“Baby Marmalade” by Smokey Brights

A visual mashup of pet euthanasia, Flemish masterworks and dairy products

Based on his audio-visual-performance art project Vernae, we know Ethan Folk as an unconventional artist. Pair that with his first video for Smokey Brights, an indie-rock quintet featured in our Best New Music issue, and we expected something willfully strange for their follow-up. But “Baby Marmalade,” which we proudly if squeamishly premier today, features way more milk than I’m used to.

“I love milk!” Folk says by email from Belgrade, where he’s currently staging Vernae. “I grew up in a milk family. A glass of milk with every meal: 2% for dad and me, skim for mom.”

It’s a lot to stomach for the lactose-intolerant. And if you’re like me, a softy when it comes to dogs, the storyline for “Baby Marmalade” may tug at your heartstrings as much as your digestive system. The video depicts an alienated teen named Maddie (played by Carlee McManus) uncomfortably coming to grips with an awkward family dynamic.

“In the driving, martial gloom framing [the song’s] wistful, isolated voice, I heard an angsty teenage response to an impending apocalypse, which got me thinking of Tarkovsky’s The Sacrifice,” Folk writes. “I built a story around the idea of recreating this scene from the film. I share Tarkovsky’s fascination with the visual richness and symbolic weight of milk. The milk in this scene expanded to become a grotesque symbol of the family unit and of Maddie’s otherness.”

Not your typical girls-cars-guitars music video inspiration. Check it out below. 

Smokey Brights play Capitol Hill Block Party next month.