From Tall Dwarfs’ “Nothing’s Going to Happen” to Múm’s “Sing Along”, great music videos are bursts of sound and vision that leave an indelible impression. Director’s Cut is a Pitchfork News feature in which we chat with music video directors about their creations. The men and women behind the camera are often overlooked in today’s YouTube era, but this feature aims to highlight their hard work while showcasing the best videos currently linking around the internet. A little behind-the-scenes dirt couldn’t hurt, too.
This time, we talked to Andy Bruntel, the man behind Liars‘ recent lost-at-sea odyssey “Scissor”. The clip finds band leader Angus Andrew besieged by supernatural elements hellbent on destroying him. It’s dark, but also kinda funny! Over the past five years, Bruntel has helmed surreal and inventive clips for the likes of Stephen Malkmus, Modest Mouse, Bonnie “Prince” Billy, St. Vincent, and No Age, which are all available on his site. In our conversation, the director talked about being stranded in the middle of the ocean, the movie Cast Away, and Will Oldham.
Watch the “Scissor” video and read the Q&A below:
Liars: “Scissor” [Director: Andy Bruntel]
Pitchfork: Did you always plan on having Liars singer Angus Andrew star in this video?
Andy Bruntel: Originally, I had an actor in the raft instead of Angus, but he wanted to be the main character. I was a little bit nervous because it’s a pretty physical part. I was like, “Can he swim?” But he was totally down. He even had some story about diving off a boat to chase a blue whale. He’s a pretty adventurous guy.
Pitchfork: Did you shoot this video on location?
AB: Yeah, it’s about a mile into the ocean off of Marina del Ray. In movies that are shot out in water, you can often tell when it cuts from being the ocean to a stage. Like, I caught this movie Open Water 2 on TV– I didn’t watch it on purpose [laughs]. It’s about this group of friends that go out on a yacht. They all jump in the water but they forget to put the ladder down, so they’re all just stuck in the water next to this yacht. It’s a really bad movie, but something about being stranded in the ocean has a certain intensity.
Pitchfork: Were you inspired by “Lost” at all?
AB: I haven’t watched it for a while and I never once heard the band bring it up during the shoot. But they did talk about Cast Away a number of times– the movie where Tom Hanks talks to a volleyball. I haven’t actually seen it.
Pitchfork: I love the final shot in the video. Did you plan that from the beginning or was it something that came up along the way?
AB: That was in the original treatment, but there are multiple versions of the ending. There’s one where the boulder fully hits the boat and the camera goes underwater. For a while, the band was thinking about ending on the over-the-shoulder shot of the boulder coming towards him. Each ending leaves you with a slightly different feeling. When you see the rock completely hit the boat, there’s this huge sound and it’s funny. But the way it ends now leaves more to your imagination– it’s still funny, but there’s something a little off-putting about it, too.
Pitchfork: There’s some ambiguity.
AB: Yeah, something like this can come out so pretentious when you’re not careful. There are a lot of surreal narrative videos coming out now that are more on the pretentious side, like the one for [Broken Bells’ “The High Road”] where they’re walking along this road, encountering all these symbolic visual things. But if you can make it fun, people will be entertained first and then they might watch it again and think about it some more.
Pitchfork: That was definitely my experience with your video for Bonnie “Prince” Billy’s “Cursed Sleep”, which is probably my favorite video of yours thus far.
AB: Thanks. While we were shooting that video, Will [Oldham] got a call that his dad had suddenly passed away. We were like, “If you need to be with your family, do whatever you need to do. It’s just a music video.” But he wanted to finish because he would’ve been sitting by himself at the airport otherwise. It’s hard for me to watch that video without remembering the experience.
Bonnie “Prince” Billy: “Cursed Sleep” [Director: Andy Bruntel]