Films are scored after they are made, but music videos are usually done in reverse. But for Rob Martinez, the music actually creates the video. Under the guise of Honor System, he creates mini films on the spot that respond to the music he's playing.
When he talks about music, it could easily sound like a foreign language. “I have the fractal scale that is manipulating the wire frame smoke set to an expression on the kick drum,” Martinez says. “Whenever the kick drum is hit and those frequencies are read, the amplitude of the fractal scale expands and causes a pulsing with the wire frame on the kick drum.”
And then he laughs. “Sorry, I’m such a nerd.”
Allow us to translate. All of Martinez's songs have matching videos. With sounds manipulating the imagery, Martinez is, in a sense, creating film with music. Geometric shapes, polygons and live-action shots of people are projected onscreen as he plays. A snare drum or kick drum hit triggers a reaction: an expansion of the image, an amplification of light, a change of color or shape.
“I want to eventually create an experience that is very cinematic,” he says.
Martinez picked up a guitar in high school while in Albuquerque. Personal connections eventually brought him to Dallas to join the Authors, with other members coming from New Mexico, Louisiana and Texas. The group combined a blues-influenced singer-songwriter with experimental indie rock.
The Authors booked two tours and chose Dallas as a central location to meet. “We’d tour for a couple months and then come back to valet and make money,” Martinez says. “Then we’d go back out on tour.” He started putting together video blogs for their tours and enjoyed it so much he would would stay up all night working on it.
Back home, he started volunteering to help with video at the church he attended in Grapevine. He had lots of fun on tour, but started to focus on video. His church eventually hired him as a filmmaker and motion graphics artist. “It was like boot camp,” Martinez says. “I feel like I crammed 10 years of experience into four. I learned a ton there and developed as a filmmaker. It was industry standard. Some of the stuff they do you could compare to big productions.”
He made short films, music videos and live content for services, which included the church band. “We had LED walls that we designed content for. I’ve actually kind of taken some of that and implemented it in my live sets for Honor System. We did a lot of that there at the church.” Of all the things that could have helped Martinez make strange music, it was church.
But he also needed encouragement. “I started dating Samantha Rat Rios,” Martinez says. “It was inspiring to see what she did with her music and it made me miss it.”
“I think I did have an influence,” Rios says. “But it was already in him, bubbling and waiting to come out.”
Martinez played guitar for Rat Rios for some performances and bought new gear, stuff he had never used before like synthesizers. He started Honor System about a year ago, using analog synthesizers or a guitar to create backbones for melodic, ambient compositions. Sometimes Rios lends her vocals to live performances, adding elements of soul, R&B or opera.
But he kept his love for video, and not just for those visuals. “I’ve been making these little videos to try to entice people to come to the show,” Martinez says.
Arthur Peña operates Vice Palace, the roving music venue known for making the art and music scenes mingle. He liked the Honor System songs Martinez had been uploading to SoundCloud and added him to Vice Palace Year Two, which took place in May at RBC.
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But Peña was surprised by the video with a spaceship that Martinez put together to draw attention to his appearance at Local Education Fest over the weekend. “I called him,” Peña says. “Hey man, what is this video? Who made this?” He still laughs at how surprised he was when Martinez told him he did it. “What do you mean you made this? The special effects and everything?”
Martinez explained that it wasn’t that difficult, aside from erasing some birds from one area of the scene and digitally painting them in front of the ship. “I looked at the video again and it’s fucking flawless,” Peña says. “It’s seamless and the music to the video is his. His videos and music strike me as an artist. It seems like he is making art and music is part of the process. It’s so much different than anything I have come across in Dallas and he is working towards a clear vision.”
“He makes so much music it’s insane,” Rios adds. “It’s electronic, but reminds me of something you might play at the symphony. It’s cinematic and orchestral. These are memorable compositions that go hand in hand with what he is filming. The point of view is the same.”