Field Trip

Palmbomen II

Interview by Maija Jussila
Photos by Robbie Brannigan in Los Angeles, USA

In the midst of final video edits for his forthcoming series of EPs, we caught up with Kai Hugo, the Dutch producer of atmospheric sounds behind the moniker Palmbomen II. Before sitting down to talk about his current project and the benefits of creative freedom, we took him on a field trip to Matador Beach, one of the first spots he visited after moving to Los Angeles (and the location for his ‘Carina Sayles’ video). As it turns out, it’s one of the most used beaches for wedding photography, but in between a legion of shoots, photographer Robbie and Kai dove behind rocks and ladders and created (these) beautiful images.

Good morning. How are you?

I’m in the middle of editing a video now.

What sort of video are you working on?

I’m making a new series of music videos for some records to be released in the coming months; 4 EPs on Beats in Space that are one collection, like one big album. And a video comes out with every EP.

Is there a concept behind this series?

It’s interesting because I can say certain things that I want to say.

I constructed a hypothetical tv channel, watched by the characters in my film. It airs a local access tv talk show, which I built an entire set for, and there’s fake commercials. On this talk show, I’m the guest. It’s not really me, but kinda me. In the show I’m presenting one song for each EP on every video.

It’s interesting because I can say certain things that I want to say. It’s like I could guide an interview in a way, and I could direct it, build a set for it, create this world for it. The commercials play a big part of this world that I want to create. You’ll see. It’s quite different from my previous work but with the same kind of atmospheric feel.

I chose to do these music videos as preparation for a bigger film I’m working on, one that I want to shoot soon. This bigger film is about a community in a little town, pretty close to where Matador Beach is.

You’ve been working a lot with film since the last record…

Before, I thought I wanted to work with a director, but after making my last album with ‘Carina Sayles’, I realized I want to do it myself. I’ve experimented with directors, but I was never really happy with the result.

I decided I’m just gonna do this and see where it leads me. I love it, and LA is perfect for it. There are a lot of people who know about film and that can help, and the scenery and the light is great. It’s a really welcoming city for making film.

And when you do it yourself, you’ve got all the freedom to do what you want.

What’s especially interesting about making films for your own music is having real freedom.

Exactly. What’s especially interesting about making films for your own music is having real freedom. Some artists have asked me to make a music video for them, but I find that difficult because I’m afraid I won’t have that freedom. I like when I can shoot something and in editing, I can feel out when it’s going somewhere else, taking an unexpected turn. But if I make a plan for an artist that paid money for it, I’m not sure if I can make the same choices.

My videos turn out the best when I can just follow where the editing leads me. If an actor didn’t do well, like someone stutters or mumbles, I can follow it, like it’s supposed to be like that, you know? I love that. I can really play around with that. I love errors or when things go wrong; I can make it seem intentional. Since I got to LA, like I said, I’ve loved playing with film. These videos are a little experiment around that.

Do you feel like the link between your audio and visual work go hand in hand now more than ever?

These next records that are coming out were already made some time ago, here in LA too actually. I didn’t directly visualize it, I just made a bunch of songs and then I made up this concept around it, with the talk show and commercials.

For the bigger film that I’m working on now, I’m actually making a separate album that is directly linked to it. I’m working to incorporate it all together now, thoroughly, making songs for specific parts. Even writing certain scenes to feature a song. They really do go hand in hand.

Palmbomen II will flaunt his new material at De School, Amsterdam on Thursday, 18 May. The show is free for members.