"Under Cover Of Darkness," directed by Warren Fu
Warren (center) and DP Ivan Abel (right).
Warren (left) with frontman Julian Casablancas (center) and guitarist Nick Valensi (right)
Ross Girard (Producer) and Warren Fu
Fab Moretti, Ryan Gentles, and Warren
Nick Valensi, Julian Casablancas, Albert Hammond Jr.
The cover art to Angles, the new album
A shot from the "12:51" music video by Roman Coppola, modeled after the TRON universe.
The conductor T-shirt I had back in the day
A screenshot from "Under Cover of Darkness" next to the 2004 tour T-shirt.
Warren Fu was an art director at George Lucas' production company when he first heard The Strokes' "You Only Live Once." Without any previous connection to the band, he mailed their management a 30-second test clip which ended up becoming the alternate version of the video. After years of collaborating with members of The Strokes on various projects, Warren has just wrapped up the music video for "Under the Cover of Darkness," the first single off of their new album, Angles. Check out the just-released video, exclusive behind-the-scenes photos, and see what he has to say about sci-fi, 70s and 80s album artwork, and his favorite Strokes song.
Joshua Michael Paulin: In the opening of the video is a short clip of The Strokes drowning from the original "You Only Live Once" video, directed by Samuel Bayer. The next shot is Julian Casablancas alone and waiting to go onstage, with an eerie light behind him. To me, the video seems to hint that The Strokes are stuck in an afterlife--their tuxedos are mismatched and Julian's clothes look like those from his solo project music videos. Even the clock is stuck at a certain time. By the end, they are all together, uniformed and in place.
Warren Fu: I think it takes away from the video if I give my interpretation of it. I will say this though: the light on stage in the last shot is called a "ghost light." Also, did you notice that Fab plays the drums at the bottom of the stairs, and later at the top of the stairs within the same shot? No computers were used to do that, and we're quite proud.
JMP: There's been a sci-fi mystery feel to The Strokes, from Roman Coppola sticking them into the world of TRONin the 2003 video for "12:51" to the alternate video that you directed for "You Only Live Once," where they're inside a spaceship as playing holograms. What is your favorite sci-fi film of all time?
WF: Gattaca is probably one of my favorites in terms of what I think sci-fi is suppose to achieve.
JMP: I also like that the orchestra conductor is shown throughout the video. One shot of his hands reminds me of a T-shirt I bought from one of their shows in 2004, when the Room On Fire tour reached Miami. To me, the design was very iconic. Was using that imagery intentional?
WF: Yes. That image was so iconic--and fit so well with their music and band name--that It was still stuck in my mind after all these years. On the surface, the song has a classic / traditional rock sound, but if you listen carefully there are some interesting arrangements and changes that happen throughout that seemed to lend themselves well to the concept of the conductor. I was hoping that his movements would enhance some of those details in the music that many people might overlook.
JMP: I really loved the mood to this video--the tracking shots and angles. It's very Kubrick in some ways, and almost feels like being inside of the Hotel from The Shining. Do you have a favorite Kubrick Film?
WF: 2001: A Space Odyssey.
JMP: Do you have any future plans to work on a full length feature, or are short films and music videos something that you want to stick to?
WF: I've been having meetings with various studio executives about that. It sort of feels like going on first dates, where they are trying to get a read on whether they want to go out with me (make a movie with me). Hopefully I'll come across or develop the perfect project one day. I'm excited about the possibilities, and would like to spend more time focusing on that.
JMP: I see so many influences in your work that range from anime to classic TV commercials. Is there something that isn't obvious in your work that you find inspirational?
WF: I love flipping through album covers from the 70s and early 80s for inspiration. There's such a wealth of great ideas from that era, where the large format LP cover ruled, and CDs and Photoshop didn't exist yet. The artists had to create these pieces using traditional techniques, combining fine art with photography, and creating their own fonts and logos from scratch. It's kind of sad in this MP3 era that album artwork is becoming more of an afterthought.
JMP: I just have to ask this for the record--what is your favorite Strokes song?
WF: "Hard To Explain" or "I'll Try Anything Once."
JMP: Mine is "I’ll Try Anything Once," the B side of "You Only Live Once." When it popped up in Sofia Coppola's Somewheretrailer, I almost died.
WF: I think everyone loves that moment in the trailer.
Check out "You're So Right," another new song the band just posted to their site. Angles drops in stores on March 22 in the US.