after a brief hiatus,?singapore’s underscore magazine?has relaunched with its?’arrival’ issue. included amongst its pages are two essays?of note; one by 65daysofstatic guitarist joe shrewsbury ? a?piece?which in fact opens the magazine; the other i wrote to accompany some photographs i took of a post-hurricane sandy manhattan?2 years ago.
here’s an excerpt from the latter ?
as i?walked around captivated by the things i?saw, i?stopped occasionally to send messages to the internet using my phone. observations, sensations and imagery as i?best i?could translate into words, shivering slightly with excitement in this unkempt, eerily unfamiliar, home city of mine.
“brooklyn reaches out its sparkling arm of a bridge tonight, cars dripping down it. the inky towers of manhattan stare quietly back.”
“a?family quietly opens a hydrant with all their tupperware waiting thirstily in the trunk of a car.”
“the occasional cab down a street reveals people on benches, talking together in the dark. shivering cigarette tips like fireflies.”
“expensive apartment blocks dead monoliths bathed in moonlight. candlelit windows flicker here and there, like everyone?s watching TV in sepia.”
and so on.
you can read the rest of the essay here, and you can see the original set of photographs i took here.
of course?nothing compares to owning an original copy of underscore. the latest issues is hardbound with?canvas and sports a?handwritten cover.?if you have the means, do grab yourself a copy.
65daysofstatic, no strangers to touring japan, asked us to put together a small promo clip for their forthcoming japanese tour. using footage we shot the last time they toured out there, this piece gives you a little taste of what it’s like to be right there with them on the road to such places.
creative review?asked?to include 65daysofstatic’s wild light album cover in their monthly round-up of great album covers. in doing so they interviewed us about what went into the making of the sleeve –
could you tell me more about the inspiration for this design, how it relates to the music and how you came up with the idea?
65daysofstatic have always had a strong socio-politcal mindset whether that has directly influenced their music or not. therefore it came as no surprise to me that whilst in the studio they’d read and discussed a wide array of contemporary and historical political and artistic literature. for this reason when they approached me to create the artwork for the album i was given a good deal more than just their definition of the term ‘wild light’.
leading with ezra pound’s imagist poem ‘in a station of the metro’ they lead me down a path of minimalist, suprematist and futurist thinking including snippets of conversations they’d had over instant messenger, photographs of sculptures, scans of paintings and lengthy 20th century manifestos. my favourites of which were a book called ‘the vagrant light of stars’ which depicted a memorial to albert einstein being launched into deep space traveling on a beam of light, and a supremacist, communist, modern art children’s book called ‘about 2 squares.’
i’d had the demos for the songs for a while and around the time I received the above documents from the band i’d been given a near final version of the album. what struck me immediately was that whilst minimal in its conception, cinematically speaking the sounds on the record created some incredibly beautiful, richly coloured and vibrant images in my head. tracks like ‘heat death infinity splitter’ and ‘the undertow’ took my mind from a sense of something vast moving through the chaotic depths of outer space, right down to microscopic organisms and cells living in our oceans and under our skin.
bearing all of this in mind I made the cover you see now. appropriately adopting where possible various lines in supremacist, futurist and imagist visual thinking, i created a wide-format piece that i felt resonated with the music as much as with those old explorations of artistic expression. if those were one band of hapless, anti-establishment types trying to evolve our way of thinking about and perceiving the world, here was another band with their designer in tow – trying his best at the impossible task of visualizing music for those who’ve seen everything before.
i understand you’re a fan of 65daysofstatic – how important is it, do you think, that the designer creating cover art engages with or enjoys the music?
in 2006 i wrote to 65 and asked if my business partner giles and I could make their website. i’d seen them live in 2005 in london and knew that – like many of the bands I’ve asked to work with over the years – i’d make my best work if their music was the soundtrack to it. little did I know we’d become such good friends and that I’d be sitting here today having finished not just my third album cover for them, but also the best record cover I think I’ve made to date.
from my perspective being a fan of the music is essential. i give talks to independent filmmakers here in New york on the same subject. I implore them to not pay money to anyone that isn’t already immediately and very clearly a fan of the film they have made. money cannot and will not ever be enough motivation to make a truly beautiful and appropriate design or piece of artwork. despite having worked over 10 years in this role, i continue produce some of my worst work when I am not a fan of the film or music i’m working to support.
the graphic designer david carson pointed out that it’s a gross misconception that you should not judge a book by its cover. everything about how a band presents itself is a reflection of the amount they have cared for and thought about the the music they have made. a record cover is a huge responsibility, particularly so when you’re handed a record like ‘wild light.’ something this good demands to be heard and it’s my job to make sure someone clicks on that cover on the net or picks up that record in the store, even if just out of curiosity. It’s debatable to this day whether an image can represent a sound, but I work based on the belief that you can at least try to achieve such a thing.
an excerpt from this interview can be found on the creative review website here, along with some write-ups of some other great covers. we hope the above interview gives people some further insight into what it’s like working with a band like 65daysofstatic, who’s intense worth-ethic continues to push us to new levels.
