Today marks the release of the highly anticipated Glass Animals music video for their latest single ‘Season 2 Episode 3,’ an enticing quirky downbeat R&B track incorporating production elements reminiscent of a video game soundtrack. The band’s latest album, How To Be A Human Being, is a concept album with each song written from the perspectives of different unique characters and personalities the band met while on tour. To accompany the album, the band partnered with LA-based multimedia artist Whoopi (a self-taught creative genius who works at a prominent tech-startup in Venice, and is repped by LYKA friends IAMSOUND) to work on the album artwork and other visual elements of the release.
It’s rare that an artist gets to work on such a comprehensive project (much less for a band they’re already a fan of), but Whoopi’s unique blend of artistic, tech background, and personal aesthetic made him the right fit for the job. He was commissioned to create a music video, an app game, and a live performance/experiential/interactive record release show as a part of a collaboration with Tumblr, centered around the new album. Spearheaded by Glass Animals frontman Dave Bayley, Whoopi collaborated to make the defining characters of the album come to life.
Whoopi: "The band came to me through my rep IAMSOUND, and to me it sounded really cool. I have a full time job right now, but I'm super open to projects outside of that, and this one seemed like a lot of fun. Dave is definitely the creative director of the project and is super involved. He'll come to me with the beginning or part of an idea, and ask me to run with it. Then I'll come back to him with a couple treatments, he'll give me notes, and we ping-pong ideas off of each other like that."
Whoopi’s work defines what’s so interesting about new media: art or music or games don’t have to be solitary experiences and it’s easier to emotionally invest in a project when all of those elements are cohesively designed. It embraces a new media ideology that doesn’t rely on traditional sales models. In the effort to sell records, instead of focusing on buying out billboards, Whoopi and the Glass Animals team have created an app, music video and live experience - out of the box solutions to pique interest and allow fans to engage with the music on another level.
Whoopi: "I think this kind of creative media is going to be come more and more common, music video games and stuff. You might not be able to go to their shows or afford that music festival or merch from it, but you can buy or download an app for free on your phone and still have an experience brought to you by that band."
A few weekends ago we were able to sit down and get to know Whoopi, the artist not only behind the Glass Animals media initiatives, but also many branded campaigns for bands and brands you’ve no doubt seen. He was witty and funny and surprisingly unintimidating, considering how smart he is. Along with designing elements of tech (at a company only named off the record) and working on freelance commissions, he spends his free-time teaching himself Japanese (in preparation to move there in the next few years), touring with bands creating stage visuals, and immersing himself in music and LA’s best ramen. He’s a real character and it was our pleasure to hear his perspectives on art, creativity, and today’s media landscape.
Whoopi: "I like weird, creative and out-of-the-box projects. Whether it's an artist or a brand that wants to do something really cool and out there, I'm super down and that's what I want to do because I'm a huge geek. Let's create apps, let's create whatever it is. It's all about just doing it as much as possible and making mistakes and learning from them. And just keep having fun with your craft, stay silly and act like a kid."
Get to know Whoopi below, and watch the Glass Animals video here:
How does music play a role in the way you do art, and in particular with this project? Do you have to be excited about the music when you create something for it?
W: Well, for this project I was definitely stoked on the music. That always helps to be a fan. For this project I remember going through all the songs and thinking they were all dope, and then remembered I had seen them at Coachella already, haha. I have worked with artists where I’m not the biggest fan of a particular song, but even if that happens, as an artist you just have to modify your brain and change perspective and just put yourself in the world of that music. It might not always be my style personally, but it all depends on my mood and it’s just all very subjective. But for this project, I’ve been a fan from the very start; it’s just fun and hyper and everywhere, and very built out which makes it a lot of fun for me.
So you obviously have a strong tech and strong art background, did you go to art school? Or where did you learn each side of your craft?
W: I didn’t go to traditional art school, but growing up I went to performing art school. I studied drama, tap dance, music and everything for my whole life. And when it comes to digital media, I’ve always been like a computer geek. I was introduced to computers at a really young age, and I used to build computers for fun. I used to hack and stuff, haha. Self-taught, definitely was just a part of that first wave of people that taught themselves from the Internet. I did go to film school in this program where once I graduated they put me into a job in the film industry for a little bit, but never actually studied art, I just have been self-taught and really into it.
Do you have a favorite discipline or medium?
