Synchronized swimmers, ’50s America and an alien arrival blend together in Alex Lilly’s video for “2% Milk,” premiering below from her new solo album of the same name.
The clip, directed by Sherry Romito, combines both black-and-white and color images of the bathing-capped swimmers in full routine — coached by a severe man looking like Back to the Future‘s Mr. Strickland — while Lilly, as an alien observer in a bubble helmet, looks on. In the midst of all this a young girl watches TV, switching between channels airing a series of nostalgic images.
“I’m not totally sure exactly what it all means,” the Los Angeles singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist tells Billboard with a laugh, crediting Romito with the arty, abstract concept. “The song is about things being sort of thin, culturally speaking. I think it reminded (Romito) of the way we placidly go through life, like you would in a ’50s commercial. It’s sort of dystopian but also kind of retro throwback world. It’s very unique”
Nevertheless, Lilly says it was “one of the most fun times I’ve ever had making a video,” and she came away suitably impressed with the swimmers. “They were all wonderful,” notes Lilly. “Those are professionals. Those are artists. They have a full vocabulary, like hundreds of different moves. I’d never seen it before. It’s always interesting to be exposed to some new craft and new world, especially one you could never imagine yourself doing.”
Lilly — who’s played in touring bands for Beck, Lorde, Ry Cooder and the Bird and the Bee — released the 2% Milk album during January on Inara George’s Release Me Records. Written near Vancouver and recorded with the Voidz’s Jacob Bercovici and Twin Shadow’s Andy Bauer, It’s Lilly’s first album under her first full-length album under her own name, following other projects such as Obi Best, Touché, Zero DeZire and the Living Sisters. “I don’t know if I’ll ever get the hang of it,” Lilly says of being out front. “It varies. Sometimes I don’t feel like this is who I am, so I retreat and start writing with other people. There are definitely moments when it feels really fun and really natural, and then there are moments when I’m on stage thinking, ‘What the fuck am I doing here?’
“I just think I’m kind of a late bloomer. I’m always learning, but I feel like I’m always learning too late, and then I’m on to the next thing. That’s just my perspective.”
Lilly is, in fact, on to the next thing, working on “instrumental stuff” she expects to release as an EP. Lilly is also working on another EP with the Belle Brigade’s Barbara Gruska as well as a musical slated to premiere soon in Los Angeles. “I would say I’m just learning more and more that there aren’t really rules about what to do and when to put things out and how to do it,” Lilly says. “Life is very open; I just kind of give myself up to that, and good things seem to happen.”