Premiere: “The Loon” by Caleb Landry Jones

The experimental musician and music video director Jacqueline Castel share details on their new collaboration

This September, acclaimed actor and experimental multi-instrumentalist Caleb Landry Jones will release his second full-length album on Sacred Bones, Gadzooks Vol 1. On it, listeners will find a continuation of the eerily nostalgic, curiously romantic and neo-psychedelic style that Jones debuted on his first record, The Mother Stone. They’ll also find a reaction against it—a sonic progression, an exploratory search for something even more fantastical. From this album, premiering here, “The Loon” conjures strange sensations as sounds warp and stretch and work with his evocative vocals. The track also comes equipped with a swirling visual study of Jones’ “inter-dimensional personas,” directed by NYC-based filmmaker Jacqueline Castel.

“Your world’s not like mine,” Jones sings as the track’s opening line; these lyrics function as a solid introductory statement for what unfolds. Jones, who recently won the Best Actor Award at the 2021 Cannes Film Festival for his portrayal of the title character in the forthcoming film Nitram (and who continues to captive with distinct depictions in projects that range from 2017’s Twin Peaks reboot to Get Out and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri) wrote the song while on the set of Finch in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

“I wrote it one evening, after work,” he tells us, adding that he travels with and plays on an inexpensive Fender Buller and Casios and Yamahas that he’s had since he started making music. “My songwriting style is kind of about waiting for something to happen, and then when it does, going with it and trying to make it the best I can.” He says that the songwriting on the new album is just as free as his debut.

“The video is the result of wanting Jaqueline to listen to the record and seeing if anything spoke to her,” Jones continues. It isn’t the first time the two have worked together. In fact, Castel made a short documentary portrait of Jones before they were collaborators.

“Caleb sent me the record really early in the process and asked me what song I responded to the most,” she tells us. “‘The Loon’ was what struck me. I thought there was something so sublime and disquieting about it. There was an emotional tenor to the song that offered us a lot of avenues to explore. There was a cinematic quality. I’m usually most attracted to the songs that evoke images and ideas—and this is inherently visual.”

Castel looked to the track for guidance, though she and Jones also found inspiration in the work of poet and filmmaker Ira Cohen, specifically his experimental film Invasion of the Thunderbolt Pagoda. They shot on nights and weekends over the course of three weeks, collecting ample footage along the way, in both Castel’s studio (within a former church) and in the basement of the French filmmaker Jean-Stéphane Sauvaire‘s home. Sauvaire appears in the video, as does Jones’ partner, the artist Katya Zvereva, who art directed the video.

“We had a lot of fun,” Jones says of the shoot. “It was very free—very spontaneous.” Improvisation factored into their collaboration. “It was nice to be able to have this time to sink into it and see how it was going to reveal itself to us, or what we could bring up from the depths of our unconscious impulses,” Castel adds. “The process almost starts to dictate to you what will happen.”

by Jade Mainade

All of the transformative visual effects were shot in camera. And ultimately, the experimental nature of the video works to support the swirling soundscape within the track. Jones adds that his musical exploration comes from a similar creative space as his acting, and it “provides a release, sometimes—but it’s never satisfying enough so I always keep doing it.” That release is a shared with the listener, as anyone who watches to video (or listens to album) will recognize the tantalizing freedom it was made with.

Hero image by Jacqueline Castel