Philadelphia’s Tulipomania have announced they will release a new single, which includes three tracks this upcoming September 15th. The first single from this collection is the Seahawks Remix of ‘Don’t Be So Sure’, which was originally released on their fourth album ‘This Gilded Age’ in 2016. The album cover was created by famed artist Vaughan Oliver, who’s work can be seen on many notable 4AD album sleeves (a few are Cocteau Twins, Dead Can Dance, Lush, Throwing Muses, and The Pixies). Tom Murray’s emotionally charged vocals lead the way into this alt rock synth driven spiral that lies somewhere between Portishead, Arcade Fire and Tool.
Seahawks is a duo made up of Jon Tye (legendary Lo Recordings) and Pete Fowler (Monsterism vinyl toys and famed illustrator of Super Furry Animals album sleeves). The duo are self-coined as purveyors of “psychedelic yacht rock, deck shoegaze, hazy beach pop vibrations, and marina drone”.
This release will also be accompanied by two new music videos, animated by Tulipomania themselves involving painstaking frame-by-frame stop-moton animation techniques. Their highly acclaimed work has been showcased in many film festivals across the world such as; London Short Film Festival (England), Leeds International Film Festival (England), Aesthetica Short Film Festival (York, England), Encounters (Bristol, England), Zubroffka (Poland), and StopTrik (Croatia, Poland).
TM is happy to have had the opportunity to talk with Tulipomania about working with legendary 4AD artist Vaughan Oliver, working with Seahawks, Jon Tye (Lo Recordings) and Pete Fowler (illustrator/creator of Monsterism vinyl toys), and their stop animation videos.. plus more..
TM – What was it like working with legendary 4AD artist, Vaughan Oliver, for your upcoming single release album cover ‘On The Outside / Don’t Be So Sure (Seahawks Remix)?
T- We were delighted to have another chance to work with Vaughan Oliver! We’ve been huge admirers of his work for such a long time – it’s been thrilling to see what he’s crafted for our own music.
He’s currently working on designs for new releases coming out on our label Sursumcorda. It’s fascinating to get a look at his designs in development.
The imagery that emerges is never the obvious solution, but the directions he takes are always so surprisingly relevant. The color palettes in development for the upcoming Sursumcorda compilation releases are absolutely gorgeous, and make so much sense, as did the limited, almost monochromatic palette he used for our album This Gilded Age, and our subsequent singles.
At one point, Vaughan gave us a huge compliment by commenting that we’d allowed him to do exactly as he wished for This Gilded Age. We couldn’t imagine it any other way!
We’ve had the chance so far to meet Vaughan in person twice. Both times we were in the UK to screen our music videos at film festivals.
The first time, as soon as we landed, we dragged our luggage directly from Heathrow to have lunch with Vaughan in Greenwich. We thought it was nice of him to make some time to see us for a quick lunch… And then, we ended up chatting for hours! We kept thinking we’d wear out our welcome, but he was so genuinely interested in conversation, and in discovering the kind of music we like, and wasn’t a bit rushed. It’s probably not surprising that we turned out to share a lot in musical and visual tastes.
The second time we met, we had a chance to hear about preparations for a retrospective of his work. We were thrilled to be invited to openings, but sadly, both times when there were exhibitions of his work in London, we weren’t able to attend the shows. Hopefully, at some point we’ll be in England for an exhibition of his work. There really needs to be a comprehensive retrospective of Vaughan Oliver’s work in the US!
TM – You’ve had a pretty good measure of success early on. What kind of advice would you give a newer band that is just starting out?
T – The only advice that ever seems to make sense to us is to give yourself time to create something that you can feel genuine enthusiasm for. Don’t be afraid to throw out anything that doesn’t seem to be working, but don’t judge yourself too soon, or too harshly in the process. Whatever you are creating must have worth to you as an expression of who you truly are, no matter what the outcomes may be. There’s no sense in calculating what might please anyone else. You’ll be less likely to be confused as to what success actually means for your music.
TM – You say that Tulipomania grew along side collaborations while in art school. What were some of these creative projects?
T – The wonderful thing about Art school is that there is room for experimentation – at least there should be! The projects we were assigned by our favorite professors were open enough to allow us to explore – techniques, as well as concepts.
