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Kris Merc and Benjy Brooke: The Peach Kings “Mojo Thunder”

Designing with chalk, black cardboard, pencils and white crayons then animating in Photoshop, co-directors Kris Merc and Benjy Brooke craft an angular, shadow-filled world in this personal labor-of-love video for The Peach Kings track “Mojo Thunder.”

Kris Merc: “I wanted to explore self destructive behaviors maybe triggered by an inability to escape the past. Cycles of abuse, pain, vice, lust, and ultimately destruction. Something candid was in order. So I turned to the written word at first, crafting a long, wild narrative that is the origin point for this wild visual.

“A story about a man, his intertwining relationship with these other figures I imagined. Me and Benjy spent hours looking at career criminals. I’m intrigued by the duality of their lives and the complex morally grey areas that dominates their life styles.

“The theme going into this was, sometimes there is a pleasure in vice, even if it hurts us, that sublime feeling controls us.That dichotomy was something explored in the writing a lot and we expanded on that in the design.

“The story is about my relationship with my own father and I modeled a lot of this around what I saw in myself and father, and realizing some parallels in our lives and behaviors. Maybe we as men are defined by our times.

“I started to embrace this complex emotion to help drive this journey. There is something horrifying about that realization that I could not ignore. I knew that following that emotion would take me somewhere raw and perhaps even honest, if at least strange.”

“Visually Santeria is something I’m close to, I have some practicing family members and it’s close to me culturally (I’m from the Caribbean) so, that set the tone for the look. Benjy was pumped. Sexy vibes all abound. Waves of fluid lust filled libations fueled by excess. Something real and textural was needed.

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“At first me and Benjy spent a lot of time on newsprint super wide, and just boarded stories that way. Eventually we cut them all out and remixed it, and then did designs. We played with chalk, black cardboard, pencils, white crayons, then settled on look we were happy with and fleshed out.

“There was color, but at some point I opted out of that, preferring to keep the tone just paired down, and stripping away, compositions. We pushed for a lot of angularity in shapes, and an almost geometric look with hard shadows.”

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Benjy Brooke: “When Kris approached me with his graphic, white-on-black sketches and dark, zany written treatment, I could see we were thinking on the same wavelength. The setup allowed us to pull from our shared obsessions—noir from our childhood (late eighties, early nineties) like Bruce Timm’s Batman, Abuli/Bernet’s Torpedo, Sin City, and goofier—yet still unsettling—work like Michael Deforge and Max Fleischer’s weirdest Bimbo/Betty/Koko stuff.

“Once we nailed the final outline and style-frames, I spent a day drafting the storyboards and turning it into a working animatic.

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“Our timeline for the project was very short (about 1.5 months in toto), so we all came at the project with a fast, wet-on-wet approach. At Ataboy’s studio, I worked with a team of four other animators, predominantly in Photoshop.

“Photoshop animation is a weird beast—not as streamlined or efficient as ToonBoom or TVPaint, but it allows for a really direct, textural animation style. It lets you finalize your frame with a minimum of After Effects compositing, and gives a look and feel as close to handmade as a computer can offer.”

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Kris: “It was a fluid process, we would make stuff, then break it, remix, rewrite, re-board, re-animate, edit, stop the record, fast forward it, rewind, and press play, see where we landed and then push it forward. A lot of trust went into it, since me and Benjy believed in this.

“Some advice worth offering might be, if you’re going to work for free on a music video, I’d say make sure you love the song. That it speaks to you in an honest way. I’m a few music videos in deep and it doesn’t really get any easier. In fact finding the love and why you even work
in the medium is difficult, it becomes a very personal choice. So if you are working for free, make sure it’s worth it, make sure it’s something you care about, and pour yourself in. Let them see your bruises.”

Production Company: Ataboy
Kris Merc
Benjy Brooke
Creative Director: Vikkal Parikh
Story: Kris Merc, Benjy Brooke, Vikkal Parikh
Designers: Benjy Brooke, Ellen Su, Kris Merc
Animators: Benjy Brooke, Ellen Su, Zeynep Aydogmus, Scott Wilkinson, Arthur Guttilla, Yana Pan, Monika Norcross, Christine Kim
Compositor: Adam Van Dine
Editor: Jeremy Baumann
3D Artist: Emily Zurl
Storyboards: Benjy Brooke, Takeia Dunlop
Producer: James Howell
Executive Producer: Karen Hennegan
Song credits:
Recorded at Mophonics Music + Sound in Venice, CA
“Mojo Thunder” Produced, Recorded and Mixed by Josh Marcy
Mastering by Kelly Hibbert
? and © Mophonics and the Peach Kings

Kris Merc

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