Mondo—the 1960s sub-genre associated with exploitation, death and taboo—Mondo Taurobolium uses the eponymous track “Taurobolium” from Banhart’s latest album Mala as a backdrop. The experimental narrative takes dark and existential turns into the murky underbelly of Hollywood fame and finds the duck-like character Mondo at its center, reeling in a state of disillusionment following a wave of torrential success. Mondo’s counterpart is Gale, voiced by cult favorite Rose McGowan as the beaked female lead who accompanies him through back alleys and night crawls of Los Angeles. “I think it’s easier to trust an animal without scrutinizing its actions,” says Pehrson, who has collaborated with Banhart on the cover of his album Cripple Crow and the video to “I Feel Just Like a Child,” and has recently shot a series of enviable commissions from MOCA, Death Grips, James Franco and Talib Kweli. “I think it’s something we learn while watching cartoons when we’re young. There’s often a moral undertone to them—here, it’s same idea just with more mature and complex topics.” 

Hand-drawn 2D animation is something of a dying art. What inspires you to stay the course?
Galen Pehrson:
I enjoy drawing and making little worlds. The passion comes from the feeling of seeing a character come to life, or clouds blowing over a landscape. It’s not a passion reserved for animation but for sharing, creating and collaborating.

Is the process quite drawn out and isolating?
I spend months alone. This piece took four months. I counted something like 2,140 hours. The one day I took off, I ran my car over a boulder. 

What animation directors have inspired you lately? 
I recently discovered Sally Cruikshank—a cab driver turned me on to her work and my mind was blown. I feel like we might be kindred spirits.

What themes do you find yourself exploring over and over again?
I think the biggest theme is nighttime. I work through the night, and there’s a different feeling in the air: a kind of stillness and clarity that I’m grasping at and trying to relay.

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Conversations (1)

  • malvolio
    All elements in this production are current, relevant, and culturally appropriate. Yet it has an anachronistic quality, that make it a mini-classic. Very cool!
    • Posted By malvolio
    • December 03, 2013 at 12:35PM
    • Share Comment:

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    The Kills: The Last Goodbye

    Samantha Morton Helms an Emotive Music Video Portrait of the Rock Duo

    The Kills celebrate ten years of musical partnership with this poignant and playful video, directed by Oscar nominated actress Samantha Morton. The captivating, melancholic song “The Last Goodbye” offsets the hard-edged sound Alison Mosshart and Jamie Hince are known for with haunting vocals and a nostalgic piano loop. "I wanted to make it completely different from anything we'd normally do," explains Hince. "I used an octagon keyboard from the 60s which takes flexi-discs with real bands playing and mixes them together." For the video—an experience Hince and Mosshart usually find unfulfilling and frustrating—the duo enlisted the talents of Morton, who made her directorial feature debut this year with The Unloved. Shot in monochrome on crisp, silvery 35mm, the video reflects the beautiful simplicity of the track, with an old-school photo booth providing an intimate backdrop for Mosshart's intense and heart-warming opening performance followed by a series of touching to-camera poses reflecting the musicians’ longstanding, spirited friendship. "Life goes on," says Mosshart of the touching ballad. "It starts off being the end of the world but then ends up alright." Here Mosshart and Hince share their memories of their first meeting and a decade of collaboration.

    Alison on Jamie:
    "When I first met him I thought he was the coolest guy in the world; I was completely fascinated by him. I had an immediate desire to do something with him – it was the best decision I've ever made. We've had so much fun over the past 12 years. I'll never forget our first gig—14 February 2002 in front of 70 people. It was the scariest moment of our lives. We couldn't believe we were doing it. We'd spent six months booking the tour, by letters as it was before email. We stayed wherever we could, going on the greatest adventure of our lives. By the end of the tour the rooms were full because of word of mouth. I remember those first years so clearly because you're so involved and so in charge of your destiny. I don't take any of this for granted—it's still as exciting and interesting and there's still more to discover."
    Jamie on Alison:
    "In 2000, I was in another band and she was staying in the apartment below. She would sit outside my window and listen to me play guitar, a bit like a stalker. When we first met, she was painfully shy. She'd grown up in a skate scene in Florida so she wasn't really aware of any bands. It felt incredible to be able to introduce her to the music I loved. She absorbed it all and loved it all. The first time I saw her perform was like watching Patti Smith for the first time. This awkward little sparrow on stage just had so much confidence and was obviously so comfortable performing. It was fascinating. I thought if I was going to be in another band it was going to be with her. She's my best friend and has been in every aspect of my life."

