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An Interview with Juice Jackal and Eliel Ford on Atone

Music
Nov 14, 2017

An Interview with Juice Jackal and Eliel Ford on Atone

INTERVIEW BY : NICK MELEDANDRI

Under his new alias, Ben Morsberger releases a new album, JUICED, on WEDIDIT records. Juice Jackal is Ben’s debut solo project following a series of collaborations with Dev Hynes, Corbin, and his last duo project, Cable.

Ben’s friend, Eliel Ford, directed the music video for his single off the album, “Atone.” Eliel’s use of light and motion juxtaposed to Ben’s heart aching lyrics create a dreamy world of its own.

Nick Meledandri of WEDIDIT asks Ben and Eliel a few questions about the making of the video…

ELIEL FORD

NM: When we first started talking about doing a music video with you for this project, you had already chosen Atone as the track you felt drawn to. What was it about this song specifically that inspired you to create a visual?

EF: Early on when Ben was writing a lot of the music that eventually became JUICED he sent me a little snippet of him playing the organ. Immediately I was drawn to this little chord progression which eventually became Atone, so when it was time to make a video I kind of knew that was the one I wanted to do. It’s definitely the slower song on the album but I felt as though it lent itself to a visual accompaniment even more so because of that.

NM: Although it’s shot in LA the only thing that I feel gives away the location is the palm tree horizon line we see at the second shot in the video. Was there an intention to make the location feel somewhat anonymous?

EF:I wouldn’t call it an intention but now that you say that I do see that in the video. In a way that point could speak to the fact that Los Angeles as a city is fairly anonymous without the tell of something as iconic as a palm tree. But at the same time a certain blandness was something that was sought after when I was seeking out these locations. Partially this was because I wanted to contrast the muted quality of the location with what the actor was wearing or doing, but a lot of it was just subconscious.

NM:You had mentioned to me the inspiration for this video was based on a Philip Lorca Dicorcia project, how did you want to incorporate that collection of stills into this series of moving images?

EF: Yeah his Hustler series is one of my favorites. Those images to me are just immensely sad and heart wrenchingly beautiful. The organ throughout Atone always felt to me like this drifting somber theme that in my mind matched up with the feeling I got from those photographs. The Hustler pictures definitely played a heavy role in providing some visual inspiration for this video.

NM: The casting for this video was obviously crucial to the message it communicated, how did you gather them? What was the deal with the Rick Owens looking Karate man? And the old woman young man couple? Craigslist greatest hits??

EF: Oh man, we got so lucky with casting on this project. Most of the people came from Craigslist or this stunt person casting website Stunt Players, which is an invaluable resource. The karate man was an actor named John Wallbank who was actually in Twin Peaks. Those moves were just his thing. I didn’t ask him to do them at all he just started busting them out in between takes so we kept the camera rolling and got lucky. The older couple I found through Craigslist – Laurie and Joe Bass. Los Angeles Craigslist is a holy place filled with very special people.

NM: One of my favorite parts of the whole video is how unstable the stripper pole is. When she’s dancing on it, its like ripping the ceiling apart. Was that intentional?

EF: No. I wish it was. Took a lot of searching to find a pole that wouldn’t have to be drilled into the ceiling because that ceiling is just basically blocks of foam and drywall. When we finally found one it still was too tall for the room so we had to punch a hole in the ceiling to fit it in there.

BEN MORSBERGER
NM: Working with you on this record I noticed that you really curated every aspect of it through friends you wanted to include creatively. How did Eliel fit into that group of folks you curated and who were the others?
 
BM: Everyone who has anything to do with the visuals on JUICED is an old friend whose talents I really admire.  With a deep friendship comes a mutual understanding and meter of taste.  Trust is so important, because in order to create something great- I believe you need a purity of vision which really comes from one individual person.  I hate the idea of having to mold someone’s idea to work around something I’ve made- it’s better for both parties when there’s trust and freedom to make something personal.  So Eliel fit into that parameter as we are old friends and have an understanding of each others personal interests.  He has great taste & ambition, and I knew he’d make something amazing.  The music video is a testament to that!  I’m so proud of his work here.
Lucien is another friend of mine who I’ve collaborated a lot with over the years…  We met as freshman at Cooper Union and have stayed in touch since.  The photo he took for my album cover is actually a reference to a music video I directed in sophomore year of college.  The band I made it for, Moving Mountains, turned it down and never released it, which at the time was devastating to me…  But Lucien always appreciated it and alluded to it with the drum kit in the woods.
And then there’s you!  We’ve known each other for a few years now, and I’ve always have admired your design work.  It was a dream come true to get your graphics on the album cover.  When can we get these logos on a hat bro???
 
NM: The songs on the record feel super personal and based in real world experiences. I think that was what initially attracted me to your songwriting so much was that there didn’t seem to be any filler lyrics, and everything left me wanting to know the actual story behind the song. What is the story behind Atone?
 
BM: I view the whole EP as a reflection on the relationships in my life, romantic and familial.  The songs tend to gravitate towards one girl in my life in particular, but at the same time drift off onto tangents with others.  Atone is kind of a tripped out song that I wrote towards the end of a different girlfriend of mine.  I was stoned all the time- and it just felt like every conversation we’d have lead to some anxiety-driven argument.  The song then segues into my first relationship in high school-  where I’d walk through the graveyard to get to her house…  It’s a dreamy song, I don’t want to give too much away cause it would lose its magic- but it’s really about escapism during the end of a relationship and where your mind goes.
 

NM: You had worked with Eliel before scoring his film “Julien”, and I know there were some other scores you had done for Petra Collins and some fashion films, do you think that the score music you created is vastly different from the songs you released on the album? I would imagine it’s a different process of writing maybe?

BM: It really depends on the project.  I have a film background and I’ve always been obsessed with film scores- so a lot of my personal music has cinematic moments.  I cant help it haha.  There will always be a part of me that goes for that epic movie score feeling- it’s a lot of fun for me to think in those terms.  I’m no John Williams, people ask me to score things usually if they’ve heard my personal pop/rock/electronic music- so they come to me kind of knowing what they’re going to get…  But at the same time, if I’m scoring a video or a film- I want to give the director what they want and I try not to let my personal tastes get too much in the way- unless they want that.

NM: You have a lot of different projects that you seem to occupy whether it’s your Cable Guy page on IG or playing in Blood Orange, do you see Juice Jackal as a permanent moniker for your solo work or another project that will live alongside many?
 
BM: When I pick a name and am happy with it- I’m do or die.  I’m going to stick with Juice Jackal and have no plans for any new names in the near future haha.  It feels pretty permanent as of right now.  If I score something and it’s not under Juice Jackal it’ll just be my real name.

 

NM: What shampoo do you use to maintain those ill curls? Is it Mane and Tail?

BM: Idk.  This is the longest my hair has ever been- I honestly need some help figuring out the right haircare regiment.  I try not to shampoo too much cause my hair gets so frizzy.  Doesn’t WeDidIt Labs have someone on staff who can help with some tips?  I use some Aesop hair products but they’re a little too hippie & delicate- not enough results you feel?

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