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To make a cool music video, you mostly just need a good idea. Forget about fancy camera equipment and model-hot actors. All that is required is an iPhone, some 3D animal masks ordered from Etsy and a lunchtime epiphany.
Ryan Walsh, the frontman for Boston indie rock band Hallelujah the Hills, concocted the music video for their song “We Are What We Say We Are” based on what he describes as a “series of images” that came to him while he was eating lunch one day. The result is a whimsical animated glimpse into the adventures of Bear Boy, a man with a giant bear head (cue the aforementioned Etsy mask), as he wanders the streets, bars and supermarkets of Boston encountering anti-Bear Boy bigotry from seemingly every person he meets. Eventually he summons his kindreds—a menagerie of animal-headed humans with the larger-than-life likenesses of wolves, foxes and dogs—and they all gather for a group hug and a cheer. The animation, which was accomplished with the help of a $2 iPhone app and is slightly reminiscent of the flickering, Impressionistic style of the 2001 film “Waking Life,” lends the tale a dreamlike quality.
The video, which debuts exclusively here on ARTery, is Walsh’s final bit of promotion the band’s 2014 album “Have You Ever Done Something Evil?” (They open for the Sheila Divine at the Sinclair in Cambridge on June 19.) Hallelujah the Hills will celebrate their 10th birthday this winter. Over the course of that time, they have released four full-length albums and cemented themselves as Boston indie rock stalwarts. They have particularly honed a talent for playful, absurdist videos: a tour through made-up Boston rock ‘n’ roll landmarks in “I Stand Corrected” (which won “Best Video” at the 2014 Boston Music Awards), a satirical takedown of social media commenter culture in “Destroy This Poem.”
Walsh’s not-trying-to-please-anyone-but-yourself sensibility is partly a reaction to professional disappointments. After a buzzy reception to their first two albums, Hallelujah the Hills floundered on their third, “No One Knows What Happens Next,” released in 2012.
“I couldn’t really get anyone to give two shits about that album,” says Walsh. “And I was so disappointed because I thought it was so much better than the second one we had put out, that got plenty of attention. So I was pretty disillusioned and got to the point where it was all about creativity again—we’re obviously going to put [the album] out and hope people like it, but I had far less invested in making something happen.” The strategy, if you can call it that, paid off. “Have You Ever Done Something Evil?” garnered praise on PopMatters and Stereogum, and helped earn Hallelujah the Hills “Rock Artist of the Year” at the 2014 Boston Music Awards.
“We Are What We Say We Are” ends with a swelling, triumphant refrain of the title lyric. The song is a celebration of difference and being yourself, for sure, but it has resonances with Hallelujah the Hills’ own journey as well. Forming a band is not unlike founding your own tribe of like-minded, animal-headed people.
Not that such creatures are necessarily easy to come by. The masks, massive Cubist-esque creations, were made with templates printed from the Wintercroft Etsy site, and they involved hours of careful assemblage.
“I thought, ‘Oh, this sounds easy, you print them out,’ ” Walsh says. “So I assigned Nick [Ward] in the band, I was like ‘Nick, can you just make the first one, see what we’re dealing with?’ And he wrote back, he was like, ‘Guys, they take like five hours each.’ And we needed a lot of them. So we had this mask-making party, where all of us went over to Nick’s and started building these masks. And they do take a long time, and you can’t understand how they’re all going to come together—and then it’s really rewarding at the end.”
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