Rachel Garlin
Photo: Michael Paim / Courtesy of Mixtape Media

Rachel Garlin’s “Seashells” Is Folk-Pop Set to Beautiful Stop-Motion Papercraft (premiere)

Folk singer-songwriter Rachel Garlin’s “Seashells” comes to life in a gorgeously animated music video.

Rachel Garlin’s “Seashells” uncovers depth in simple observation. The gentle folk-pop tune is more than a warm, infectious melody and a lovely arrangement. It’s a hand outreached towards human connection and a nod towards nature’s beauty, with a captivating “making of” story to boot. The breezy acoustic waltz was inspired by a walk at Stinson Beach with her children, watching her friends’ daughter looking out towards the sea.

Garlin recalls, “She was wearing a t-shirt that she had designed herself, using scrap fabric and her grandmother’s sewing machine, and she was letting the wind pick up her hair and curl it into the shapes of the sea: the waves and the shells. I walked along the beach with a waltz in my head and carried it back to San Francisco, where I wrote the song ‘Seashells’.”

Stunning stop-motion papercraft makes the “Seashells” music video. The art was designed by Lea Zalinskis, a former student of Rachel Garlin’s who has since become a professional artist. Garlin saw this not only as their first collaboration but as their first melding of minds on an equal level: artist to artist, pro to pro. It’s also the first video of its kind to be developed for Garlin, whose audiovisual work has previously only existed in a live-action, performative space. It was a unique project for Zalinskis, who hadn’t animated in stop-motion prior until this point.

Zalinskis states, “To start, Rachel sent me this devastatingly lovely group of demos to choose from. Something about “Seashells” really hit me in the heart. It’s honest and kind with such a sweet melody. We both grew up in California, so I connected immediately with the inspiration for the song. The wild California coastline, with its rugged rocks and beloved little creatures, became my main influence on the characters and color palette. 

“The scenes were all designed to flow into each other like the water on the beach flowing back and forth. Because of this, everything was shot in sequence. The whole film took 120 hours. The shooting itself involved blacking out the windows of my apartment to avoid major shifts in lighting. It would be pitch dark in my apartment like it was midnight, and I’d get into this weird zone where nothing else existed.”

“Upon breaking for lunch, I’d open the door to daylight and birdsong. It all felt strangely disorienting and drawn out. I remember shooting the pebbles scene for something like six hours, then realizing I had about one second of actual footage because I’d chosen to animate, like, 40 separate pieces that had to be moved each frame. This was momentarily devastating, but it’s one of my favorite scenes. I feel like I had just the right amount of beginner’s naïveté to dive into it.”

The papercraft characters that Zalinskis crafted for the music video all have their own inspirations, too. The girl on the rocks was inspired by a photo of Garlin’s friends’ daughter on that fateful day, while the others were inspired by the liveliness of an environment like Stinson Beach. The moon is a trademark of Zalinskis, who has appeared in several of her illustrations across many years. She calls it a “dear friend” and “felt deeply delighted to see him come to life through animation.”

“Seashells” features on Rachel Garlin’s recently released EP, The State That We Are In. She will be touring in November and December, with a list of shows available on her website.

PopMatters