This weekend, Flying Lotus dropped the music video for “More,” a hypnotizing new track featuring Anderson .Paak from his forthcoming album Flamagra. The single follows previously released tracks, “Takashi,” “Spontaneous” with Little Dragon, and “Fire Is Coming” with David Lynch. All serve their purpose as clues to the sonic direction of Flamagra, a 27-track effort with collaborations from George Clinton, Tierra Whack, Denzel Curry, Shabazz Palaces, Thundercat, Toro y Moi, and Solange.
With “More,” FlyLo wanted to present the song visually through an anime short, teaming up with critically acclaimed director Shinichirō Watanabe. The director and his team tell a story of FlyLo’s rocket ship crashing on a planet. He finds a record player robot with an Anderson .Paak vinyl attached to him under an umbrella that reads “Flowers.” In their first encounter, there are messages that need further deciphering (“Your ego is your seed,” “Don’t touch me!”) from the viewer. But once .Paak’s verse plays, FlyLo transforms and explodes, consumed by a dark force that leaves his remnants in flames.
Is there more to the story? Sitting with Complex to watch the video at his penthouse in the Lower East Side, FlyLo doesn’t give a straight answer, but he gives enough clues to speculate that this chapter isn’t over.
We just watched the video for “More.” Are you happy with it?
Yeah, I’m happy with it. It’s cool. I love [Shinichirō] Watanabe and his birds, man. He’s gotta have the epic bird. That’s like the signature move. He’s like John Woo with the doves. [Laughs]. You know? He’s gotta have his bird.
The robot has “don’t touch me” written on his head. What does that signify?
I don’t know. That’s a good question. We gotta ask Watanabe. That wasn’t my idea. I think because he’s gonna transform if you touch that like that. Maybe. Or is it because he comes to life? I don’t know.
Are you familiar with Akira? The part in the video where your eyes are blowing up reminded me of this scene.
Oh yeah, the metamorphosis stuff. Yeah, it has that feel to it. The big transformation, I think of that.
Anderson .paak is one of those people where every take sounds like butter. The ideas come quickly.
Was it intentional to put that in there?
Honestly, that wasn’t my idea. None of this was mine; it was all Watanabe’s vision. I really wanted him to do his thing. Usually when I work on videos, I do get involved a little bit. I made some suggestions but it was mostly his concept. I think he worked with some people, some writers, that he wanted to build with. So yeah, I just kind of let him run with it.
How did those conversations start? Did you give him the song?
Yeah, so I’ve been working with him for a while now because we did Blade Runner, an anime piece for the last movie that came out.
You did the score for it, right?
Yeah, for Blade Runner: Black Out 2022, working with him was awesome. My favorite anime director. And he’s inspired me in other ways. All to say that the thing kind of came about after Blade Runner. We were going to see the actual movie. We got tickets to the premiere. I was sitting next to him. I was his date to the movie. I was like, “Hey man, you wanna keep working?” [Laughs]. “You wanna keep working together?” He was like, “Yeah!” I was like, “Alright, you wanna do a video?” He was like, “OK!” You know, it is one of those OKs where you’re like, “Oh, it’s a bullshit OK.” He don’t really wanna, he ain’t really gonna, and it was a real OK. We kept building and I went to Japan, and met some of the animators. We had a couple of meetings, actually, in Japan. You know, he’s just awesome.
For this upcoming album, you said you’ve been toying with these ideas for five years now. When did that trip happen?
Last year is when we started working on the video.
You’re known for your track record with collaborating with people from Erykah Badu to Kendrick Lamar. When you consider working with someone, how do you know it feels right?
My collaborations tend to be pretty organic. It starts off with me being a fan first. Whenever I am making stuff, I got a thing in the back of my mind: “Oh, this would be so perfect for” whoever. Lately, it’s been Tierra Whack. I spent a lot of time… she just torments me. That woman. She torments me. I spent so much time over the past season trying to make music for Tierra Whack. I sent her a folder of stuff and I have not heard a single word. That was two months ago. Maybe she thinks its all trash.
Well, you got her on the album. You got one she thought was good.
Well, this was before that batch. This is a new batch. I was like, “Damn, she ain’t gonna say nothing?” OK. OK.
[Tierra Whack] just torments me. That woman. She torments me. I spent so much time over the past season trying to make music for Tierra Whack.
Anderson .Paak is on “More.” Why did he fit on that song?