    Produced by Juliette Larthe through PRETTYBIRD.
    Cinematography by Florian Hoffmeister.

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    Sébastien Tellier: King of Blue

    France’s Lounge Lothario Shares His Damascene Moment in a Guy Aroch Film

    Libidinous French musician Sébastien Tellier unveils his new spiritual self in director and fashion photographer Guy Aroch’s short. The singer waxes lyrical on God, Santa Claus and the color blue, and is seduced by his interviewer—model turned celebrated weather girl Lorraine Denis—into a sensual dreamscape. Featuring the track “Pépito Bleu” from Tellier’s latest album My God is Blue, the video is a change of pace for Israeli-born director Aroch, who has shot the likes of Vanessa Paradis and Christy Turlington and produced editorials for The New York Times, British Vogue and Marie Claire. “Sébastien is a unique thinker with a strong sense of humor, so I wanted to give him a fun platform to tell his story,” explains Aroch, who shares the musician's 70s-inspired aesthetic and voluptuous vision of femininity. Shedding the steamy skin of his previous LP Sexuality, Tellier’s fourth record sees his reinvention as a musical messiah heralding the dawn of L’Alliance Bleue. “I’d love people to say, ‘Tellier is the Dalí of music,’” offers the former Eurovision participant. “Dalí did something surreal yet pertinent, that’s why I love his work, and I hope to do that musically.” Here the eccentric visionary gets philosophical.

    What is the message of My God is Blue?
    What I try to do is encourage people to put dreams and imagination back into the heart of society. I want people to believe in something that doesn’t exist. God? Why not? But the Loch Ness monster, unicorns and Santa Claus also work. We should accept forces that surpass us.

    How do you avoid being repetitive?
    I try to renew myself constantly. Between each album, I change personality, clothes, car and apartment. I try and like films I used to hate. Once I feel I’ve entered a new cycle, that I’m truly different, I know I’m ready to create a new album. Otherwise, what is the point?

    What is the biggest change with this album?
    For this album, I didn’t want to look at the past or look at my childhood memories. Instead, I imagined the future. I wanted to be a soothsayer, create the pop of the future. The best way to summarize the album is that it uses strength to talk about tenderness.

    Why blue?
    I wanted to convey the vision of a tiny little human standing next to an immense, bright blue tidal wave. I wanted to remind people of the minuscule-ness of human kind.

    What are your predictions about the future?
    I don’t imagine a very happy future for our planet. I feel we are reaching the end of a cycle, we are entering a new cycle, and this transition could be a very difficult moment to go through.

    What is the L’Alliance Bleue?
    It is a movement I am creating around this album. People will soon be able to register online and take personality tests to gauge their imagination potential. They will be able to give donations, and strips of land on which we—me and the faithful—will all live together. We will create a new, better world that people will enter to live truly free lives. Surgeons will become poets; their donations will be used towards their own new lives, like a gift to themselves. For example, the money could be used for fireworks in their honor after they read their first poem.

    What would you do in L’Alliance Bleue?
    My dream is to become a scientist. These are the most important people in the world. What you want from life is to feel good and to live forever, and only science can bring this to us. I think the world should be solely composed of scientists—who kill illnesses and make us eternal—and artists, to entertain them.

    What does freedom mean to you?
    Freedom is about needing nothing, about being a sophisticated savage. It’s about listening to your desires with refinement, and to live in wilderness, only with more thought.

    For an exclusive album of behind the scenes images from the shoot visit our Facebook page

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