Atmosphere's "Sunshine" Video Is Entirely Solar Powered

For all the songs that have been written about the sun and its subsequent sunshine, the star that sustains life on this very planet is finally  making its place in the music video industry thanks to Minneapolis indie-ground hip-hop legends Atmosphere. While their single "Sunshine" was released eight years ago, this month they've not only unveiled a video for the beloved track, but revealed it was entirely produced by solar power through Sunport Technologies. We spoke to rapper Slug and Sunport co-founder Paul Droege about the making of the video and the benefits of solar power in 2015.

How did you two first link up?

Slug: Oh, we were in cub scouts together. Way back.

Droege: (laughs) We were working on this Kickstarter campaign with Fallon and Marty Wetherall and he had a connection to Skye [Rossi] at Rhymesayers and through him, Sean, and that was the overall connection.

Slug: I think we're the fortunate ones in the situation here that we got tapped for this because there's so much music out there and so many artists that are environmentally conscience. This could have been anybody. This could have been OK GO.

Droege: I will say it was a really cool way that this came together with you guys being there in Minneapolis, and the fact that you had this song called "Sunshine" that hadn't had any video done for it. It just came together in a really sweet way.

Slug: Yeah, [Atmosphere member] Ant pointing out that it's funny a song called "Sunshine" from a band called Atmosphere got a solar powered video.
Paul, when did you first get involved with solar power and how much have you seen the solar industry change since then?

Droege: I got my first solar a little over 15 years ago. I've been in the power business all my career, about 30 years. Solar's changed a lot. The first solar I got, I think I paid almost $10 a watt for it. Now, it's in the range of about a buck a watt. Relatively speaking, the price has come way down, there's a lot more of it, people are much more into it, which is all good stuff. That's one of the stunning things about it, with all that improvement and change that's gone on, we're still barely showing up on the chart as far as any kind of real substance to solar in the grid. That's kind of my inspiration, I want to see that become much more popular and the way to do that isn't building a few landmark projects, it's about getting everybody involved. This is something that a high school kid or a college kid could do because it's cheap enough to where it isn't a big deal. We think if we give them an easy way to move forward, a lot of people will.

Viktor Rukavina directed the clip. Was it predominantly his vision, or did you two give input in regard to what you wanted to see done with solar power?

Slug: I didn't have a whole lot to do with it. They came with the idea and the vision and asked if I had any kind of input to stack on top of it to amend it. I really didn't have anything other than I gave a suggestion on the actress and I suggested she wear a shirt that said "LFTR PLLR." Other than that, I just got out of the way.

There's a reason we never made a video for that song, and that was I never could wrap my head around a way we could pull it off to give it the corniess it deserves and requires. I had no ideas for [that]. It had to be just a certain amount and not go too far. When these guys brought their ideas to us, they came closer than I have ever come to create a treatment for this, so Anthony and I stepped back. The gentleman that put together the treatment was a fan. They did it from the perspective of the fan and that was intriguing because here was an opportunity for a fan made video that actually had a budget, and coming from the side of wanting to do this with these solar harnessing magical devices, there was no way for us to say no.

Droege: The first time we saw it, we were in awe. It had a certain lightness to it, and it was really cool.

Is there an added pressure or challenge doing a video for a song seven years after its release?

Slug: No, I wouldn't say a pressure, but it did open my mind up. Why can't [you] make a video that for a song that you're not necessarily trying to push as a single. And there's a lot of songs that are in our history that I wanted to make video for that either I didn't have time or it didn't make sense to spend money to do it because we had other songs we wanted to focus interest for. Now, it opens my mind to make a video for some of those songs because we're not making them to push the songs, but to make something cool to see. Maybe we'll keep exploring that some more. I am, though, still from the mindstate of I'm not big on looking back, I like to keep moving. But this is good, I appreciate this and I can see this having an effect on my decisions going forward.

KEEP PHOENIX NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Chaz Kangas
Contact: Chaz Kangas