This year, Mercury Prize nominated Wild Beasts released their fourth critically acclaimed studio album, Present Tense, following a year's hiatus from touring. The LP explored themes of human experience and the permeation of technology in everyone's lives, an ideology they felt was represented strongly through Mattis Dovier's work. I spoke to both of them about how this effects their creation of a GIF-Novel to accompany unreleased tracks from 'Present Tense', and how they are responding to the collaboration process.
Dovier's work relies heavily on gifs, a method as old as the internet itself, but one artists are only just starting to explore. As Dovier says, 'artists are now interested in it for the hybrid alternative it offers to still image and video.' His work is particularly concerned with aspects of American popular culture, most notably in his collaboration with Kids & Explosions for the music video Swear Words.
'I’m heavily influenced by our time, my generation and my childhood. I grew up in the 90s, and that for me was the golden era of video game, cartoons, and Hollywood cinema. As I got older, I rejected mainstream culture and became more interested in underground. Now, I have reconsidered this and today I don’t make distinctions between pop and underground and I like to mix all these influences within my work.'
The band and Dovier are working to the brief of 'Storytelling', by creating a moving graphic novel to accompany two unreleased Wild Beasts tracks, Soft Future and Blood Knowledge. 'They come as a pair', said lead vocalist Hayden Thorpe. 'Blood Knowledge is about human evolution into a world dominated by machines and Soft Future is supposed to be a song which blurs the lines between hand crafted sound and computerised recording.'
While the band had never previously included animation within their work before, they felt that a strong visual aesthetic would always suit their songs. Manga was a medium that particularly resonated, thanks to its 'darker, more perverse sense of self.' Dovier felt the sonic and visual collaboration stimulated his creativity, and that working with musicians was a rewarding endeavour due to fact 'the marriage of visual and sound offered a total experience.' The band agrees with him, claiming they were 'striking gold' when they worked with the artist. The only obstacle was the language barrier, but even their muddled communication often resulted in pieces that were 'very beautiful and very tangible.'
Perhaps most importantly, the exploration added new dimensions to their music: 'The illustration provides a skeleton which the music can simply flesh out', a compliment to the complexities of the new age of animation and its place within creative industries. Dovier's work is provocative in its subject matter, charged with sexual and violent imagery - a narrative for the modern day human experience that Wild Beasts is so concerned about expressing. 'The gif is powerful because it is the result of our times,' says Dovier. 'So much information speeds past us each day, and the gif is the perfect synthesis of the internet's adaptation of images. It is the most concise video format and can send an idea in a very short time.'
The GIF-Novel means the band is participating in one of the first new-age graphic novels. It's Internet accessible and movable, while retaining all the craft and detail present in the original format. This goes hand in hand with the innovative nature of Present Tense, an album that explores the rebirth of 90s electronic within the wide parameters of the 21st century. This changes Wild Beasts from boys with guitars into path-makers for an exciting new age of music.
So it makes sense that the band re-released the album this month, featuring remixes from instrumental figures in electronic music including Factory Floor, East India Youth and Lone. 'We as a band have always thrived from new blood. I guess we're used to collaborating with one another within the band. What is most useful in collaboration is having to find a way of communicating your ideas. You may have the most insightful epic idea in your head but it is worthless if you can't explain what it is and how it will work.'
Wild Beasts X Mattis Dovier is the first of an ongoing series of collaborative projects powered by Jameson's. To follow the journey of the GIF-Novel, visit the Jameson Works website, or join the conversation on Twitter @Jameson_UK using the hashtags #TheJamesonWorks #howyoumakeit.
Check out Mattis' tumblr.