Multi-style animator Stephen Smith, AKA Wobbly Lobster, has collaborated with dream pop duo Moon Panda to create an out-of-this-world animated music video for their latest single, Tangerine Light.
Welcome to Tangerine Light, the outer space guest house where furniture floats, the layout looks like an Escher woodcut, and food is served out of giant futuristic tubes. Designed and animated by Stephen Smith, the visuals in this music video are the perfect mellow accompaniment to the titular track's calming melody.
Released ahead of Moon Panda's return at SXSW Festival, the band's bassist Maddy Myers says Tangerine Light is "about a moment in time, one of those huge life leaps where everything is changing, and you have to try and listen to yourself and stay authentic; clicking into place and riding the wave. There's so much power in moving gently."
And rather appropriately, the making of the music video sounds like it was a laid-back process. Stephen tells Creative Boom that all the band requested was a guest house in space full of comfort, but he had free range as far as the brief went. "There were a few offerings of possible content connecting to elements in their campaign, but I had the freedom to explore the house as I wished," he explains.
Even the way they met was refreshingly un-business-like. Stephen reveals that he came to be involved with the video because his dog looks identical to Maddy's. "They followed each other on Instagram, so I'd like to thank my agent/dog for connecting us," he jokes.
"I checked out Moon Panda's music and instantly loved it. Seeing that they have a theme of outer space (something that's reoccurring in many of my videos) and utilise illustrative animation similar to many of my works, I thought we'd make for a great pairing."
It was a hunch that proved to be correct. The video is a soothing tour of the outer space guest house whose visuals perfectly keep pace with the track. "I often like to synchronise and fit my videos to the rhythm and structure of the tracks I work with," adds Stephen. "This means there tends to be a fair amount of forward movement in my videos.
"With Tangerine Light, I wanted the song's calm and spacey mood to allow for a more present and relaxed video. So I settled in on each room in turn before editing it together. I wanted the animation process as well as the final result to fit with the tone of the music."
Despite these plans, Stephen ran into a bit of a snag when trying to pan over single images of each room while trying to create a sense of depth. "To achieve this, I needed layers to travel at different speeds. But within a room, an image can break perspective and look flat if it's not redrawn in each frame.
"So, I decided to draw everything along a central, single-point perspective. When scaling images from the centre point, a single image would now match the rooms' perspective whatever speed it's moving."
As Stephen has alluded, Moon Panda has already worked with other illustrators and animators for their music videos. Their visuals influenced Stephen's creative approach to Tangerine Light, as they wanted to create something that occupied its own space not only visually but also comfortably sat alongside the strong and cohesive world the band had already created.
"I also had a kind of image of old promotional videos of properties," he adds. "Sort of cheesy vanity shots you find in TV shopping channels or even montages in Cribs."
As with all the many other animated music videos he's created, Tangerine Light proved to be a learning curve for Stephen, a self-taught artist. "I'm quite literally learning all the time," he says. "With every single video I make, I take away something new.
"The main lesson I've learnt is to work smart. Making three to five-minute animations on my own can be mentally and physically draining, so feeling good is necessary to be productive. So I reach for projects that I can be excited about.
"I still get obsessed by great new music, which keeps things fresh and has resulted in me working with some of my all-time favourite artists."