Sonny Smith on Making the Video For Sonny and the Sunsets’ “Shadows”

telephone pole shadows

There’s a bespoke feeling to “Shadows,” the new video from Sonny and the Sunsets’ new album Self Awareness Through Macrame. There’s a reason for that — namely, that the video consists of a series of 180 paintings by the band’s Sonny Smith. The whole record abounds with bittersweet and understated pop numbers, indicative of Smith’s impressive discography. As Jennifer Kelly wrote at Dusted, “He’s a master of twisting realism into gentle fantasy, so that it’s hard to say where the grit leaves off and the fairy dust starts.” I spoke with Smith about the process of making the video — and that interview, along with a closer look at some of his paintings, follows.

Your artwork has turned up in some of your band’s other ventures, including the video for “The Lonely Men.” 

How do you best decide when to bring different forms of creative expression together?

With art I don’t really make a conscious decision and then execute that decision like a chess player. I just go forward intuitively, i make stuff, i throw it away, I scribble in my notebook, I draw mindlessly, and then at some point I can begin to see that certain dots can be connected. At that point, if art is going well, flowing well, it almost seems like the decisions are made for you… 

Shadow with a shadow

Bald man with shadow

Bird with shadow

What was it about this song, as any of the others on Self Awareness Through Macrame, that made this approach work for the video?

I was a little obsessed with shadows for a month or two, I started thinking about them and paying more attention to them. I began to actively look for them. I just thought it was kind of magical that we live with shadows all the time, they are always with us, until we die, and we don’t think about them too much. And of course, there is alot of poetry implied in a shadow. So writing the lyrics to the song, taking some pictures of shadows, drawing shadows in my notebook, it all swirled around at the same time. So the short answer is the visual and the musical all were springing from the same place, so it’s not so much an approach as just different creative expressions kind of explode out of the same well. 

Painting of figure with shadow

Woman with shadow

Dog with shadow

Were there any technical challenges as far as getting the drawings scanned or photographed suitably for the video?

A redundant laborious task that takes a long time! Scanning endlessly. 


cloud with shadow


A couple of the shadows resemble headstones in their overall shape; am I wrong for detecting an air of melancholy and mortality here?

The lyrics talk about our shadows staying with us until we die, and then splitting into light when we die. It feels true. Yes mortality is part of the song, but only melancholy when you see death as sad. I mean, the human circumstances around death are sad, sure, but death as a passage to the next thing isn’t sad to me.. It’s just the next bridge. Our loyal shadow doesn’t go with us across that final bridge however! That’s about what I’m getting at there…..


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