If ever there were a time for a multimedia piece on migration, championed by some of the biggest names in alternative music, it would be now. Since the UK voted for Brexit at the end of June, the topic on the tip of everyone’s tongues has been the movement of people – an attribute of society that isn’t exactly new, and yet somehow has become such a provocative subject of which everyone seems to have an opinion.
“I think a certain faction of the press finds it useful to have enemies to help sell papers. Enemies are useful for selling things it seems, which is rather sad. We’ve been working on Flit for two years and the word ‘migration’ has become so much more inflammatory in that time,” Martin Green, of folk band Lau, tells me as he gears up for the nine-date UK tour of his multimedia show Flit at the end of the month.
A stopmotion masterpiece assembled with Adrian Utley (Portishead), Dominic Aitchison (Mogwai), Becky Unthank (The Unthanks) and BAFTA winning writer/director duo whiterobot, Flit features original compositions from Green et al and seeks to explore a tale as old as time with inspiration from first-hand stories both heartwarming and heartbreaking. Green insists the timing of the project is merely coincidental, having mainly been influenced by his grandparents’ tales of migration during WWII.
“Thematically, I had collected stories of human migration from various sources, including my family, and I wanted to make a show around them. It started with my grandmother, and that sparked a mildly obsessive interest in me of trying to get into the mindset of people who have moved around the globe. It has a huge impact of course to be forced to move from where you are from and that is a life-changing experience.”
Of course, aiming to delve into a topic as complex as migration is likely to come with some challenges. However, Green tells me there were more issues regarding the technological aspect of the project, as opposed to the storytelling. “There was a lot to learn about marrying the visual and musical aspects of the show together, which involved a lot of research and development and lot of abandoned ideas; learning to let go of things that weren’t working even if we had spent a long time working on them was certainly one of the difficult things.”
It’s something you get the feeling he couldn’t have gotten through without his co-collaborators. Having worked with Adrian Utley and Becky Unthank in the past, Green knew he wanted to channel Utley’s knack for marking dark, atmospheric music with Portishead in the project. Whiterobot similarly fit effortlessly with the aesthetics of Flit, the humanity of their work amalgamating to great effect with stop-motion animation. Green humbly adds, “I’m very lucky in that I meet a lot interesting talented people, and even luckier that they agreed to take part in this thing.”
Pushing the boundaries musically, technologically and politically, Flit looks set to open a new class of narrative on migration through its captivating animated world, haunting sonic landscape and urgent lyrics, which seem to resonate with Green all too well as he concludes: “there’s greater richness in a society with greater diversity.”