Ian Cooke: Cassowary and Fruit Bat Collection (2013)

Cassowary & Fruit Bat

Description (from cassowary.vhx.tv/):
Written by Ian Cooke and animated by Adam Singer, the story revolves around a flying mammal’s attempts to win the heart of a flightless bird. Singer and Cooke built elements for the video out of organic materials, then photographed and added the elements for the final 6-minute animated final product. The short film is part of a larger digital package including a collection of music videos, live footage, and documentaries. The package was produced by Ian O’Dougherty and will be distributed by Greater Than Collective and Sony/Red.

Major Cast:
Julie Davis as Cassowary, Joseph Pope III as Fruit Bat

Special Features:
None (Online Screener)
For Sale Version Includes: Stages Documentary (see below), Cassowary & Fruit Bat Documentary, Music Videos for: A Reasonable Life, Havoc, American Girl, Fortitude, and Rover, Live Performances/Radio Sessions for: The Kingdom, Towering Prince, Fortitude, Scaffolding / Rover, Cassowary & Fruit Bat, Havoc (x2), Music (x2), Kingdom, Bones, Vasoon / The Rot, Flood, and Monster

Written by Ian Cooke
Directed by Adam Singer

 

“Cassowary & Fruit Bat” was one of the more interesting love stories on FORTITUDE (review here), and when I was listening to that album, this track in particular just played like a movie in my head. So in hearing that Cooke had decided to make a short film out of CASSOWARY & FRUIT BAT, which seemed such a natural and right decision. The song itself is the story of a depressed flightless bird – “Oh, what kind of bird am I?” sings the Cassowary as she finds her wings to be useless, “They’re barely there.” – that has decided that if she can’t do what birds are supposed to do, then she is going to end it all. If she were to jump off a cliff, at least she would get that one beautiful moment of experiencing faux flight before she put an end to her sad self. A Bat overhears her, and this particular bat already had a crush on “that beautiful bird,” and being the smart industrious animal he is, the Bat decides: “I will give the Cassowary flight, and she will love me.” He builds a set of wings out of branches and banana leaves based on his own anatomy, and presents his creation to the Cassowary in exchange for her love.

The Fruit Bat schemes...
The Fruit Bat schemes…

Great story. Great storytelling. It’s sweet, and sad, and funny, and touching all rolled into one, all while being carried by Cooke’s impeccable musicianship and beautiful voice. I will admit it, so there is no ambiguity here: I am a big fan of this man’s music. I find him to be one of the most interesting, original voices out there for his songwriting style, his use of non-average instrumentation and song crafting, his amazingly intelligent and thoughtful lyrics, and just the very-damned-cool tone of his singing voice. The creation of C&FB is a great compliment to an already very cool little song. Story-wise, it was all already there; all director Adam Singer had to do was to listen to the song. There was no requirement to make creative interpretations to come up with a film that fits the song, because the song lays it all out.

The Cassowary tries her new wings.
The Cassowary tries her new wings.

What Singer did do, in collaboration with Cooke, is come up with a very visually stimulating style to the animation, and fun designs for the characters. He saw the song in his head and made it work, and according to the documentary that is also included in this package, what he saw in his head was uncannily like what the band saw in theirs. The final film is really great representation of this song, and it takes a song that is already a great piece on its own and just elevates it to another level. I wouldn’t call it a music video, because it’s not. It is truly a film, with a plot and characters and conflict, it is not just a bunch of images to go along with some music (not to put down videos). The direction Singer used, from the cute character design, to the visual style, to the composition of the shots, all complement and enhance the original story and song, and that’s an amazing accomplishment.

 

Overall 8.5 / 10

C&FB is not on the IMDb.

C&FB for sale: http://iancooke.bandcamp.com/

C&FB site: http://cassowary.vhx.tv/

Trailer – Cassowary & Fruit Bat – Animated Musical Short Film from Adam Singer on Vimeo.