We started this song about five years ago or more. We started that one a long time ago. I lived in a different house all together. We did that song shortly after he did NxWorries. He was doing stuff with Knxwledge. It was back then. It was the type of thing where it was like, “We gotta work together!” Mutual fans. He was a big fan of Thundercat. He was geeking out about how we did some of that stuff. It was an organic thing, and over the years, we run into each other at the club. Or we run into each other at the party: “What’s up with the song, man? When are you gonna put the song out?” I’m like, “I’m working, I’m working. I’m getting there.” By the time the song is coming out, he’s blowing up. We gotta ask Dr. Dre if it's cool and all this stuff. Note to the producers: Get your songs out as soon as possible. [Laughs]. You never know.
It just so happens, too... It’s like all my features, they’re all blowing up right now. They all got a record right now. It’s like all of them. It wasn’t intentional, at all. It just so happens Solange is putting her joint out. And we recorded the song like three years ago.
I think it’s a credit to you. You already knew their musicality, and you already had the foresight. You knew they were going to be big.
I don’t always have the vision, but when I do, I’m not wrong. I’m grateful for that. It was like Tyler, Chance, Tierra, and of course, Thundercat. Those people I had my eye on in the early days. And it's cool to see them now: “Oh yeah, I wasn’t wrong.” [Laughs].
When you and Anderson finally locked in, what was it like bouncing ideas off him?
It was super easy. When you work with people like Anderson, you get spoiled because you’re really dealing with genius level of artists. After that, you expect everyone to work at such a level that it is not the same. Anderson is one of those people where every take sounds like butter. The ideas come quickly. It’s like what more could you ask for? And he can play his ass off. He’s like, “Oh shit, let me go fill that drum in real quick.” He can jump into that. It’s amazing.
When you guys were working together, you didn’t really have to say anything?
Definitely. The two times we did get together it was really just a quick thing. I was so impressed. I think the second time we actually knocked out a song and a demo for something, we were gonna do for him. I don’t know if it's ever gonna come out. I almost forgot about that. We got another song, yeah.
Watanabe is known for Samurai Champloo and Cowboy Bebop. Are you a big anime head in general?
Yeah. I go through phases when I’m super into my anime stuff. It’s nice to dip out so I can catch up and I have a whole bunch of stuff to watch. That was me last year: I was just catching up on a lot of anime, especially since I am developing one with Netflix. It was important for me to reeducate myself with what is out right now and see what folks are doing. But yeah, his stuff is really special.
There’s one that he did… It’s crazy to even talk about. There’s one called Kids on the Slope. I don’t know anyone who has ever seen it. I don’t know anyone who has watched it. But Kids on the Slope is a slice of life type deal. It’s real chill, not a lot happens in it. It’s about young musicians, and it actually was one of the main catalysts for me getting really deep into piano—which you never would have ever guess an anime would do that. I told him that and he still doesn’t believe me. He thinks I am just bullshittin’. But it’s a real thing.
I want [the album] to sound like magic, and that’s the energy I put into it.
Are there any other movies or series that are your favorites?
Dragon Ball Z goes without saying. We don’t have to talk about that. Maybe I can mention a few lesser known things. One that really got me last year is called Paranoia Agent. It was directed by Satoshi Kon. He passed away a bit ago. Genius dude. Genius cat. All of his stuff was so good. Like Perfect Blue and Tokyo Godfathers. He was really on it. But he made a series, Paranoia Agent, that had concepts with dreams intersecting in reality and how all that ties together. It was really clever. I love Pop Team Epic, which is really trippy. I guess it is a bit well-known now. But it’s a bit more Adult Swim style humor where it is a random barrage of silly comedy.
You mentioned Yasuke. What’s the progress on that?
Well, all the scripts are done now. I think they are getting the rough kind of looks, trying to figure out what the look of the show is going to be. With this stuff, it takes forever. I think we are looking at 2021 release. We’ll see.
With Flamagra coming out, do you see yourself as a bridge? You’re able to bring worlds like experimental, pop, and hip-hop together in interesting ways.
I think so. I think that’s part of what I am supposed to do. Something my mom used to do. She always had the strangest friends. My mom, she always had random orphans like, “Who is that? Why are all these people hanging out?” I notice I do that too. “Oh yeah, this filmmaker needs to meet this musician. And this visual artist needs to meet this [person].” I always end up doing that. I guess I am just a fan of all this stuff, and I just want to see all these things blossom and people collaborating and creating.
What can fans expect from Flamagra?
I think there is a lot to be said in this one. I think the journey is deeper. I think it is the longest record I have ever made. It’s about an hour and some change. I only have done things in 35-ish minutes. It’s a bit longer. A bit more diverse. I don’t know. It’s hard for me to say. I’m still close enough to where I can’t tell. I think maybe next year I’ll be able to tell people what to expect. [Laughs]. I think, if anything, my intent was to just have a magical feel to it and try to bring something that would make people go ‘Oh wow.’ I want it to sound like magic, and that’s the energy I put into it.