“I just wanted to shoot monsters having a dance battle,” says director Alistair Legrand on his new project for Canadian duo Data Romance. As our unofficial expert on all things ghoulish and monster-related, it should come as no surprise that his chilling video for The Deep is a dark and bewitching delight.
“The idea for this video came to me about a year ago, when I was listening to this song I really liked a lot. I couldn’t stop visualizing these robotic forms engaged in this street-style battle dancing…I kept thinking it would be perfect for a song that wasn’t hip hop.”
Always on the lookout for just the right song, Alistair began to research. Fate (and a few YouTube searches) led him to “jookin,” a Memphis dance style similar to gangsta walkin’ that uses the whole body in a robot-meets-ballerina kind of way. As images of figures from Beksinki paintings then crept into his mind as the perpetrators of these movements, the fragments began to merge and blend into one cohesive vision.
When Alistair heard The Deep some months later, he knew this was just the opportunity he had been waiting for. (Can you imagine a better match than a group that describes their sound as “the contrast between human feeling and hard tech?”) After exchanging ideas and video links back and forth, they realized they not only had similar taste, but also a similar vision for the video–simple and elegant, of course, but ultimately unsettling.
And so, together with producer Monte Zajicek, they began the search for the perfect dancers. Dozens of auditions turned up scores of dancers who could buck and grind as well as Boogaloo Shrimp, but none of them seemed quite right for the video. Alistair found his mind drifting back to Lil’ Buck, an especially phantasmagorical jookin’ master he’d discovered during his initial research sessions. After watching the video Lil’ Buck did with Yo Yo Ma, Alistair and Monte realized they would never be able to find anyone nearly as perfect as Lil’ Buck himself. So, despite the fact that it was quite a long shot, they sent Lil’ Buck a YouTube message and anxiously awaited their dream dancer’s response.
Lil’ Buck responded within minutes. He invited Monte and Alistair to join him and his cousin, Primetime, for dinner that night and the group immediately hit it off. Though Lil’ Buck and Primetime had heard the song only an hour before, they were already full of great ideas for the video.
“After dinner, when we were waiting for the check, I looked over and saw Lil’ Buck and Primetime both dancing in place, and I knew these were the guys for our video. They just couldn’t stop dancing! I guess that’s how you know you’ve found your passion, when you just have to do it all of the time” – Alistair
So while Lil’ Buck, Primetime, and their friend Keviorr worked on the choreography, Alistair began thinking about the look of the video. Will Lemon, a friend of the Masses and the hands behind the facial landscapes from “A Million Years,” joined the team as makeup artist. An elaborate painter of faces, he painted his own while on a shoot in Canada and sent photos to Alistair so they could collaborate. With these stunning designs, Will managed to transform the three dancers into a nightmarish gang of snarling wraiths, setting the perfect mood for the piece.
The day before the shoot, Alistair met up with the dancers in an empty parking lot for a crash course in Monster 101. Lil’ Buck, Primetime, and Keviorr blew everyone away with the routine they had put together. “The videos we shot on our iPhones of those dance rehearsals alone would have been a great video,” Alistair says. With this choreography in mind, cinematographer John Frost built a miniature studio using action figures as stand-ins to run their camera tests.
And then, of course, there was the actual video shoot. The results of that fateful day are what we now lay before you. Lil’ Buck (who, mind you, did dozens of backflips without ever tiring) and his crew offered up a hauntingly beautiful performance that will certainly leave you mesmerized. Data Romance, who were on set with manager Seb Webber, have a cameo in the piece, “just a great shot of them looking otherworldly.” And of course the editing, executed by fellow Masses director Ben Fee, is seamless.
So what do you get when you add up all of these elements? A gritty, gorgeous piece that manages to be disquieting and strangely beautiful simultaneously–“a music video highlight for 2011” (Toro Magazine). We can promise you one thing, though–that after you’ve watched every unforgettable shot of this video, you’ll be hopelessly entranced by “The Deep.”