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Premiere: Turner Cody's "Death is the Friend You Never Met"

Director Chris Tucci shares insight on a bleak, beautiful music video

by David Graver
on 15 March 2017

When met with a song about death, music video directors can go in innumerable directions for complementary visuals: undercut the sorrow, emphasize it, heighten the fear, obscure it. For folk singer Turner Cody's new track "Death is the Friend You Never Met," director Chris Tucci actually takes several routes, binding them neatly in a video of visual queues and structural layers. Here, stark animation meets ghost-like portraiture, bookended by the suggestion of a dream sequence. All of it is introduced with an eerie prologue—one that TV watchers in the early '80s may recall. For all the gravity carried within Cody's song, there's also beauty. Tucci draws from this and the result is a welcome adventure.

"The concept came before I heard the track, actually," Tucci shares with CH. "Cody’s track reminded me of my childhood obsession with late night cable sign-offs from the 1970s and '80s. They always felt very dark and sinister and sort of scared me as a kid." Tucci had an old TV in his bedroom, which he would watch when sleep abated. "Sometimes I’d be woken up by a strange, deep voice talking about a signal transmitting from a big building miles away, traveling through space to the antenna on my roof, and through my walls and into my television." The eeriness left an imprint. When the opportunity to direct the music video arose, he found the symbolism within relevant.

A music video's job is to support the accompanying track—extend its reach or add new layers. Here, Tucci gives Cody a stage by way of a modified portrait. "He has hijacked the television signal," Tucci continues, "but is confined to a tight, coffin-like, box—forewarning and foreshadowing his own inevitable demise. At this point everything on the television is taking place within a supernatural realm and the fuzzy dust and grain help add a couple degrees of separation between you [the viewer] and that world." Tucci mentions this can be uncomfortable for the viewer: the lingering closeness with the singer. But he believes it draws one in even further, "It lets you experience the imagery collapse, melt and slowly degenerate until there’s nothing left."

As the video comes to a close, and the dream sequence completes, the viewer's mind immediately returns to the introduction (and perhaps a repeat viewing). "I created the footage and made the instrumental for it," Tucci says, who reached out to musician Jack Dishel for the voice-over. "I sent him a script and a few days later he sent me five takes, each one better than the next. The take I ended up going with sounded a little insidious, especially when he said the word ‘Goodnight’ which I think comes across in the video." Tucci then compressed Dishel’s voice and his instrumental to "make it sound like it was coming out of a tiny speaker in an old Zenith." It's a valid prologue to a captivating video, in service to Cody's folk track.

Video and images courtesy of Chris Tucci

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