Cassowary & Fruit Bat (2013)
Cassowary and Fruit Bat (2013)

Stages

Description (from iancookemusic.com/archives/426):
Ian Cooke and 303 Choir meet, rehearse, and perform together in Stages, a 23-minute doc about musical collaboration. In this short doc, produced by Ray Trout and Ian O’Dougherty, 303 Choir (local singers aged 9 to 16) sing harmony with local cellist and songwriter Ian Cooke on his post-apocalyptic song “Rover” from his most recent album ‘Fortitude.’

Major Cast:
Ian Cooke, Travis Branam, 303 Choir

Directed by Ray Trout and Ian O’Dougherty

 

STAGES documents Ian Cooke’s collaboration with the 303 Choir – a Colorado, non-auditioned children’s choir – on their interpretation on Cooke’s song “Rover,” also from FORTITUDE. “Rover” is a really interesting track to feature for this sort of an undertaking; it’s a song about the end of the world. Having children’s voices added to this subject matter gives it all the more gravitas, as if it wasn’t heavy enough anyway. However, like any Cooke song, it’s not just straightforward and dark, his songwriting ability takes this song that’s about the end of the world and makes it more interesting than just doom and gloom, instead he presents the subject matter as people sitting, discussing the end in an almost humorous way. See the following review of EVOLUTION OF ROVER for more about the song itself.

Cooke and the 303 Choir
Cooke and the 303 Choir

Travis Branam, the conductor of the 303 Choir, brought in Cooke for a chance for the kids to work with a non-traditional artist, and Branam created harmonies for the children to add to the song. Cooke states that working with others makes him nervous, as now people depend on him to not mess up, and I could see how that would be amplified by this: not only is it a lot of people depending on you, but with children you are almost automatically going to be someone they look up to in this situation, so that would add extra weight. What Branam has added to “Rover” takes a pretty simple song and elevates it, and I have to say that I really like the version with the choir a lot more than the original album version (again, more about this below).

The book that can be purchased with the Cassowary & Fruit Bat collection
The book that can be purchased with the Cassowary & Fruit Bat collection

What I really enjoyed about STAGES was seeing not only the creative process at work – both Cooke’s and that of the choir – but also getting some behind the scenes access to Cooke’s mind. As I said earlier, I find him to be one of the more interesting musicians out there, and getting a chance to better understand where he comes from musically and what makes his music work is always something I’m interested to hear. There are so many musicians now that build a song out of a simple three-chord progression and some simple rhymes, and more often than not those are power chords on a guitar. Cooke takes the time and puts in the effort to make his music not fit that mold, and it is that non-rational feel to his music that is probably what draws me personally to it so much. STAGES gives the viewer more insight to this process. Also of interest was the time spent with the children, and getting their viewpoints on both the song and Cooke. It’s amazing how smart these kids are, and how much they really “get” the song and what it is about. It’s also nice to see that these aren’t kids that would rather just go listed to some mass-produced radio pop, and they also seem to “get” the fact that Cooke is going out of his way to make his music not that norm. I realize that as aspiring musicians, these are not your average teens and pre-teens, but it is still nice to see.

Cooke working on the C&FB video
Cooke working on the C&FB video

Overall I really enjoyed STAGES. As a documentary, it is functional (there’s no flashy camera work or slick editing tricks or animatics or any of that), but the information it presents is very riveting, and was a lot of fun to watch. Especially when it finally pays off at the end with the full performance of “Rover” with the choir. Very nicely done.

 

Overall 7 / 10

Stages (2012)
Stages (2012)

Evolution of Rover / Evolution of Quetzalcoatlus

Musicians:
Ian Cooke (Vocals, Cello, Piano), 303 Choir (Vocals), Travis Branam (Choir Conductor), Samantha Brewer (Live Keyboard), Whit Sibley (Bass), Ian O’Dougherty (Guitar), Sean Merrell (Drums)

 

These singles / EPs / whatever you want to call them are interesting for me as a lover of music. Both of these releases are just multiple versions (5 of “Rover”, 6 of “Quetzalcoatlus”) of the same song over the course of several years. They delve a bit into Cooke’s brain, showing how he puts together his music, and as the titles explain, how that music evolves.

