Arlow Xan – “Sun Goes Rising” (video) (premiere) + Interview

Folktronica band from Flint, Michigan, unveil new video showcasing their blending of anachronistic styles.

Merging the futuristic with the archaic can be a daunting enterprise. If done correctly, the results are inherently intriguing. Such is the case with Arlow Xan, a folktronica duo from Flint, Michigan, composed of Al Harris and Ali Misner. Their new video for “Sun Goes Rising” showcases the blending of anachronistic styles innate to their music.

The song hails from the group’s 2013 album Futuristically Botanical. Opening with Appalachia yippy-ki-yi-yay’s, acoustic strumming, and effects remiscent of a vintage sci-fi soundtrack, it builds to incorporate digitized beats and expansive synth textures. Its video accompaniment features a man hiking through woods and sand dunes as lake waves lap against the shore, juxtaposed with scenes of a glamorous, deity-like woman observing from an austere locale of TV screens and cables.

Harris took a few moments to speak with PopMatters regarding the band’s history, future, and the making of the video.

First off, for those unfamiliar, tell me a bit about Arlow Xan’s origins and how merging such disparate musical forms as American folk and electronica became your stock and trade.

To us, Arlow Xan is about fusing two genres of music we love and respect. We love the old folk songs that tell stories from the past. It was a very unique way of chronicling history back then, and often times, the origins are unknown. There’s something eerie and transformative about the listening experience. For that same reason we are infatuated with computers being used as tools for making music. So how do we combine something that’s natural and imperfect like a banjo or the human voice, and paint a sort of soundscape with computers and technology? How can we create music that celebrates our past, and carries it into the unknown future? Those are the questions we ask ourselves a lot. We simply want to transport listeners to our strange and beautiful world, and if we can make you dance while doing so, that’s even better.

What was in the inspiration behind the song, and how did that translate into the video’s concept?

The theme for the track was a sort of lunar western setting. Cowboy pickin’ guitar with moon-inspired mythological lyrics mixed in. Those elements can be found in the video. Space, cowboy, dunes, goddess characters, all used within a ‘70’s science fiction motif. Loads of geekery. Loads of fun. And the end result far exceeded our expectations.

Where and when was the video filmed?

We filmed in two locations during the month of November of 2015. In the studio we shot the Sun Goddess scenes with her assistants for a day. Captured a lot of the ‘70’s era decor and props. All of the props and outfits were thrifted, DIY, or custom made. We shot the outdoor scenes in the sand dunes of western Michigan. My sister lives just down the road, so we turned it into a mini family visit, and were able to rest after a sun-up-to-sundown day running through the dunes. Best sleep we had all year.

The video is the product of Gold House Media and was directed by Natasha Beste, also known as the frontwoman for Michigan art rockers Odd Hours. What was it like working with Odd Hours’ members on the set?

Natasha Beste, Kevin Eckart, and Tim Jagielo of Gold House Media are masters of their craft. They’ve been doing this long enough to recognize what obstacles lie ahead, how long it will take, and how to achieve the weird and artsy stuff without breaking the bank or sacrificing quality. You never have to ask if they know what they’re doing. They do. Even when it’s new territory, they’re comfortable with challenges, which puts us at ease, and in good hands. When there’s a vision in your head, and you try to describe it to another person something gets lost in translation. Natasha understood our vision, added her own recommendations, and spun her web like a magician to get the final cut.

Futuristically Botanical was released in November 2013. What prompted you to make a video for it after such a relatively long duration since its release?

I think it’s because “Futuristically Botanical” was and still is our best quality work as far as production value and songwriting go. When we released it we wanted to make sure we put as much praise and energy into it, and that happened to be a three year process. We weren’t in any rush to jump into our next project. We wanted to let it cure a bit. Also, if we’re being completely honest, we’ve lived in five different places in the last three years, so settling into someplace permanent became our main goal, and after doing so we still felt we should release another video.

Of all the tracks on the album, how was “Sun Goes Rising” selected to get an accompanying video, especially considering it’s one of the LP’s longest cuts at six minutes and 14 seconds?

We’ve released two other videos from the album, “Trip the Light” and “Mannequins”. Considering the limited time and resources available to make them, we made some stellar videos. When considering a third video, we wanted it to be as wild and artistic as possible. “Sun Goes Rising” was a natural choice. Natasha did bring up the length of the track as a possible concern from the beginning, because it would demand that much more footage to keep the viewers engaged. I think we did well to make sure the narrative moved along, and the shots they captured were plentiful to fill the full six minutes.

Are there any quirky behind-the-scenes stories you’d like to share regarding the video’s creation?

At one point in the beach scene towards the end I’m supposed to run, turn around, and fall on my back. I ended up doing it about four times. The third time I did it a bulldog came running out of the dune grass and saw me. She was like “Man down. Man down. This guy wants to play!” and jumped right in the shot, and started licking my face. It was actually one of the last warm days of the year, and everyone was out at the beach. They seemed to enjoy the show we were putting on.

What’s on the horizon for Arlow Xan, be it a new album, upcoming gigs, etc.?

In the not-too-distance future we plan to release a double album of two previously released works (Chemical Exchange and Foraging For Life), only rerecorded and re-imagined. Kind of a fun concept album. In the near future, Arlow Xan’s year is filling up nicely. Staying busy with live gigs, some notable ones include the Spiral Gallery in Grand Rapids on April 9, and the Motor City Steampunk Convention on July 23. You can check out the full list of shows on our site.