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Au Revoir Simone goes interactive in Eli Stonberg's video for 'Knight of Wands' [Updated]

December 10, 2010 | 11:19 am

5124068179_3739b6ffc7It seems appropriate that director Eli Stonberg should answer his cellphone for an interview while standing out in front of his favorite video store. And while Vidiots, a treasure trove of indie video sales and rentals in Santa Monica, seems like a perfect place to gather inspiration, the 24-year-old Massachusetts native can’t stop talking about how music videos, his main forte, are destined to break the fourth wall and turn fans into directors. If you’ve seen his latest interactive video for "Knight of Wands," by ethereal, all-female indie popsters Au Revoir Simone, you know he’s already off to a good start.

“There’s a whole wide-open frontier of videos with interactive stuff and I wanna be on the forefront of that,” said Stonberg.

He’s certainly got plenty of company. Whether fans are noodling around with the latest Arcade Fire video for “The Wilderness Downtown” by Chris Milk developed by Google, or the dazzling cosmos of Broken Bell’s “October” interactive short, the ability for views to tweak and personalize a music video experience is today’s industry innovation du jour.

That’s definitely the goal he had in mind for Stonberg's video for “Knight of Wands,” off of the Brooklyn synth trio’s latest album “Still Night, Still Light.”

Blurring the lines between live action and an interactive coloring book, the online video—complete with its own Adobe  Flash Player site—allows viewers to douse an illustration of the band with colors and patterns of choice while the song plays in the background. Eventually, the video morphs back into a live action ending, with the spindly members of the band triple-teaming a Roland synth, crooning in harmony to the song’s end. You also get to share your coloring job on a Flickr page dedicated to the video site.

5198074436_3152b5e307“When you show your video, you’re actually showing your creation…I want people to have fun with it,” said Stonberg, who offered to do the video for the band for literally no budget along with a slew of volunteers, including illustrator Chris Sanchez and Web producers Jeff Greco and Ben Atkins. The only money involved was plane fare fronted by the band to fly Stonberg from L.A. to  New York to direct the project. The video debuted last month and continues to attract viewers who flock to the “Knight of Wands” Flickr page to upload their personalized band artwork.

The journey to creating the video was a long, uh, drawn-out process. Stonberg’s first chance interaction with ARS members Erika Forster, Annie Hart and Heather D'Angelo was two years ago. They’d just cut him off in traffic while he was driving in Los Angeles to a hotel party to meet up with members of Passion Pit, whom he’d just worked with on a video for their song “Sleepyhead.”

[Updated 12:31 p.m.: The original version of this post incorrectly stated where Stonberg first met Au Revoir Simone. He first met them in Los Angeles, not Boston, as originally written. We have changed the post accordingly.]

“I remember this car full of pretty girls cutting me off in this traffic jam, and I just waved them on,” said Stonberg, who's part of the Masses film and video collective. To his surprise, they were all headed to the same party, where they eventually struck up a conversation, kicking around off-the-wall music video ideas..an interactive coloring book being one of them. They exchanged info and promised that they’d work with each other one day.

Though “one day” took a little longer than anticipated, Stonberg said the chance to push his creative repertoire and break new ground was worth the wait. Known for his acid trip, visual prowess working with acts like Daedelus and Rio En Medio, Stonberg credits his creative eye, not his technical touch, with the success of his projects. Luckily, his crack production team was able to take Stronberg’s otherworldly ideas into the realm of possibility.

“I’m all about the ideas as opposed to the execution,” said Stonberg. “It’s all about getting all these crazy ideas out of my head.”

-- Nate Jackson

Images: Au Revoir Simone as coloring book pictures. Credit: Eli Stonberg