Jason Hammel and Kori Gardner, who write and perform as Mates of State, are celebrating their 10th wedding anniversary this year with another collection of exuberant, uplifting pop music. Okay, they're not actually pitching the record, their seventh full-length since 2000, as having anything to do with their relationship, but the music of Mates of State has always sounded like an unabashed celebration of love. I've been known to gag on this sort of thing in the past, but Hammel and Gardner know just how to finesse it. Their songs are heartfelt and full of pure joy and hope, but are never overly sentimental or schmaltzy. I do remember Carrie Brownstein telling me once that she thought listening to Mates of State was like getting pelted with candy, and maybe that's true. But it's such delicious candy!
"Palomino," the opening cut from Mates of State's new album Mountaintops, is a sun-dappled burst of soaring beauty that falls right in the band's sweet spot. In this video for the tune, directed by Jimi Patterson, an animated Hammel and Gardner embark on a strange odyssey through an oil-pointed land. They keep climbing stairs leading to the heavens and scaling mountains, where they're greeted by a couple of martial-arts guys — as well as a chorus of creepy children dressed in black — and do battle with a couple of lions. I'm not sure what it all means, so watch for yourself, then read what Hammel and Gardner have to say about it below:
From Mates of State (Jason Hammel and Kori Gardner)
We teamed up with a dedicated, visionary artist, Jimi Patterson, to make a video that captured both the spirit of our band and the thematic nature of Mountaintops. Our new record centers itself on the old zen saying, "Aim for Cold Mountain." We love the idea that in every aspect of life, there is always going to be another peak in the distance. Jimi immediately thought rotoscoping would capture this ascent in a stunning way. It's magical and slightly haunting — an arduous and continual climb. He spent more than 600 hours of time animating every frame and painted each scene with intense attention to detail. We feel the overall result captures where we're at in our lives and serves as one giant metaphor. Visually, it depicts the song "Palomino," which is a reflection on childhood and life's inevitable progression. It's about getting to a place of inner peace without losing the ability to take risks. Ultimately, it's about leaving the past and reaching new ground.
From director Jimi Patterson:
The aesthetic of the video is a result of the process behind it: rotoscope animation. (Ralph Bakshi and Richard Linklater are two filmmakers who have developed this style, and I am a huge fan of their work.) We first filmed the live-action material, and then I digitally hand-painted all 3,240 frames using Wacom's Cintiq pen tablet. There are no filters or dragging-and-dropping going on. There's more than 300 brush strokes for every frame. The movement of the brush strokes gives an organic feel that, to me, is irreplaceable since no two frames are alike in their execution — just value and hue stay the same. This gives the video a distinctive look that cannot be duplicated. Most frames have at least two passes of work, and that doesn't include the matte backgrounds. I am very proud we committed to such an ambitious video on such a short deadline, and I am also honored to have worked with Mates of State, who gave me a huge opportunity to take a risk with an idea which was completely hypothetical before we began. I developed my process as I worked on this video, which was stressful, demanding and subsequently now the only way I wish to work ever again — pushing boundaries, teetering on complete success or complete failure. I think more art and musicians should leave nothing for the swim back. Mates of State certainly don't.