WARREN FU Directs Animated 8-Chapter Epic for THE STROKES’ “Ode to the Mets”

July 27th, 2020

Feeling more like an art installation or visual poem than a music video, Warren Fu of Partizan directs an animated epic for The Strokes’ “Ode to the Mets.” For the six and a half minute journey, we are continuously pulled back through 8 different chapters. From the prehistoric era, to an abandoned school gym, to an underwater New York City, the viewer seamlessly drifts through these worlds like a ghostly spectator.

Though “Ode to the Mets” wasn’t a designated single off The Strokes’ latest album The New Abnormal, Fu approached the band with a visual hook that came to him when he was listening to the song in February, having envisioned a long, continuous single shot film, pulling back through space and time.

There is an established level of trust between Fu and The Strokes, with their collaborations spanning music videos, merch and artwork dating back to 2006. As Fu explains, “The band and I are in line as far as our taste and references go. After seeing the early conceptual animatic for the video, [guitarist] Albert Hammond Jr. texted me, ‘That Ode To The Mets thing is so f*cking cool! Wow.’ They let me essentially run with the video from that point on.”

The inspiration for the video was in some ways sparked by a conversation Fu and singer Julian Casablancas had years ago about the opening sequence to the TV show Cheers. They had mused on how uplifting the song is; yet when paired with the old photographs of people long gone there was a certain sorrow to it.

That feeling is best captured by the Portuguese term Saudad, which explains a yearning for a thing or person you cannot get back. Inspired by this idea, Fu conceived an animated video completely devoid of any living thing. The visuals traverse many celebratory moments, yet there is a sense of bittersweet nostalgia that comes with those scenes being empty, like a ghost town where the people have suddenly vanished.

The New Abnormal was recorded in a pre-Covid world, with the title taking on new meaning at the time the album was released in April. Back in February, Fu’s initial concept for the video was for it to be shot live-action with a combination of locations and miniature sets. However, Fu says, “when Covid stay-at-home measures were put in place in April, we had to go the animation route. This actually ended up being a blessing, because it allowed us to get more surreal and otherworldly with the visuals.”

Wanting each section to have its own unique look and feel, Fu began the process of casting animators much like he would cast actors, seeing whose work fit the “role” the best. With the final “cast” of animators spread out across the country, each artist referred to Fu’s initial animatic that he shared with the band for their own designated chapter, which he encouraged them to build upon. 

Although Fu never met any of the animators, or even his producer Joel Kretschman in person,  he says that having a shared goal to work towards during quarantine was therapeutic in some ways. Sara Nix, Executive Producer of Music Videos at Partizan, remarks, “It was amazing to see how efficiently Warren was able to streamline the process between so many people. He and  Joel didn’t miss a beat adapting to this new manner of working. All meetings, notes and creative brainstorms were done over Zoom, with Fu staying in constant communication about style and transitions as the concepts were developing.”

As Casablancas has stated, he came up with the melody while waiting on the train platform after the Mets lost the 2016 Wild Card Game to the San Francisco Giants. Fu debated how Mets-inspired to make the video, as the lyrics are less about baseball and more universal in theme.

By adding subtle hints throughout the video, including the team’s colors of orange and blue and a banner that reads Class of ‘69 (the year The Mets won the World Series over the Baltimore Orioles), the Easter eggs are a nod to the overarching themes of hope, promise and possibilities. Yet when you see them in the context of the past without people present, it takes on a nostalgic, bittersweet feeling.

Casablancas also encouraged Fu to make the video feel “New York” in vibe, making sure the natural environments and trees looked in line with the region. To that end, Fu planted another easter egg from the quintessential New York band, an early photo of the The Strokes provided by guitarist Nick Valensi placed in the background of the speakeasy scene. 

“Julian has a knack for writing melodies that feel familiar but that are completely unique and new,” remarks Fu. “The outro melody to ‘Ode to the Mets’ has a timeless ‘Auld Lang Syne’ feel to it, that feeling of saudad that I sought to capture. My hope is that there will be a lot of varying emotions, reactions and takeaways from this film.”