W: Not really, lately I’ve been bouncing around so much, I’m ADD with all of it. Even when people ask me what I do, I don’t really know. At work I’m a visual designer, outside of that I’m a multimedia designer, or game developer, or app developer… It’s all kind of in the same world, it’s all multi-media, digital media - it’s all connected. But pretty much anything that involves computers is my favorite - you let me jump on a computer and make something? Great! But yeah, I don’t have a specific thing I’m attached to because there are just so many fun things, and I get bored easily.
What’s it like working at a corporate company as an artist?
W: Working at a tech-startup is a little corporate but there isn’t a corporate mind-set. It’s still all about experimenting and trying new things and innovating as much as possible. It’s fun to be around a bunch of people my age who have the capability to make something fast and immediately launch it out. There’s a big range of backgrounds, kids from Stanford or ivy leagues, and then people like me who didn’t go to college but managed to get into the tech world. Everyday I’m surrounded by a bunch of super smart people who are creative and driven and who aren’t afraid to fail. Everyone is very open to change and trying new ideas, stepping out of the box and being as creative and fun as possible. I think that’s a lot of people’s downfall. The what-ifs... ‘what if this happens…’ So what if it happens, then you can try something new!
How do you maintain your own personal aesthetic when you’re making something that’s been commissioned?
W: At the company there’s already an established brand identity, so I know what to do or not. Although there’s tons of freedom, there are still some boundaries. And for when I’m commissioned for brands or another artist, most of the time, they came to me because they like my style specifically and they want to collaborate and have me put my spin on it. For the most part it’s two different roads, I get to experiment a lot at work but I get to experiment even more with commissions. I get paid to just make cool stuff and be creative. Even though I have to stay up later and get less sleep, haha.
Yeah, how do you balance all the work?
I don’t…. haha, I just have a set schedule. I’ll work from 10am to 6:30 or 7pm, then I’ll go home and work from 8pm to 2am or 3am and then I’ll go to sleep and start over. It’s definitely a discipline in order to succeed or commit to a secondary craft. You have to be willing to jump from one job or one piece of work to another. It’s all a lot of fun but you have to be disciplined or focused, which is difficult. That’s how it’s done; being self aware of what I have to do and prioritize. It’s crazy, but I’d rather have things be crazy than be bored.
How’d you link with IAMSOUND?
W: I used to work at a marketing agency, and we partnered with IAMSOUND to do a big event with Adidas. They produced the whole event and I did the stage and visual production. And I knew Paul Tao outside of that as well, we go way back to like the early club days of LA. And then I left the agency to focus on an app I was working on called Drizzy Tearz - which is a game where you stop Drake from crying, haha - and to tour more focusing on stage visuals. And while I was doing that Paul contacted me because that was around the same time the company started representing visual artists. And they’ve been great, having me pitch on a lot of really big cool artists, and this Glass Animals one has been the first really big, full-force project. I’ve been loving working with them, they’re doing a ton of cool stuff, and the next year for them is going to be really dope.
What are you listening to lately?
W: On the way here I was listening to new Mr. Ozio, which is really really dope. I missed his show the other night and I was so bummed out because I’m like block-house until I die… like Justice, all that stuff, I’m all about it. I’m the biggest Justice fan! I’ve been on the record a couple of times saying I want to work with Justice, haha. But as far as other music, Glass Animals, of course, Kaytranada, Frank Ocean I’m still obsessed with, new Zhu is good, Willow Smith is dope… All kinds of music.
What has been the proudest moment of your career so far?
W: I think my proudest moment so far has been Drizzy Tears… that was a really big project at a very interesting part of my life. I’d just quit my entertainment marketing job, and all I had was this app I was working on while I toured doing stage production. It was the first really personal project I’ve done since high school, where I just made it for myself. And from development, to partnerships, to using a publicist to create a rollout digital plan, to seeing it blow up and go viral and have people like The Fader posting about it, or driving in my car and hearing DJs talk about it on the radio. It was a crazy moment because it was kind of all I had left. It was a big leap of faith. And you know, it kind of worked out, haha. That whole experience was my proudest moment.
What’s next for you?
W: I’m going to finish up the Glass Animals project, release the video and the app. And then I’m working on a new app that would be a detection app. With all the violence in the world and lately with police brutality, sometimes you need a witness, so whether that’s camera, or audio or movement detection, you could capture it with your phone. So if you’re not on video, it could be capturing the tracking of movements and positioning. It would be a mobile device that captures all the senses and streams it out with just one button if you fear that you’re in danger. I’m love making silly, fun stuff, but I feel like if you’re in any position of influence, or are able to help even a little bit, it’s like, I know how to do this, let me see if I can build a tool that can help people. So hopefully I’ll move onto a project like that, and then I’ll go back to making silly poop apps or something, hahaha.