In a groundbreaking use of Tumblr, Califone, in conjunction with filmmaker Braden King and programmer Jeff Garneau, have debuted the new video for their first single, “Stitches.” This ever-changing ‘music video’ creates itself on the fly using static imagery and animated GIFs drawn from a curated subset of blogs within the Tumblr ecosystem. It is available via a secret link by clicking “show me your stitches” in the lower left hand corner at califonestitches.tumblr.com
Rutili and King are close friends and have worked together on previous projects including King’s award-winning feature film, “Here.” For “Stitches,” Rutili sent King the album and pages of a notebook Rutili had used while writing the album. King then had the idea for a self-generating music video using one of the fastest-growing social media sites: Tumblr.
The API, written by Jeff Garneau, pulls imagery from a select set of Tumblr blogs to create a unique viewing experience: no two passes of the video are ever the same. The piece treats the images on-the-fly to give it a unified aesthetic and allows for user interactivity: if a viewer mouses-over an image, it is pulled to the top “layer” of the image stream and its color returns. Click on a given image and the viewer can write a brief note on the back, which is then sent to califonestitches.tumblr.com and re-posted, along with the note or comment and a link to the originating source. Users can also reblog the messages they have sent to Califone.Stitches on their own Tumblr. All contributing blogs are credited on the About/Credits page and users can suggest additional Tumblrs for use in the piece via the site’s Ask interface.
Nate Auerbach, Tumblr’s Music Evangelist, says, “Califone have taken a truly unique and imaginative approach to the presentation of their art. Being inspired by and identifying with the creators on Tumblr, they are able to bring their music to life and inflict an emotion in the user. It’s deeper than an album jacket and more intense than a music video, because it is living and breathing.”
King says of his inspiration, “A good Tumblr can make an emotional stream of consciousness visible in a very visceral way. If you accept the premise that stories function as a way of ordering, synthesizing and making sense of our lives and experiences, these blogs, though primarily visual, represent a new kind of storytelling – a new way of ordering, synthesizing and making sense of our lives and experiences that transcends ‘once upon a time.’ To me, they illustrate the bleeding edge of narrative; a new kind of storytelling that transcends literature, plays and movies.
“Tim’s song triggered the idea, the thought that maybe there’s a way to create a window into the emotional soul that lies beyond the surface plane all these blogs and images rest on. There’s a lot of humanity and emotion behind these blogs; people are using Tumblr to express themselves very honestly, directly and openly. I felt like we could create a way to wade into this stream of imagery and emotion that Tumblr’s users are sending into the ether to create an experience that reflected and honored Tim’s beautifully raw song.
For his part, Rutili says, “To me, the song (and the album) stitch together the flood of images and feelings triggered by opening yourself up and loving someone; the courage and freedom found in the acceptance of vulnerability and joy crossed with the familiarity and alienation that can be found in co-dependence and pain.
“Part of the purpose of creating these songs, or any art, and putting it out into the world is so that we don’t feel so alone. We hope that people can relate to and maybe find some comfort and inspiration in the things that we make.
“I think the same thing goes for someone expressing themselves by collecting images and posting them on their tumblr page. This is how we express & share our stories. The random magic of pulling in these strange, dark and beautiful images from the ether/collective brain to create the video reflects this idea perfectly.”
With regard to the choice to make the video hidden, King says, “Initially, I was drawn to the idea that this would be a kind of mysterious little easter egg, a way of peeking behind the curtain. I love experiences that create small rips in reality and offer unexpected experiences.”
Garneau adds, “It was important to us to find a balance with this work between a playful serendipity of juxtapositions you don’t expect to see and maintaining a coherent visual aesthetic.”
The new Califone album of the same title, Stitches, will be out September 2 on Dead Oceans. Anchored by Rutili, the disc threads together a flock of musicians from different times and places, sounds Rutili recorded in his backyard and while driving his car, gritty electronics, eerie keyboards, garage sale drum machines. All these disparate parts are sewn together at their adjoining borders to create something that sounds wholly new; the work of an artist reborn, its episodes of discomfort and healing rendered with exquisite beauty and craftsmanship.
Califone will be on tour for most of August and September, starting with a run of living room shows to be followed by an appearance at Hopscotch Festival and a headlining East Coast run with Richard Buckner. Full dates here