Pakistani-American Brooklyn based Ali Aslam’s music explores the complex, sometimes contradictory facets of his identity with a curious introspection. They reflect the private musings of a person who has spent considerable time alone on the fringes. Ali Aslam calls his signature sound “supersonic folk” — not the booming singalongs of past genre giants like Mumford and Sons or Fleet Foxes, but rather a current and forward-thinking creation that incorporates diverse sonic elements and reaches across cultures, more like Big Thief or Phoebe Bridgers. We caught up with Ali for an exclusive Video Voyageur for this “Photocopy,” lyric video. Catch it below!
1. Tell us the story of this song, why did you choose to visualize this song specifically in this way?
Like so many things in art its one part intention and one part happy accident.
The song itself is about this idea that we can be more than the sum of our grief, but that is a choice we make. The video came about because I had been committed to a very strict quarantine in my apartment in Brooklyn. I hadn’t really seen anyone or interacted with anyone for months. So, I had been taking these motorcycle rides all summer to just get out of my apartment and let off some steam. I started shooting Go-Pro videos while doing that, thinking it would be a fun distraction to edit them. On one of my first rides with the camera, I had mounted it wrong and it got jostled and then all of the footage was just of the sky, and the city buildings just looked so strange, as if they were hanging from some space station rather than rooted to the earth. When I think about Photocopy it is like so many songs about grief, but it asks you to change your perspective just a little bit, and that’s what makes it special. New York is one of the most photographed places on earth, but I was seeing it from just a slightly different perspective that made it more compelling, and it just clicked.
2. What was the inspiration behind this video (visuals, storyline, etc.)?
Once I had that idea of focusing on the perspective change, I started to think about different ways I could capture that in images of architecture. There’s a quiet dignity to architecture and infrastructure. (I am also an architect, so I get romantic about these things) It serves people and it usually doesn’t call too much attention to itself, but then it’s always rewarding if you do focus on it. Not only that, but something about focusing on buildings and not people captured the loneliness that I think so many people felt during this crisis. I started looking for how the buildings interact with each other; looking for old buildings reflected in new ones. You take an image of the city from a distance and it feels dense, and then you flip it over and suddenly, the image is about the unencumbered sky. I loved that.
3. What was the process of making this video?
A few great days riding around the city on my motorcycle…this time with the camera intentionally upside down. And thinking of neighborhoods that were most interesting when you looked up. There’s a shot in the video of the network of overpasses that you see coming down the West Side Highway near the Bronx. I loved taking images of things that are infrastructure and finding beautiful moments in them, so I started riding over bridges and through tunnels, always looking up. It felt great to shoot the video like this because it was like I was living the song while making it…intentionally looking for new perspectives.
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