sky ferreira’s go-to video director grant singer gets real
Grant has made videos for some of music’s most exciting acts, including six of Sky Ferreira’s smash singles, DIIV, and Foxygen among others. We caught up with the director to learn more about what went into making some of our favourite music videos.
The longing lyrics and dreamy melodies of Ariel Pink's recent single "Put Your Number in My Phone," make for the perfect 21st century love song. But when it came to producing the song's music video, director Grant Singer told a story far outside the boy-meets-girl box. In the video, Ariel, clad in HBA jeans, a shearling turquoise coat, and matching cowboy hat, pushes a gothed-out man in a gas mask and wheelchair around a mall, stopping to play video games and attempting to pick up girls at the food court. It's this drive to do things a little differently that's made Grant's work stand out. In addition to Ariel's mall rat stint, Grant has made videos for some of music's most exciting acts, including six of Sky Ferreira's smash singles, DIIV, and Foxygen among others. We caught up with the director to learn more about what went into making some of our favourite music videos.
Tell us about your background.
I'm from LA. I was making my own music and had a lot of friends in bands, but I had also gone to school and studied film, so I started doing visuals for my friends Liza [Thorn] and Matt [Koshak] who were in a band called Starred. After that, things started picking up: I did a DIIV video, then I made a short narrative film called IRL. Everything else sort of followed.
Speaking of IRL, that was your first of many projects with Sky Ferreira. How did you guys meet?
The writer of IRL, Patrik Sandberg, recommended that she play the lead. I'd never met her before I casted her, but we really hit it off, became fast friends, and ended up becoming roommates. It was sort of a whirlwind of working together and hanging out. You just meet people sometimes in your life that you have an immediate connection with.
What's your working relationship like?
Sky is a very unique and special artist in that she's so multi-dimensional. Every song is so different. Listening to her new stuff, I think she's constantly doing new and cool things. It's hard to pin her down in terms of one image. She's kind of a chameleon in terms of her music. For the visuals, we try to never repeat ourselves. Also, I should mention that Sky has impeccable taste. She's not an artist where you show her a movie and talk about referencing it, she knows the movies you're referencing. She has that level of taste, she knows the best directors, she's got encyclopedic knowledge of films and things like that. So it's always really fun to work with her because we have similar references. She's inspired by something and I'm inspired by something; it's very much a collaboration in all the videos in terms of both the concept and the execution. She, more so than anyone I've worked with, is really involved creatively. She's got amazing new music she's working on; I'm excited to do some cool stuff.
In the past, you've talked about how important the unconscious mind is to your work. Do you still think that's true?
In terms of conceptually going with my unconscious, that's the only way I work. When I get an idea, I just go with it. I try not to over-analyse my ideas because then I'd never end up doing anything, I'd just be constantly revising and questioning myself and my thoughts. No matter what kind of a project it is, music always inspires me. A lot of the music I like reflects that unconscious idea: it's in the moment, it's a feeling, it's not academic. I try and just go with that initial feeling. In my opinion, your job as a video director is to almost put yourself second and put the music first: doing justice to the song and visually portraying the music as it should be. Whether or not that coincides with your style, I think you need to impart yourself without overwhelming the music or overwhelming the visual. It needs to be a balance between your style and the music.
How do you go about casting?
Casting is really important to me. Specifically right now, I'm interested in things and subjects that aren't typically portrayed in the culture, the media, or even in videos. I try to give them a voice or capture a world that isn't always seen on an everyday level. When you first see someone and you're like, "Oh my god, that person is incredibly compelling, visually unique, and has something that I haven't seen," that's who I try to cast. I look for the uniqueness, the compelling and strange.
Here's an example of this: there's a guy who's like this 75-year-old punk rocker. The first time I saw him was in the elevator of the Gaylord Apartment buildings in LA and it was the most jaw dropping moment I've ever had. It's like looking at a corpse: he's 6'4, weighs like 100 pounds, has crazy green hair. But after all these years, he hasn't shed the look nor has he given up the desire to rock. So when I saw him, I was so inspired I wrote a treatment based on him and sent it to a bunch of different bands. A lot of times it was rejected, but then I found an artist who loves it and embraced the fact that it's really weird. I'm going to be filming in a few weeks and I'm really excited.
What else is up next for you?
I just finished a script this week for a feature length film I'd been working on for almost a year, so I'm excited about that. I'm also shooting Little Dragon this week, working with Travis Scott, and some really cool people.
Text Emily Manning
Photography Ben Colen