A walk through the mind of Hiro Murai I imagine to be somewhat evocative of his video for Earl Sweatshirt's 'Hive' (I'm sure there's a hive-mind joke in there somewhere, I can't find it). The Tokyo-born director lives and works out of Los Angeles, California. His promo for the OFWGKTA member seems cemented in reality at first - albeit a dark and foreboding one - until from the dimly-lit recesses emerge absurdist creatures; seemingly-spawned from the unlawful tryst of Henry Selick and Maurice Sendak.
Murai's camera is considered and purposeful as it creeps through the eerie suburbia: it is a feature of the director's work to twist and stretch the viewers grasp on the limitations of reality.
The video itself is a follow-up, or more appropriately an expansion on, their previous collaboration together on the video for 'Chum'. As Murai confirms in his own words, "The idea was to take what we did for Chum and expand [...] we wanted to take a classic Hip Hop video structure and put a twist on it. For this one, I wanted to do a bizarro version of grimy posse-cut videos like Wu Tang's 'Protect Ya Neck' where rappers take turn performing while surrounded by faceless mobs of people."
Murai's work with Earl Sweatshirt led to him working with fellow Odd Future collaborator, Frank Ocean, on his stage performance for the Grammy's. Frank performed 'Forrest Gump' live onstage accompanied by the Hiro Murai directed videos - making it appear that Ocean was running down a long stretch of road, pursued by a mob, while standing still onstage.
Due to the director's penchant for the fantastical and absurd, the majority of his music videos require a lot of post-production for VFX elements. A prime example of this would be his high-energy video for David Guetta's 'She Wolf'. Even the director admits his imagination may need to be reigned-in at times: "There was an early, much weirder version of the treatment (which I never sent) where the wolf was getting chased by, instead of hunters, a herd of deer who had machine guns for antlers [...] I scrapped it because I realized that it would never get made."
The video shot on location, in that gorgeous celestial wonderment that is the Icelandic landscape, features the dichotomy of the serene ethereal beauty of nature; with the violent digital effects created by Hiro Murai and his effects team.
"Shooting in nature, especially if you're shooting live animals, can be really chaotic, but I think that's also what's exciting about it. There's something about the lack of control that makes the shots feel spontaneous and lively. It's like trying to catch butterflies in a hurricane. You sometimes end up catching unexpected things in your net."
Taking inspiration from the hyper-realistic sculpture work of artist Ron Mueck (which I implore you to check out, it's super cool), Murai developed the concept for St. Vincent video 'Cheerleader', "I especially liked the weirdly ambiguous dynamic between the oversized statues and its audience. So I wanted to focus the video on that interplay." The delicate features and porcelain skin of Annie Clark is quite the medium to display that coalescence in his melancholic promo.
Portrayed throughout Hiro Murai's catalogue of music video's is his endearing ability to infect the viewers concept of reality. What appeals to me above all is his proficiency to slice through the lyrics and production on a track; to capture its true tone and exhibit that in an original manner. From juxtaposing the digital production on David Guetta's 'She Wolf' - featuring Sia's haunting vocals - in his VFX ridden Nordic folk-tale video - to Earl Sweatshirt's dark meandering verses on 'Chum' and 'Hive' - to the emotional frailty of St. Vincent's 'Cheerleader'. Hiro Murai is a young talented director possessing the nuance to not only perfectly interpret a track but to enhance it so the audience benefits from a deeper appreciation.
Hiro Murai has also directed video's for Scissor Sisters, Bloc Party and Usher along with commercials for Nokia and Juicy Fruit. You can visit Hiro Murai here.