With the arrival of his fourth and latest LP, Mood Lighting, Mathis Hunter checked in to talk about collaborating with Brigitte Choudhary on the album’s second video, “Don’t Be Long.” This latest offering finds the singer, multi-instrumentalist, and longtime Atlanta music denizen offering a more direct—albeit multi-hued—take on his psychedelic songwriting. Hunter took a few minutes to talk about the music, the inspiration behind the song’s visuals, and what he has in store for the future.
The color palette of the “Don’t Be Long” video perfectly matches the album’s cover art. What did you have in mind when you were putting this all together?
Brigitte Choudhary, a recent Atlanta transplant from Miami, shot and directed the video. We didn’t have much of a plan together when we went into it, other than we had scouted the empty field and I think we both knew it would match the color palette and theme of the song. We also came up with the idea of a green screen video of me playing bass and drums. I played all the instruments on this particular song besides the lap steel, so we thought the green screen would get across the home recording vibe. Once she started editing, we realized we had undershot footage, so we ended up going back and just making shapes and patterns out of things like the foam soundproofing in the studio. We both thought they looked cool, and they definitely helped tie all the shots together and soften the cuts. Those shots ended up being the glue.
We left some things in the field and went back two days later to look for them, and the entire field had been mowed, so the timing of that shot was uncanny. It was also very windy the day of shooting and there’s a really interesting shot where you can see the shadow of a cloud blow across the field in like five seconds.
There is no intended narrative, but all of this paints a picture of what the song is about.
While I was working on the album, I was reading a book by Pema Chodron, called When Things Fall Apart, and trying to get comfortable with the idea that not all chapters go exactly how you want them to, and that it’s all part of the ride. She hits on this idea that our minds seem almost pre-programmed to try and come to a conclusion, to search for definitive answers and a solid ground to stand on, and the reality of it is, that just doesn’t exist. Things are always in a constant state of change, and nothing is permanent on a micro or macro level. I found some solace in that idea and a lot of those sentiments influenced some of the lyrics on the record.
During this same time, the lap steel and other guitar player in the band, Andy Morrison, was trying to cheer me up. He was on some sort of rant about how different it is to raise kids versus being young and single, having a career, etc. The point was that there’s all kinds of variations in what can be going on in your life, and he stated, “it’s all just mood lighting”—a background more or less—to the overarching story of your life. It hit me that it was a fairly zen sentiment whether he meant it to be or not, almost mirroring what Pema was saying about everything is just in a constant state of change, and not to get too attached to whether it was good or bad. That’s where I got the title for the song, and then eventually thought that phrase summed up the overall mood of the record quite well.
It’s so strange that I was working through these types of themes on a personal level, and now just a year later, our entire society seems to be going through an unraveling and great change. In the short run it’s always challenging, but in the long run it seems almost certain something better will emerge.
The chorus of the song is: “If you’re looking back, I got your back. If you’re headed out, please don’t be long.”
It’s the kind of song in which you’re speaking to a person who will never actually hear what you’re saying, but you just have to say it anyway. At the very least, speak or sing it out into the void, clear the energy.
Bringing urgency to such melancholy lyrics is no easy chore. This is a melancholy album, but I’d say it’s more of a moving on album rather than a break up album.
It’s definitely a “getting used to disruption in your life” themed album; change is the only constant. It’s sort of an unfolding of the initial uncomfortableness of that idea, and learning to move on. Honestly, it was helpful to be able to work through a lot of the emotions by writing.
I have always honed in on the psychedelic qualities in your songwriting. With “Don’t Be Long” you’ve paired that with visuals that are even more abstract—long crossfades …
But at the same time, I’ve always done these images that are abstract and this is the first video where you can actually clearly see me playing the song (laughs). In fact, I deliberately went with a photograph for the album cover instead of the usual fantasy fare I gravitate towards to hopefully convey that there was something a little more direct musically and lyrically with this album. There’s a lot less swords and sorcery psychedelia on this one than some of the previous records, although I’m sure I’ll get back to those types of themes (laughs).
What’s next for you?
Since no one knows how long it will be till anyone can play shows again, we decided to record a live set in our practice space/studio, Alpha Centauri. Brigitte also filmed these performances which is cool because as you mentioned earlier her color palette is really in line with the sounds we make. We should start getting these up on the Youtube channel soon.
Mathis Hunter’s Mood Lighting is available now via Leylines/Chunklet Industries.