Jackie Greene had modest ambitions for his latest release, a two-part EP titled The Modern Lives that he recorded by himself in the basement studio of his New York apartment building. But the visual component of the project has turned into kind of a big deal.
The video for the title track, premiering below, was animated by Bill Plympton, an Academy Award nominee known for shorts such as Your Face and Guard Dog and its sequels, and for features such as The Tune, Mutant Aliens, Idiots and Angels and Revengeance.
“I’ve always been interested in animation,” Greene — who releases The Modern Lives, Vol. 1 on Oct. 13, with its follow-up coming later — tells Billboard. He met Plympton years ago through mutual friends in California and learned the animator was a fan of his music. And the feeling was mutual. “I really dug a lot of his work,” Greene says. “It’s kind of challenging — obviously really funny and sort of borderline on offensive sometimes, like any good work. But it also has this homemade, very lo-fi indie quality to it, and I thought that style works really well in my mind with the aesthetic of these (The Modern Lives) recordings. So we reached out to him.”
Greene, in fact, plans to have videos made for each of the songs on the two EPs and is hoping Plympton will do all of them. “I just said, ‘Look, you’re such a great animator, you’re such a great artist, you should just sit with these songs a bit and see what you can do,'” Greene recalls. “What I like about Bill’s stuff is it’s tangential, not super-literal; Things morph into other ideas as the animation progresses. I really like that. It felt really good with this project. So the idea is he’s going to do all the videos and when we’re done the whole thing will feel like a little series or maybe even a movie.”
The Plympton program certainly elevates the profile for the rootsy, blues-tinged The Modern Lives project and its potential artistic impact beyond Greene’s original intent. “I didn’t start out that way,” he says with a laugh. “It started out me recording stuff in my basement. I didn’t go into the basement thinking, ‘I’m making a record down here,’ ’cause there’s a homemade quality to it. It just kind of developed and I really liked the way it was coming out and I thought, ‘Why not let that be the record?,’ then turned it into a project. It’s something different for our fans, but I think it came out sounding like a real record.”
Greene will be joining forces with Anders Osborne for a tour this fall to support The Modern Lives EPs. He’ll also be making an album with Mother Hips and has “a couple things planned for the fall and winter” — including a likely move back to California from New York for lifestyle reasons. But he hopes to maintain the approach to writing and recording that he employed for The Modern Lives. “Call it my home Basement Tapes,” Greene says. “There’s a homemade quality to a lot of the stuff I do on any given album; This is just the first time I was able to do it top to bottom — work in my own studio, play everything myself. It doesn’t have to be done in a proper studio anymore; I can do whatever I want and put it out if I like it.”
The Modern Lives, Vol. 1 Track List
1. “Modern Lives”
2. “Back Of My Mind”
4. “Good Advice”
5. “The Captain’s Daughter”
6. “Alabama Queen”