LBB sits down with director duo and brothers Meeks and Frost at Untold Studios to discuss how they brought together musical greats for Swindle’s new immersive album film, 'The New World'
Meeks + Frost’s directing debut for Pa Salieu’s “Frontline” music video made waves in the music world upon its release in 2020. It quickly racked up millions of views online and cemented the duo’s place as one of the industry’s new trailblazing directing talents.
Now, they’ve brought together their love for storytelling with Swindle for the official film for his new album, ‘The New World.’ At 19 minutes long, the film takes audiences on a journey through eight of the album’s nine tracks alongside visuals of its contributors, Poppy Ajudha, Kojey Radical, Joel Culpepper, JNR Williams, Maverick Sabre, Akala, Knucks, Rider Shafique, and Ghetts who share the stage. “From the location to styling, it's grand and fun. Mature but playful,” says Meeks.
Swindle, in an interview with Clash, described the film as: “Probably the best thing I’ve done ever.[...], when I tell you it’s crazy, I think it’s the best thing ever [...] Meeks + Frost understood the vision.”
Eager to delve into how Meeks + Frost - brothers who are not even two years into their joint directing careers - took Swindle’s vision for the project and created what looks like an early career-defining film, LBB sat down with them to learn more as they join with Untold Studios.
Creating a ‘visual painting’ for a special album
It’s no easy task pulling together nine musicians to shoot a film of this kind, but Meeks + Frost always intended to let each contributor’s energy come through. “With the musical prowess and scope of artists on the project, it was clear the visuals needed to have key moments for each artist to shine and display their contribution to the album,” says Meeks.
They tell LBB it’s their first time working on a project of this kind. “I’ve never experienced this before,” says Frost. “Having so many powerhouse names in one space, generational music, a hardworking crew and partners is something that you don’t get as often as you think.
They call it a ‘visual painting’: “A film to display the value that this album holds.” But when faced with a full album to translate into a short film, taking into consideration the flow of audio alongside organising a group of musicians, how do you storyboard?
“When we listened to the music and really felt the lyrics, the flow came naturally. We categorised the songs to see which ones were similar to each other, the same, or had an entirely different vibe,” says Frost. “So the more upbeat ones have exciting visuals while the mellow and soft sounds have a comforting and feathered visual.”
Meeks adds: “ It’s funny because if I had my way, every song on the project would have had a visual attached. It was a task having to be selective and it was about getting the right blend of songs with the artists available to shoot. A visual that would tell a story. If you are locked in, you will notice the visual starts mellow, hits a peak in energy, and simmers down again in the end.”
Spoken word elements within the album are key to its structure and inspired the approach Meeks + Frost took to its visual representation too. “Spoken word immediately triggered the thought for us to develop the film in a way where interlude moments were key,” says Meeks.
Collaboration is a central theme running through the film and one that is key to Meeks + Frost’s own approach: “The dining table scene was definitely a component that displayed the collaborative element. The scene allowed for the inclusion of all our artists. Rotating, chopping, and changing like a round table. It was the centerpiece of the film in that sense. All the other scenes branched off from it. From the pull up scene to the flashback of the tailor, to the live performances in the same space,” says Meeks. “Collaboration is key.”
Treating music like film
Part way through the film, we watch the fourth song ‘BLOW YA TRUMPET’ - featuring Knucks, Ghetts, Akala, and Kojey Radical - play in its entirety. Many of the songs included are heard in snippets. So how did Meeks + Frost decide which got to play out in full, and which were given shorter, glimpse-like moments?
Meeks says it was all about the blend: “The project is 19 minutes long. Not quite short-form content, but not long enough to feature all the songs in their entirety. So treating it in such a way that certain songs had a teaser feeling to it was necessary. We wanted short but effective moments to accompany the longer songs, so we could display our vision toward these songs in a short span of time.”
The duo points out how Swindle himself is a ‘special’ artist, who takes a ‘very different outlook and approach to his work.’ “He wanted something to show that specialness,” says Frost. “12 individual visuals wouldn’t do it justice. We asked ourselves questions: What else could be done? What else isn’t done often? Especially in this UK market. This format of film and Swindle was an inevitable match.”
While we’ve seen similar styles of album anthology films emerging in the US, spearheaded with Kanye West’s Runaway film - a creative inspiration for Meeks + Frost here, alongside Mr. Robot, Whiplash, and Louis the Hippie - the directors suggest films of this kind are not often treated as film.
“Treating music like film is a thing I don’t really see. We have movie references but not movie structures. No premieres for the fans, no exclusive screenings. Albums are bodies of work with a story attached. The music shows a story but why not have a film formatted for it with characters and stories for the visuals. I understand the implications that are attached to making films, but the payoff is worth it,” says Frost.
When LBB asked the duo about their favourite moments working on the project, the shoot itself wasn’t the only highlight, instead, it was: “Peeping in the corner of my eye Swindle himself shedding a couple of tears at the screening!” says Meeks.
“We had an exclusive private screening for people to watch in a small cinema space. You can hear people’s comments as scenes appear and the gasps and feel the energy of the room,” adds Frost. “Especially with our mother being there to see what her boys were doing and what we will be becoming in the next few years. I never really deep what my brother and I have done, as I’m not into socials that much, but being in the presence of others and feeling the fascination by force is a great experience. Knowing you’re cementing your work and your existence into the world and people’s minds.”
Creativity as a sixth sense
Meeks + Frost only started their journey at the cusp of the COVID pandemic and lockdowns, which raises the question: If this is what they can achieve in these difficult, limited times, what’s next? It’s about ‘Being able to be versatile enough to glide between various genres and let our creativity do the talking.’ And Meeks adds: “The worlds of commercials, fashion films, documentaries, and shorts are all calling.”
They also emphasize the importance of youth, and inspiring change: “We want to put more time and attention into how we can keep the youth, and people trying to accomplish similar goals, well informed.”
And creativity? “It’s like a sixth sense,” says Meeks. “Creativity has no boundaries in the mind. It’s bringing it to life and being bold enough to share it with the world with that is true greatness.” Frost adds: “Creativity to me is a living thing. It breathes. It has senses. It thinks and sees. Its specialty is adaptation and it can create unlimited versions and variations of itself entirely.”
They’ve already worked with artists such as SL, Shaybo, Alana Marie, Headie One, Frosty, and Odeal, and inspiration comes from a range of genres: “You’ll think I’m just a rap man. Nah, I listen to the Tokyo Ghoul theme song in my spare time or a little bit of Coldplay or Agnes Obel. If you know, you know. I want to touch every genre. Even compositions and orchestras. Anything that makes a sound that entices, I will dive into,” says Frost.
“People always ask what we both listen to. You can’t put your finger on it. Might be listening to Chronix one day, Coldplay or Gorillaz the next, Kendrick the next. You get the gist,” adds Meeks. “I just love music and want that to reflect in the work you see. Heavy bass, acoustic or orchestral, I’m down. More long-form content with storytelling and narrative is something we’d love to continue putting out.”