Gowanus Your Face Off
Gowanus, Brooklyn
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Interview: Eric Epstein Director of Memory Tape’s Video for “Yes I Know”

Last month the video for Yes I Know from the electronic chillwave group Memory Tapes popped up on the interwebs. Almost immediately the video made a jaw dropping impact on the indie music world and the video design world with its film noir look and its memorizing visual effects. The video’s uniqueness has been noted on LaughingSquid.com, Devour.com, Heavy.com, FeelGuide.com, and other ‘visual candy’ sites. The director of the video Eric Epstein has worked on various artistic illustrations seen on Spike TV, A&E, the History Channel, and MTV. We had a chance to sit down with Eric, a Gowanus resident, to talk about the new video, shooting in the area, and his new success.

What inspired you to do this particular video?

When I first started talking with the artist, he mentioned that he was interested in black and white. He felt like between the other video [made from public domain footage] and the album art…there was a look emerging between them. He thought it’d be good to keep it going…. It was a helpful point of reference as far as focusing my thinking a little bit, but it wasn’t anything that held me back.

Where did the visual ideas for the video come from?

It’s a little hard to remember actually…. I did have some techniques in mind…. [Before] I sort of experimented with the birds flocking; So, that was something I was curious to find a use for. The photos in the video…I found those at a Goodwill store in Pasadena years ago…. I thought they were striking images and that they were abandoned and forgotten’d [looking]…. I sort of had those and kind of wondered what I would do with them. It seemed to fit well with the themes that were emerging. It wasn’t the first thing that popped into my head, though.

How did those ideas come together?

The lyrics of the song sort of describe the feeling of distance, isolations, and longing…. It sort of describes an emotional state. There’s some personal feelings to it as well.… the video was shot in my kitchen…shot it in my neighborhood. There’s an amount of identification when it’s that close to home…. It wasn’t like the point for it to be personal, but [it] sort of can’t help be somewhat.

Did you choose Gowanus for a particular reason?

The fact that I live here is very convenient. But I do think this is a very picturesque neighborhood…and I have scouted it very thoroughly. I don’t think it’s over represented as other parts of New York are. New York is on video, a lot! …For one thing I could walk around at night. It gets quiet here…. I wanted it to feel a little desolate and it can get that way…. [The video] was suppose to be a sense of the ‘world asleep’.

How do you know the band?

I heard things from his [Memory Tapes creator Dayve Hawk] first album online and I liked his stuff. I just got in touch with him to see if he was interested in a video…. They’ve been very pleased with the response.

What techniques are used in the video?

I actually posted a link on the video page. I listed a few things, although they [may] not very technical…. But…the secret is lots and lots of meticulous work. There were certain tricky things involved, it’s not like there was a [single] trick that made a part simple. I’d say that it fell back on pretty basic skills. A lot of them I might call articulated illustrations. It started with footage of ‘the guy’ with small changes made to it. Then footage without ‘the guy’…[with] some of the motion of ‘the guy’ [still included]. And everything you see is all made in Photoshop.

Your brother was the DP for the video, had you worked together before?

…trying to think if there was something [we made] with a greater magnitude than this…. I don’t know if we’ve had an organized collaborations before this. I’ve enlisted his help as  a photo retoucher on projects of mine at various times. But he didn’t do that in this case…. It was very helpful that he understands what I mean psychically, at least…. I trusted him to get the shots, if I was out of view of it.

What title do you give yourself?

I say something with motion graphics, which might be… slightly confusing and a broad term. It encompasses a lot of things and fairly correct…. I feel like I can arguably say I am a director now, as opposed to a ‘want-to-be director’. Part of this project has been to get myself from ‘want-to-be-director’ to director.

What’s your favorite music video?

I am not sure…. Off the top of my head it is Land of Confusion by Genesis, which is a  kind of creepy sort of character puppets [video] of Ronald Reagan and Phil Collins, and lots of 80s people…. I remember thinking that this was something that was so perfectly strange and fit this medium [music video style] so well; a commercial would’ve been too short; a movie wouldn’t of been anything remotely like it. That might…be my favorite.

Who is your favorite super-hero sidekick?

For some reason the first person I thought of is Matthew Broderick [as ‘The Mouse’] in Ladyhawke. He’s a bit annoying there though.

Favorite visual artist?

Well, [Yes I Know video style] it’s a hybrid thing. You bring in people like David Fincher who are directing movies and then there’s the animators… the illustrators. That’s a very hard question…. I am very fascinated with…the work of Paul Robertson who’s a pixel artist. He works on Gameboy Games and…in the game industry.… For a while he was known online for crazy pixel art and… he kind of combines whatever cultural influences that are lying around in his head with sex and violence…in a way that still seems very innocent…. the notion that someone could be a second generation pixel artist; like someone could have grown up playing something on a GameBoy… and be dedicated to this discipline. That’s something so new and specific…and…that’s sort of interesting.

How do you feel about the success?

I have a lot of things to make sense of, you know. It sounds negative to say, “Careful what you wish for”…. From the success of this I have a lot more options open to me…. There are new questions that I ask myself about…. It’s good though. I have people sending me songs who want to do videos. Some songs are better than others…. This is my first video, so it’ll take me some time to feel very [comfortable]…before I get smooth at coming up with an idea fast [and] really having a good idea how long it will take me. This project… had a long time line. I worked on it over the course of three months. Most times it’s not like that…

What’s next?

…I am doing some animated elements for a video with an artist I worked with before. It should be cool. I hope to direct another music video soon….. I hope I can come up with a decent idea that people would get excited when they see it. I think I actually set myself up with quite a bit to live up to; that’s a good problem to have!


To see more of Eric’s work check out: najork.net

Memory Tapes album ‘Piano Player’ featuring Yes I Know is now available on itunes.


Memory Tapes “Yes I Know” from Najork on Vimeo.

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