The Masses Lab

The Masses isn’t just a collaborative, it’s a family of optimistic individuals who believe that “the arts” should be about more than profit margins and self-indulgence.  That’s why we’re so excited to introduce you to our newest endeavor, The Masses Lab.  Essentially a launching pad for new directors, The Masses Lab provides aspiring filmmakers from all different backgrounds with the means to make the transition from technician to creator.  Here, their experiences in everything from animation to editing don’t pigeonhole them into specific roles, but rather enable them to approach their craft with an innovative and even unconventional perspective. Now add to this creative concoction the underground sounds of indie record label Manimal Vinyl and you wind up with a recipe for greatness.  Founded by Paul Beahan in 2006,  Los Angeles-based Manimal’s catalogue has grown to include names such as Bat for Lashes, Warpaint, Hecuba, Rainbow Arabia, and Sister Crayon.  You may also have heard about Manimal’s amazing semi-annual tribute albums to artists like David Bowie and The Cure, the profits of which benefit various charities.  Needless to say, Paul and Manimal are not only our good friends but also an incredibly talented bunch who serve as the perfect match for The Masses Lab.

Now meet the directors of The Masses Lab.  The task—to pair inventive music with equally stunning visuals—is far from easy, but the results so far have been nothing short of exceptional.

A.P. FISCHER’s music video for Sister Crayon is the first of The Masses Lab/Manimal Vinyl collaborations to reach completion.  Having been given much control over the venture, he managed to create a video that matches and even intensifies Sister Crayon’s already ethereal sound.  Shot in black and white, it has an odd, almost Dr. Caligari-esque feel that draws you in immediately.  Though the narrative is non-linear, there’s a sense of urgency and curiosity that pushes you through the song and renders every moment suspenseful.  Essentially this means that you’ll find it impossible to listen to Sister Crayon without this video playing in your mind’s eye.  The video makes its debut on MTV’s Logo station.

ARIANA NATALE -It’s clear from Air’s work that she is a dreamer at heart.  Her style is hallucinatory  in a comfortable way, tricking you into thinking that cupcake-obsessed scientists and “underwater melting popsicle psychedelia” are the most natural things in the world.  She’s also one of those increasingly rare artists who would rather let their imaginations run loose with a few friends than create a self-glorifying catalogue of work.  Her latest project, an astoundingly mystical music video for “Trolls” by Oy on Creaked Records, is nearing release and she is developing an idea for a documentary on a New York City dance collective.  But her interests are widespread, so don’t be surprised if you find her shooting look books or reading poetry at Echo Curio.

ALEX PELLY is living proof that The Masses is more like a family than anything else.  She started off here as an intern during her time at USC and stuck around till she made it to director.  Coming from a post-production background, she has a unique perspective that enables her to see what could be when looking around at what physically is.  Alex’s passion for sound is woven into every project she creates, rendering her an expert at the cross-fertilization between music and film.  Her music videos for hip-hop electro duo Javelin recently debuted on Pitchfork and are already drawing plenty of attention. A favorite and frequent collaborator of the legendary dublab, she’s one of those people who truly understand the mediums she works with and has a habit of stirring creativity wherever she goes.

ALISTAIR LEGRAND has already done several projects, including a music video for Beach House’s “Heart of Chambers” and also a video commissioned by Sony to tell the story of an actual Sony employee.  Using everything from Polaroids and grocery carts to sheet ghosts and cardboard robots, he manages to pinpoint those activities endemic in every person’s childhood and remind you what nostalgia feels like.  Despite not using overt or spoken narratives, he manages to tell intricately woven stories that unfurl at just the right moment.  His sharp but dreamy stories are just the kind of thing that we would like to see more of.

CHRIS COATS started in the world of short films.  In 2009 he received the New Filmmakers Grant to begin his newest movie, “God’s Country,” which he shot on 35mm film in Big Sur.  More recently he has begun working with music, creating videos for bands like Vincent Minor.  But throughout all of these projects, he demonstrates the capability to create something magical out of the everyday experience.  And now that he has the ability to focus on directing, he is sure to grow in this collective environment.

JUNE ZANDONA‘s background as a cinematographer is obvious from her videos: her camera work is immaculate and her ideas well thought out.  The video she directed for the Crystal Antlers’ “Swollen Sky” is perhaps her most well-known project to date.  Featuring several visual layers of action, June manages to maintain a certain logic despite the visual chaos unfolding on the screen.  More recently, June shot a documentary on folk music and is putting the final touches on a music video for Random Patterns (an LA band).  Having learned from the DIY film environment in San Francisco, she is a true collaborator and just the kind of person you would want your band to work with.

SPENCER OCKWELL -If there’s one word to describe Spencer’s style, it would be “juxtaposed.”  Using everything from animation to film noir to futuristic sci-fi, he manages to combine elements and mediums in a way that’s strangely logical and appealing.  After encountering success on the festival circuit with his projects at CalArts, Spencer decided to pair his love for music with his knack for visual art and has now ventured into the realm of the music video. He’s currently working on the next video for Fitz & the Tantrums and has several other pitches lined up.  Spencer is even developing some concepts for television and features, including an idea for a children’s puppet show that’s dreamier than any Lamb Chop episode ever was.

The point is that whether you started off driving a production truck or fetching coffee for a cranky DP, every one remembers how hard it can be to get your name out there.  By creating a community in which bright-eyed youngsters bring fresh viewpoints and battle-worn veterans their hard-learned expertise, our aim is to get the world to listen.  Though The Masses Lab artists may not have the experience of a seasoned director, you would certainly never know it by looking at their work.  They have become an integral part of The Masses family and we know that amazing things will come from this collaboration.

Look for The Masses Lab this year at the Noise Pop Festival in San Francisco, February 22-27.  They’ll be conducting a workshop and making new friends so be sure to say hi!