“Rover” originally appeared on FORTITUDE and stood out to me, because it is one of the tracks that Cooke’s cello is conspicuously absent on. I love cello, and the fact that Cooke uses one of my favorite instruments in a way it doesn’t get utilized very much – modern pop-rock – is one of the characteristics that made me first take notice of his music. Hearing this cello-free track stood out to me as much for that omission as anything else about the song, at first I really didn’t take as much notice of the story being presented because of my focus on that lack of strings. Upon further inspection of “Rover,” what becomes much more important and obvious is the weight of what is being said. This song is all about the end, our end; how we’ve doomed ourselves and will have to try to start over again. “This could all be for the best. Evolution can start with dismay / but it’s too late to learn any better, so let them die out and decay.” sings Cooke. He is not only a gifted songwriter with a beautiful and unique voice, but an intelligent man who feels the need to sing about things with gravitas instead of your average, radio-friendly unit-shifter B.S. pop. This may be to Cooke’s detriment, as he may never get as popular as he should be since his music will go (well) over the heads of many people. For those who “get it,” Cooke will be in good company.

The Ian Cooke Band: Sean Merrell, Ian O'Dougherty, Ian Cooke, Whit Sibley
The Ian Cooke Band: Sean Merrell, Ian O’Dougherty, Ian Cooke, Whit Sibley

It is nice to hear some alternate takes on EVOLUTION OF ROVER in which my beloved strings do make an appearance into this song. The simple piano line really does serve the story of the song well, and I understand why Cooke chose this format for the story. I still enjoy me some cello. The cello shows up in the love band performance, which is nice, and on what I feel is the definitive version of “Rover,” live with the 303 Choir. The addition of a choir of children’s voices adds such a heavy weight to an already heavy track. In addition to the kids, you also have both the original piano line supported by cello to round out the sound. This version of “Rover” literally gives me chills, and I find it to be leaps and bounds more powerful than the original from FORTITUDE.

Some of Ian Cooke's original sketches for the film
Some of Ian Cooke’s original sketches for the film

Cooke follows the same format with EVOLUTION OF QUETZALCOATLUS, opening the release with the most definitive version of the song and then showing a few different takes leading up to that finality. This is a fun song. First off: who the hell writes a song with “quetzalcoatlus” in the title? Not only in the title, but a song truly about a quetzalcoatlus, and there he has to rhyme the word “quetzalcoatlus” (which he does very nicely, with “nautilus”). As I know I’ve said quite a few times now, Cooke is a very intelligent guy, and a lot of what he writes about is going to go over many people’s heads. The story here is about a dinosaur. Seriously. A song sung in the voice of a flying dinosaur, a history lesson in cello, guitar, bass and drums. I love this guy’s music. I just can’t say it enough.

Cooke and his band in a more intimate venue
Cooke and his band in a more intimate venue

Musically, “Quetzalcoatlus” is a soaring, epic song. It starts off with a cello line that would be perfectly at home in a dramatic movie score, then the band picks up the pace, with Merrel’s drums taking the lead. This man is a great drummer, and on EoQ his talents (when used, he’s not on all the versions) shine. Like many other Cooke songs in the past, “Quetzalcoatlus” does not have your average verse-chorus-verse structure. Would you expect a straightforward song structure in a song about a 65 million year old dinosaur?

This is an interesting song, and I hope it finds placement on a full release at some point. I really enjoyed the story, because it is so odd and out there on its subject matter, and I think musically it is one of the more grandiose pieces the Cooke band has created. This song would not have been out of place on FORTITUDE with its prog-rock feel, but it is a bit grander in scope than a lot of the tracks on that release. Overall I really enjoy this one as well. What can I say: I’m a fan.

 

Overall EoR 8 / 10 EoQ 7 / 10

EoR for sale: http://iancooke.bandcamp.com/album/evolution-of-rover

EoQ for sale: http://iancooke.bandcamp.com/album/evolution-of-quetzalcoatlus

EVOLUTION site: http://iancooke.bandcamp.com

Evolution of Rover (2013)
Evolution of Rover (2013)
Evolution of Quetzalcoatlus (2013)
Evolution of Quetzalcoatlus (2013)

 

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s