Students studying film and animation often necessarily do a “needle drop” for soundtracks. It’s a good way to learn how to connect sounds and images, nothing wrong with that… as students, we’ve done it. But anyone with even a passing interest in creating their own sounds can find themselves inspired to do just that. We did, and found ourselves more inspired.
Some of the opportunities we had as students to mess around with techniques led to ways of working that are still with us. For example, we remember one particular Thanksgiving Break where we challenged ourselves to try out a new stop-motion idea, and stick with it long enough to finish three minutes of animation. We holed up in a basement for most of the long weekend, and discovered that we liked the result. It wasn’t a complete animation by the end of that weekend, but it was a great start. We still need to make those kind of first efforts to see if something will take us further.
TM – Who or what were some of your early creative influences?
Being exposed to examples of experimental film as well as video art in galleries was eye-opening. We love all kinds of movies, and don’t always skip right through commercials, but it was important early on for us to see that there are ways to create moving images that have nothing to do with Hollywood studios, or ad agencies.
Early Dada and Surrealist short films, including those by Man Ray and Marcel Duchamp were very freeing to experience.
Video art that was inspiring includes Nam June Paik for his ideas of how moving images could exist as sculpture. Bill Viola’s work for its sheer beauty and majesty on a large scale. Inspiring animation would have to include work by Oskar Fischinger, and Norman McLaren – they both explored a wide range of techniques. Robert Breer’s short animations were fantastic, being so irreverent in form and content. We both really enjoyed seeing the retrospective of Bruce Connor’s work last year at the Museum of Modern Art – his experimental films were always inspiring to us. The stunning stop-motion animation of the Quay Brothers has always been inspiring, and we were recently privileged to visit their London studio for a chat and brief tour.
TM – What was it like working with Seahawks, Jon Tye (Lo Recordings) and Pete Fowler (illustrator/creator of Monsterism vinyl toys), on ‘On The Outside/Don’t Be So Sure’ single?
T – Pretty much as we trusted Vaughan Oliver to work his magic with the album covers, we trusted Seahawks to create as they saw fit. We weren’t disappointed. Seahawks were happy with the results we got in mastering the remix with our usual engineer, Richard Hartline, and we’re glad about that. We think the beauty of being able to collaborate on remixes is the willingness to explore the unknown, and allow someone whose work you have admired to take things in a new direction.
It’s also super flattering when someone is interested enough in your work to take on a remix.
TM – I understand that your video for ‘Don’t Be So Sure’ is your first hand-painted stop motion animation created by the band. How is it different from your previous stop motion projects?
Previous stop-motion animations mostly involved animating objects, lights, and paper collage. Don’t Be So Sure is the first music video where we thought a hand-painted approach really suited the mood of the song.
Because we hadn’t tried that direction before, there was some uncertainty about whether we’d be satisfied with the look of the painted images, and at first we weren’t sure what surface to paint on, to be able to work quickly enough for the kind of animation we envisioned. It turned out that painting on individual sheets of black paper worked very well. To get a look we liked, we used acrylic paint – because it can be used in so many different ways, and it still dries pretty quickly.
We then discovered we had to set up drying racks for the finished paintings, otherwise, it would have taken too long to allow things to dry enough to be able to flip through the images and check the flow of motion before shooting. We found that old metal CD racks worked very well – fortunately we still have a lot of those around!
TM – Do you have any plans for touring or showcasing your animations in the near future?
T – We finished up a new animated music video just recently, this summer. No solid plans for touring yet… we’ll be playing again in 2018.
We’re really happy that an animated music video completed before has been chosen as an official selection in two different film festivals in England: the New Renaissance Film Festival in London (http://nrff.co.uk/tulipomania) where it will screen on August 19th, and the Aesthetica Short Film Festival in York, where it will screen in November (http://www.asff.co.uk/).
Band members Tom Murray (lead vocals, bass, drums, guitar-organ) and Cheryl Gelover (synthesizer, background vocals) were joined by Mitch Smith (guitar, glockenspiel), who also contributed to the band’s eponymous first album, Richard Hartline (piano, percussion, engineering and mastering), and Howard Thompson (executive producer).
Featured Album Cover by Vaughan Oliver