Surf-folk hero Jack Johnson’s new video defies gravity. Literally. In fact, Johnson finally becomes so mellow that he floats through the air.
Okay, not really; he never touches ground in the clip, but that’s due to a few dozen leaps from a 40-foot diving board and a special slow-motion HD camera.
Still the video for “From the Clouds,” the third single from his fifth studio album, To the Sea, making its debut here exclusively on EW.com, was initially up in the air itself. “This video feels like it’s so late after the album came out, I even forgot it was happening at first,” the singer-songwriter tells EW in his low-key drawl. (To the Sea dropped in June of last year.) “Then my manager, Emmett Malloy, called me up and said that it was doing pretty well on radio, so we decided it would be worth doing it.” And here is the result:
Johnson, 35, last seen sparring with Andy Samberg in the barroom brawl vid “At or With Me,” has a long history as a visual artist, going back to his days studying film at UC Santa Barbara, working as a second camera operator on Limp Bizkit and Foo Fighters videos in the ‘90s, and shooting his own surf documentaries. Though Malloy is credited as director on all Johnson’s videos, the Hawaiian native claims it’s more a directorial partnership, going back to their days when he would shoot film and Malloy would edit.
For “From the Clouds,” Johnson had initially thought of being photographed while skydiving and then lip-synching the whole song to that one drop. “But then I figured I’d have to have some guy strapped to my back, and that wouldn’t look quite as cool,” he muses. So instead he and Emmett found a 40-foot diving board at an Olympic training pool in Mission Viejo, Calif, where a similar effect could be achieved just by filming, in extreme slow-motion, his somersaults through the air. To get enough footage, Johnson, who plays acoustic and electric guitar on the track, jumped off the diving board 50 times, experimenting with backflips and belly flops. “I ate crap a few times, but it was really funny.”
If it doesn’t look like a pool, that’s because they turned on Jacuzzi-style bubble vents to break up the surface of the water and minimize impact. At the precise moment he’d jump off, he would try to burst a water balloon so that the camera, shooting at 6,500 frames/second, would capture water droplets splashing off his face. But it didn’t always go as planned: “Emmet threw one balloon right at my face, and we have a pretty funny shot—we didn’t use it—where it’s a slow-mo water balloon explosion right on my face. I’m sure it’ll make it on the website at some point.”
Film buffs may recognize an inherent similarity between “From the Clouds” and the opening of Federico Fellini’s 8 ½, during which a dreaming Marcello Mastroianni flies through the clouds until lassoed out of the sky. Johnson had the same idea: “We ran out and grabbed a rope at the hardware store. I would jump with a rope tied to my foot, and then run it in reverse. I didn’t push it real hard, because R.E.M.’s ‘Everybody Hurts’ video already references that scene.”
Johnson says that this will most likely be the last single from To the Sea, and he’s not currently working on another album. So that means “From the Clouds” will have to last you for a while.