Death Cab For Cutie’s “Home is a Fire” Video
I have been a fan of Death Cab for years so I was excited to hear from bassist Nick Harmer about his idea to collaborate on a video piece for their song Home Is A Fire. I love the democracy of music and I’m always excited to bundle visual art with great music. Nick sent me the lyrics to Home Is A Fire and they evoked the duality of “home” both as a place you inhabit, and also as a place that inhabits or traps you. One’s relationship with home might be complicated, but ultimately it can be a two-way dialogue, of which we can at least affect one-way. The city can be an impersonal place, imposing, simultaneously anonymous and claustrophobic. However, there are opportunities for us to affect the city(and life) experience rather than accepting things as passive voyeurs. We all have fears and insecurities about ourselves and our circumstances, but if we have the courage to take risks and participate we can adapt and embrace the flux, rather than fear it. This video is about illustrating these ideas and the multiple dimensions of the city experience by taking the viewer on a journey to encounter the Home Is A Fire lyrics as street art. Street art appeals because it makes the landscape a little less dreary for the viewer, and it is a bureaucracy free creative outlet for the participants. I would say that a street art call to action is “if you don’t like your home… reshape it”. The power of street art is in its intrigue and authenticity , so it was crucial to actually put all the lyrics and images up on the streets. We wanted the viewer to experience the urban environment in a very real and intimate way that celebrates that one person’s wart is another’s beauty mark. Some of the art was put up prior to the video shoot in places that seemed appropriate to the lyrical themes, while other pieces were put up during the shoot. We filmed the preparation of materials as well to demonstrate the energy and process involved in becoming pro-active. Some of the street art was cleaned within a day. Street art, like everything, is ephemeral but I hope that in watching this video and listening to the song, people see a little magic and potential in the unappreciated details of the landscape of their lives, no matter how fleeting they may be.
Thank you to all the people who helped make this video happen.
The video for Home Is A Fire is a result of ten people: Shepard Fairy, Benjamin Gibbard, Nicholas Harmer, Jason McGerr, Christopher Walla, Aaron Stewart-Ahn, Tarin Anderson, Todd Mazer, Justin Micthell and Christopher Hills-Wright who all live where art, music and film intersect.
For me, Home Is A Fire is about redefining familiar space. The narrator in the song seems unsettled, searching and yearning, scanning the environment for something comforting in an uncomfortable place. I knew that if the band would give me a chance to make a visual accompaniment to this song that those would be the themes and mood that I would most want to highlight and accentuate. As a parallel to this, I have always been intrigued and excited about the street art movement that has really exploded during my lifetime. It’s a movement and expression that I feel defines my generation in many ways, and some artists that for years worked as shadows have now become known by name. One of those names is Shepard Fairey. And not only is he an artist that I hold in the highest regard, but he is also a friend.
You can probably see now how these things connect. It was a logical step in my mind to take a song about redefining familiar space and connect it to the visual artistic expression of street art, which also, to me, is rooted in artists redefining familiar spaces. So I called Shepard and asked him if he would be into figuring out a way to do this and also make it compelling. From the very first conversation, Shepard could see this intersection between his world and mine and knew exactly what to do and how to do it. We agreed on key points, we could see it in our minds. I was beyond happy and honored to have his involvement in this.
So I left him to do his thing, to make the art and he left me to mine, to assemble a team of equally creative cinematographers to help document and capture not only the final moments of the art being on walls, but the process leading up to that. This wasn’t a typical music video shoot in that there was no shooting script, no real specific direction to give other than “here’s the song, here’s the art, react.” In every way, while the concept, the music and art, came from Shepard and I, the execution and realization of this project came from Aaron Stewart-Ahn who acted as our Producer and was also one of four cinematographers that also included the talents of Tarin Anderson, Todd Mazer, and Justin Mitchell. Without their eyes behind the lenses, this would not have come together has beautifully as it has. I also have to give credit to Christopher Hills-Wright who, as our editor, had to sort through footage from four cinematographers and somehow weave it all together to make a cohesive, watchable experience.
And that is what this has ultimately become, an experience, something interesting to watch and to listen to. There are many narratives here or there are none, it either makes sense or it doesn’t. But regardless of whether or not this “means” anything to you I hope there is a mood and atmosphere in the music and images that makes you think about your familiar spaces and how you define them.