Okkervil River's 'Your Past Life as a Blast' Explores Love and Memory

A dreamy music video for Okkervil River visualizes a couple's experience together from both perspectives, reflecting the fluidity of memory in its cinematography and editing. The video was created by Isaac Ravishankara, with Kevin Hayden, Sydney Buchan, Oliver Ogden, and Bonnie Gregory. Ravishankara talks about the inspiration for the video and the production process in an interview below. 

The Atlantic: How did you come to work with the band and develop this concept for the video?

Isaac Ravishankara: Well, I had been a fan of Okkervil River for a while, so when my rep sent me the track to write a treatment, I was immediately interested. I love how nostalgic the song is, and was drawn to the idea of visually representing a set of memories. So that was the seed. I had been revisiting some of the William Faulkner books I had read in college, particularly The Sound and the Fury, and the idea of memory being such a hazy, subjective, thing. I remember events from not just my own perspective, but from others as well. Time, in memory, is fluid, and so is subject, for that matter. We tend to remember things in metaphors and comparisons. These were the initial ideas that led to the concept, that the video would represent the shared memory of the two characters.

What was the process of shooting? What camera did you shoot with?

Margaret and Benedict jumped out to us in casting, not just because of how striking they are, but also for the immediate chemistry they had (they happened to know each other already).

I really wanted to shoot the video in upstate New York for a few reasons: first, for the imagery of the lyrics, which include forests, rivers, and a lake with an island. Also, the whole upstate New York backdrop has such a cultural nostalgia to it. Ever since Woodstock, that particular brand of American woodlands is something I think we're all familiar with. Even in the four months or so between shooting the video and its release, I’ve seen at least five other videos, commercials, and photo shoots that were shot at the same locations, including the same exact rocky outcropping. It doesn't bother me at all; I actually appreciate how there is a sort of collective unconscious equating the area and the scenery with nostalgia.

In wanting the video to feel like a very personal memory, I wanted it to feel like we were seeing things from a distinct perspective. It might not be immediately apparent, but the whole video takes place in traded moments of point of view (except the first shot, of course). We only see her from his point of view, and the few times we see him, it’s from her point of view. I love that everyone says it feels like it’s from her perspective, that it’s her memory, but when I watch it, I feel like it’s about his memory of her.

The important thing was to shoot as much as possible, because, like the process of memory in general, the final piece would come together entirely in the process of editing and connecting moments that felt like they should connect. We shot on the Canon 7D, handheld, with just a single prime lens (Canon L Series 24mm).  We just lived on that lens all weekend. Everything is 720p at 60fps. I think we really got the best look I've seen out of shooting 720p on a DSLR!

We all packed into two cars and headed upstate. Four crew, two cast, and me. We shot all day, exploring the woods and lakes. We all stayed in one big room in a hostel in New Paltz, woke up early the next day, and went to the lake. We were in the water most of the second day. Those shaking hands at the end (my favorite shot ever, by the way) -- those are painfully real. Everyone was amazing.

You've done videos for small indie bands and commercially successful pop groups like 3OH!3. Is the process different, creatively or logistically?

Yeah, the process is definitely different, but to be honest, it’s different on every project. On the more pop videos, there are more people who have input on both ends. I really appreciate that no matter the size of the project, it’s always a collaboration. Creatively, I really love working with artists who have a lot of input. Sometimes that’s really easy and natural – I’m good friends with 3OH!3, and we always come up with the treatments together. Sometimes artists will jump in once you have an idea and the concept flowers from there -- both Phantogram and Freelance Whales were really great at this. Sometimes the process is really difficult -- on this one, for instance, Will and I disagreed about a lot in the editing, and the conflict of that, over time, I think led to a much better video.

What's next for you?

Coming out sometime soon are videos for Anthony Green and The Chain Gang of 1974 that I'm really excited about. I'll be spending most of the winter working on our nonprofit that we started this last summer: OMG Everywhere.

For more music videos from Jagjaguwar's artists, visit http://www.jagjaguwar.com/.

Kasia Cieplak-Mayr von Baldegg is the executive producer for video at The AtlanticMore

Cieplak-Mayr von Baldegg joined The Atlantic in 2011 to launch its video channel and, in 2013, create its in-house video production department. She leads the development and production of original documentaries, interviews, and other video content for The Atlantic. Previously, she worked as a producer at Al Gore’s Current TV and as a content strategist and documentary producer in San Francisco. She studied filmmaking and digital media at Harvard University.

Would You Live in a Treehouse?

A treehouse can be an ideal office space, vacation rental, and way of reconnecting with your youth.

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

Would You Live in a Treehouse?

A treehouse can be an ideal office space, vacation rental, and way of reconnecting with your youth.

Video

Pittsburgh: 'Better Than You Thought'

How Steel City became a bikeable, walkable paradise

Video

A Four-Dimensional Tour of Boston

In this groundbreaking video, time moves at multiple speeds within a single frame.

Video

Who Made Pop Music So Repetitive? You Did.

If pop music is too homogenous, that's because listeners want it that way.

More in Video

Just In