[Photo by: Ryan Watanabe, Lauren Dulay/YouTube]
Machine Gun Kelly just released an emotional music video for the song “Merry Go Round” off his second album, 2015’s General Admission.
The video was created by Cleveland-based artist Lauren Dulay with paper, crayons and almost no editing. AP talked to Dulay about how the collaboration happened, the hardest parts of drawing a song with extremely graphic lyrics and how the project became personal to her.
Watch the video and check our conversation with Dulay below.
How did you get into art?
I’ve just always done it, to be honest. My grandfather has a letter from when Walt Disney first started; he sent my grandpa a letter and asked him to be a part of his studio. He eventually turned it down, I guess, but I think that’s kinda cool. I think I got that from him.
I started doing cartoons because I was really into music. I was like, “What else can you do with music and art besides a music video?” So, I just started doing free ones to build my portfolio and Kid Cudi was the third person to watch my Kid Cudi video, and I died for an hour. [Laughs.] He retweeted it and told me it was amazing, and I was, like, “Yes! That’s it, career is over. How much better can it get?” I think I made one more after that because I was like, “I think people actually like this.”
Why did you want to make a music video for a song?
Just because there isn’t anything else you can do with art music-wise. I guess you can make websites, but it’s not interactive, it’s not cool. Besides, I like a challenge. I don’t wanna sit there and be done with it in a day. I want it to be a ridiculously long process. I was like, “I don’t really wanna do it in a computer, it’s boring and it’s bad for your eyes.” So, like, let’s make it something no one else could possibly have the patience to do, which is draw every single page. I don’t even draw and paste the backgrounds; I literally redraw every single time. I have to because I don’t have any technology that people use to make good cartoons. So I was, like, “If I’m going to do it, I’m gonna do it completely old-school.”
How many pictures do you draw for each video?
On average, it’s about eight frames per second. A regular cartoon runs at 30. The lowest I can go is about four, but it’s a really slow-moving cartoon. So, however many seconds [are] on a four-minute song, times eight.
How did the Machine Gun Kelly collaboration come about?
By pure intervention. [Laughs.] I randomly went on Twitter one day, after months of not going on there, and there, very front, very top, was Machine Gun Kelly asking for young and hungry animators/cartoonists. I sent it to them and in three hours they had returned my answer and I was hired. [This] had to have been late July of last year.
What did you think when you first heard the song?
It was extremely hard to figure out how to animate a song that’s extremely graphic. It has a very clear imagery. I was, like, “What did you do to me, MGK? You gave the song to me because you couldn’t figure out how to do this, either.”
It took me a week of sitting there with my eyes closed, just listening to the song on repeat for probably five days, just waiting for the song to tell me… It’s the weirdest process. You know how artists say they started painting and the painting just finished itself? It’s kinda like my cartoons are. The song wants to look a certain way, I have to wait for the song to tell me what it wants to look like.
Did you have any guidelines for what the video was supposed to look like?
No, it was amazing. It was the first time I’ve ever been hired where someone was like, “We hired you because I like your art, so I want you to do your art.” He did not give me any suggestions, any input, nothing. He got a book from an artist he liked, it was sketchy like mine, and he started pointing out and saying, “I kinda like it like this,” and then he closed the book and [said], “No, I don’t know what I’m saying; I want your type of art.”
That was basically how our conversation went. I had heard the song a couple times, but I didn’t look up lyrics, and I went there and he took me outside to listen to it and he played it on a laptop. [Laughs]. And he’s, like, “What do you think?” and I was thinking [that] I don’t know, I can’t listen to anything on these speakers, but then I was, like, “Dude, it’s gonna be rad.”
What can you tell us about the drawings for the video?
He mentioned that he liked my USS cartoon the best and that one has a lot of ripped paper and stuff; it wasn’t just a cartoon. So, I wanted to experiment and see how much I could away with ripping paper on a scanner. [Laughs.] I did like 50 percent drawing and 50 percent playing with paper because I wanted to experiment with it. For the drawings, [it was] basically all crayon, color pencil and markers.
What about the colors?
Sometimes I just do stuff and then I look back and I’m, like, “Oh, that’s why the song wanted me to do that, that makes sense.” Sometimes I just make stuff and then I know I want that to stand out, but I don’t know why, and, in the end, I figure it out.
The black and white frames [are] going back, it’s a memory. And the one that has yellow sky and stuff, it’s colorful, it’s present time.
The story is that he leaves for war, and she stays hooked on heroin. He comes home and finds her dead. My role was, “How do I parallel this without any drug use?” I made it so that he has to pick up all of their memories. Once he left, she isolated herself because of drugs, got rid of her integrity, her entire life, because of this drug and now she’s floating in the air, living a completely different life than everyone else. When he comes home, he can see the picture clearly of what he did to her, and he has to physically pick up every one of their memories and build a mountain for him to climb up and try to save her. But it’s too late.
It’s a really powerful song and the video is pretty faithful to the lyrics. What do you hope people will think of it?
Thank you. I hope that they like it. I know his fans are extremely loyal, they’re all friends with each other. I’m just afraid of the people who don’t like him already and are there just to criticize it. I assume people will like it. I guess people like cartoons, right?
I hope the video will show a different side [of the song], where it’s not just drugs and, “Oh, you made a bad decision.” It shows some humanity. You don’t just forget that you ruined someone’s life and suicide in general. I lost a couple friends because of it. I have a couple Easter eggs in there because my friend who died from an overdose, the first time I ever listened to Machine Gun Kelly was in his apartment, [while] giving him a tattoo. So I was like, “Man, this is for you.”
It seems like the message of the song is really important to you.
Yeah, actually. I think I was almost mad that it was such a hard song, and I was like, “Dude, you gave me no room to play, you gave me nothing to decipher this or interpret this in a different way.” I think was angry at the song for being so hard, but it’s perfect. I guess you’re right, I just never had thought about it. I just knew I had to do that. I think it was just what was in my subconscious all the time, paper memories.
Do you have any advice for people who want to what you are doing?
Be the best in what you want to do. People seriously laughed at me when I said I was gonna get paid to play with crayons. But look at me now! I just got paid to play with crayons. I just made a cartoon with crayons, and it’s awesome. Art is just art, man.
What do you want people to remember from the video?
I would say consequences. I think that’s the main thing the visuals and the song show: Everything has consequences.
Check out Dulay’s work on YouTube.