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See Snarky Puppy’s Whimsical Animated Video for ‘Bad Kids to the Back’

Clip for jazz-funk group’s new ‘Immigrance’ track features rotoscoped studio footage

Jazz-meets-funk mini orchestra Snarky Puppy has unveiled a new video for “Bad Kids to the Back,” a crisp, strutting new track written by trumpeter-keyboardist Justin Stanton and slated for the group’s upcoming LP, Immigrance. The clip combines studio footage with whimsical animation that shows everything from band members playing against a desert backdrop or on a moving school bus to animal-headed musicians replacing Snarky Puppy’s own trumpeters and saxists.

The visuals closely mirror the music, such as when flashes of light stream out of a saxophone. Before a section featuring consecutive solos from Snarky Puppy’s three drummers, a sign reading “Get Ready for Drum Breaks” flashes on screen. The video winds up with the musicians blasting off into space, playing the song’s final notes while dressed as astronauts.

Bassist-bandleader Michael League, videographer Stella K and director-animator Michaël Alcaras (also a composer) collaborated on the clip.

“After making so many videos over the years of the band playing live, I wanted to do something different with this one without abandoning the thread we’ve had running for so long,” League tells Rolling Stone in a statement. “I remember seeing Waking Life in college and thinking how much I’d love to rotoscope a live performance. ‘Bad Kids to the Back’ was perfect for this, especially considering the triple drum solo at the end. I encouraged Michaël to go as far as he wanted to in terms of making the video trippy/left of center, and I loved seeing what he came up with. He’s such a talented artist and the fact that he’s a musician made all the difference.”

Alcaras says he drew inspiration from everything from Disney’s Snow White to Ralph Bakshi’s Lord of the Rings and Richard Linklater’s A Scanner Darkly.

“When Stella K gave me the edited video, I started drawing over it frame by frame, and from there I could isolate all characters, redesign them, and place them into several created scenes,” Alcaras explained to Rolling Stone in an e-mail. “We all agreed that the more crazy it was, the more cool it would look. So I was interested to play with abstract and psychedelic designs for the backgrounds as it allowed more improvisation and trippy transitions.

“Another important part of the creation focused on synchronicity between music and graphic animation,” he continued. “How can we draw music? I really wanted to emphasize what is happening in the track. If the audience was somehow able to see what’s been written and played, it would allow every viewer to relate even more to Snarky Puppy’s rich and groovy music. So I tried to draw accents, breaks, melodies or any evocative musical aspect of Justin’s composition. If you take a close look at the sax solo for example, you’ll probably get what I’m talking about.”

Composer Justin Stanton explained the meaning behind the piece’s title.

“‘Bad Kids to the Back’ is a reference to the group of guys who gravitate towards the rear of the van or bus in our years on the road,” he told Rolling Stone via e-mail. “One of the keys to the longevity of the band has been the mutual respect and tolerance of everyone’s personalities. I tried to reflect that balance through the ways various sections interact with each other. Whereas Immigrance is a statement about tolerance and acceptance on a macro and global level, ‘Bad Kids’ is a reflection of that idea within the band.”

According to League, the title of Immigrance ties into our current political moment. “The idea here is that everything is fluid, that everything is always moving and that we’re all in a constant state of immigration,” League said in a press release announcing the album. “Obviously the album’s title is not without political undertones.”

Immigrance follows several years’ worth of collaborations between Snarky Puppy members and legendary singer-songwriter David Crosby. The album comes out March 15th and is available for preorder now. The band will be touring throughout the year in support of the record — for a complete list of current dates, go here.

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