Well-known for his work on the scores for Foxcatcher, (500) Days of Summer and Life of Pi, Composer Rob Simonsen (a long-time collaborator of DN Alum Deru) has turned his talents to creating his debut solo album Reveries, comprised entirely of his own original music. Complimenting the release of this album is a trilogy of music videos, each linked to an individual track from the album. The journey so far centres on an androgynous being, whose face is comprised of an amorphous light pattern, venturing through vast landscapes, uncovering a variety of enigmatic relics in a voyage of self-discovery. Beginning with Spectre, and followed by Coeur, Simonsen culminates his visual journey with Ondes. Ondes initially appears to offer a seeming end to this journey but, on reflection, Simonsen may just be offering us the beginning. DN spoke with Simonsen about the release of this album and the process of comprising visuals to his own music.
Where did the idea to make a trilogy of music videos begin?
A director friend encouraged me to ask myself why this record, why this music. In the process of thinking about all of that, I came up with a narrative about someone searching for an answer. It evolved into a three act narrative so it made sense to split up each act and let it be its own music video for a different track.
How does your music inform your visuals, are you thinking visually when you create it or is something you develop after you’re finished with it?
Music has always conjured up a lot of imagery for me. Imagery can sometimes come after the music is done, but sometimes it can happen during the process of writing, which can then inform what direction the music goes in. In this case, the record was done without visuals in mind, but there was a definite feeling I was chasing. After the record was finished and it was time to think about visuals, I began working on visuals that were chasing the same feeling.
The themes that span the three videos, for me at least, are the expansiveness of space, human connection and journeys. Are these themes you wanted to touch upon?
Yes, in the sense that a journey facilitates self discovery, and as you go deeper on your outer journey you go deeper on your inner journey. Human connection is a large part of that.
Visuals and music are so tied together for me as an experience, it just made sense to try and pull these worlds together.
The costumes worn by the characters in these videos are stunning; minimalistic and subjective, could you talk about working with your costume designer to create them?
Mary Lee (Twisted Lamb) had done some beautiful styling and art direction work for my friends The Glitch Mob and she had a very otherworldly and dark sensibility that was so alluring and felt so right for what I was going for. I called her up and told her exactly what I was trying to do and she loved the idea and was excited to come on board.
I had some basic ideas about an enshrouded character because one of the big ideas powering everything was how covering yourself up can offer some sort of sense of protection and sometimes make it easier to step into other parts of yourself or recognize deeper truths. Mary had the idea of using zentai suits and we started working on how to enshroud this character. I wanted to have a mask that used colored light for facial gestures, but no idea how to achieve that. We eventually found Rina Shkrabova who designed and built the LED mask, which turned out great. I wanted everything to be sort of alien and androgynous so that things were rendered more archetypal. Mary took everything to the next level and created a beautiful costume aesthetic, found amazing props, and became a real integral part of creating the visual world.
With your extensive background in film scoring, how has that informed your own music? Or are the two mutually exclusive?
Making music for film always felt natural because there was so often imagery conjured in my mind when listening to music. So scoring to picture gives me a lot of musical direction and inspiration. But when I started when I was younger I was just making music for music’s sake and scratching at a feeling, but because visuals and music are so tied together for me as an experience, it just made sense to try and pull these worlds together.
Ondes sees the end of the journey with a 2001: A Space Odyssey-esque self-actualisation, is this the end of this characters journey?
It’s just the beginning.
Are you thinking about your next music videos yet? Will they continue in a similar style?
Yes, and I think there’s a whole visual and musical universe to explore. I’m excited to do more.