Edmonton indie-pop songwriter Ian St. Arnaud made the most of his pandemic isolation by diving into one of the most eccentric forms of multimedia art: stop motion animation. Having little to no prior experience, St. Arnaud spent close to a year designing and filming the DIY music video for his single, “Catching Flies,” from his forthcoming album, Love and the Front Lawn.
The video depicts a lonely bachelor frog living out his days and longing for companionship while he distracts himself with things like frog porn (!) and useless infomercials. “Catching Flies” has a light indie folk backdrop, with St. Arnaud’s soft voice and splashes of trumpet adding more colour and texture to the heartfelt track. “I wanted to make a person at first, but I knew it was probably going to be too hard to make it look like me so my partner Sabina (Hanke) said ‘make a frog.’ The video is kind of allegorical to the pandemic, but I’m not out to make pandemic art,” St. Arnaud says.
At first St. Arnaud asked his animator brother Devon, who has amassed his own following online with more than 1.4 millions subscribers on YouTube as Gingerpale, if he could help him make a video. He had already made an animated video for St. Arnaud’s track, “A Sweet Song.” “He said he was way too busy, but encouraged me to try something on my own and started sending references to a bunch of the weird stop motion stuff that’s been out there. I thought, ‘Yeah why not? I have the time. How hard could it be?’”
Turns out it was very hard and St. Arnaud didn’t account for how time consuming the process would be. He almost gave up on the idea all together, but spent a good five months researching what materials to use, ordering supplies and then started building the set. He ended up creating the frog out of a wire frame, epoxy resin, and plasticine. He also made a bunch of props in the music video—basing the frog’s environment off his own house. “So I’m just watching YouTube videos and ordering stuff from dollhouse websites and next thing you know, I’m an internet creep buying tiny sized cookie jars or something like that,” he says. “But I made mostly everything that’s in the video. I had wire, I had plasticine, little shitty pieces of wood, and a vision and I don’t know, I figured it out. It takes time, but if you can visualize it in your head, you can make a three-inch version of it.”
St. Arnaud also has his partner Sabina to thank for creating the girl companion frog and some of the most detailed items in the video like the fiddle leaf tree plant, the guitar, and the frog’s iconic yellow Converse shoes. But because the main material was plasticine, everything slowly started to decay, including the frog, which St. Arnaud still has, but it’s now headless. In fact, if you watch the video closely, you can see the frog slowly falling apart at the seams near the conclusion.
“Having this project was a blessing because it helped me feel a little bit better about having nothing else to do,” he says. “Building the set and filming it were two very, very different things. Building the set took me like 10 months, but filming it, I did it in a panic in about one month.”
All that time seems to have paid off though. The “Catching Flies” music video is currently sitting at just shy of 50,000 views on YouTube and St. Arnaud has been getting really positive feedback with some people encouraging him to tackle another stop-motion project down the road. “Imposter syndrome is a real thing because like, who makes a living making art, unless you’re topping the charts or something? And to feel like you’re making art that’s kind of irrefutable that’s physically in front of you, that felt pretty good. The feedback shouldn’t matter, but seeing the reaction from people watching it is just great.”