to accompany the release of 65daysofstatic’s new record, a rescoring of the 1972 science fiction film silent running, i have written a fairly in depth article that discusses the creation of the artwork. the article is the third in a series that i’ve written for the independent filmmaker project and you can read an excerpt of it here –
so a week passed, the hurricane was about to hit and i knew where i had to go with this. i chose not to run the idea by the band, mostly as I simply had no idea whether i could successfully pull it off any way. i?d never really drawn spaceships before and whilst i had an inkling of how i was going to do it, i truly expected a messy failure of some description to result from it. sitting down at my machine as people along the brooklyn waterfront were taping big Xs in their windows like hundreds of fox mulders with too many unanswered questions, i began to piece things together. all of the while i couldn?t stop repeating over and over what sara goldfarb says at the beginning of the film?requiem for a dream,?as her son is stealing her television to pay for drugs –
?this isn?t happening. and if it should be happening, it would be all right. so don?t worry, seymour. it?ll all work out. you?ll see already. in the end it?s all nice.?
by which i think my brain was saying that sometimes you have to trust there?s a reason for your motivations, because sometimes your subconscious is simply way ahead of you.
a couple months back alessandro cortini pushed the button on the sequel to his experimental synth project sonoio. he’d finished a rough version of the album and was keen to get some ideas for the artwork rolling. the first record’s aesthetic had been based around the colour blue, and we’d known for a while that this record was likely to be coloured, and called, red. in fact there was already a version of the album cover from the original design sessions that had been cast in red and he’d been using for his demo mp3s. however once we’d heard the record and fallen under its spell (it is even better than the original), we knew a new cover was needed. something that felt more involved, continued the abstract character based narrative of the first cover and took it into a new realm of introspection, if you will.
we’d also already developed the blue cover in a number of directions for the remix album that came soon after it, and so realized there was space there to keep telling the story in a fashion we felt true to the new material. it took a while to stumble across something that still felt immediately connected to the first cover, whilst offering a fresh angle on things. the resulting piece is of course deliberately open to interpretation, but features our white and black characters again, now in different circumstances and states of repair. we also started to pad out the design with more intricate textures and new colours, as the new album felt like a development and growth musically in such a way that the artwork had to follow suit.
then there’s this music video for enough, as seen at the top of this post.
for a long time my close friend and collaborator, the director / photographer?matt sundin, and i have been talking about making videos, and eventually films, together. in fact it was this desire that made the 65daysofstaticwe were exploding anyway album cover turn out the way it did. so the moment alessandro proposed a video, i gave him a call and said ‘this is our chance’.
alessandro was considering making 2-3 of the new songs into videos and wanted our ideas for each. ultimately he felt that the ‘live performance’ pitch that we included was the one that felt truest to where he was with this project right now. so matt called his crew together and asked that i start to write down a list of ideas for shots for the video. so i took an evening, put the song on repeat and worked on shot ideas that i felt would embellish the music visually and give the production a quality that had some level of character. you know, above and beyond what you usually get with these things.
we then booked a studio in green point, brooklyn and alessandro flew out from LA. the next day we hit the ground running.
matt and his gaffer / assistant craig ward had pulled together some fantastic elements, including a wild array of lighting options and a carpenter to build a small but unusually surfaced stage for alessandro to perform on. we then painted everything else in the room black and setup our dolly / tracking rig. so far everything was going well, heck there were even 2 cats wandering around the studio which proved more than enough to keep alessandro entertained between takes.
the only sad moment was when the two vintage television sets that alessandro had used for his live performances in LA arrived via post all cracked and broken inside their box. we tried our best to make them work, but it wasn’t happening.
pushing on we proceeded to do take after take of alessandro performing the song from every angle we could, taking care to include shots with him not on the stage too for some fun and games later in the editing room. it was a pretty intense process but the footage was clearly looking solid from the outset. plus the more the song got played over the studio speakers the more everyone involved started to dance a bit too, and dancing never hurt anyone.
the shoot ended pretty late into the night and the studio owner offered to keep our stage setup for some cabaret / performance art style shoot he had going on later, involving strippers and wild animals. i could have mis-remembered that though. we then headed back to matt’s apartment for the wrap-party and alessandro headed back to LA the next day.
a week or two later the intense process of editing began. matt went through the footage and started pulling together the best stuff from the vast array of material we had. soon after that he was putting together a great rough cut of things and sent this to me so that i could cut together the teaser clip that went live a couple weeks ago. he then did another cut and passed it over to me again. we agreed that what there was already felt good and exciting, but tended to get a little tiring after a while, as it all had a very similar tone. so we consciously divided the song up into 4-5 parts and attempted to address each section with a different mindset, in terms of editing. i was then left to re-imagine the intro to the video and the electronic breakdown after the verses and choruses – the part with all the ‘oh oh ohs’. sending this back to matt lead us to more talks, further edits and the delivery of the first rough cut to alessandro.
alessandro was very excited by what we gave him and made a series of notes regarding various tonal changes he was after and what he felt, due to the nature of where his head was at with the song, needed adjusting in terms of shots used for certain lyrics. in this way several cuts were sent back and forth between new york and los angeles and then just last sunday we got a thumbs up from alessandro. matt then sat down and worked his magic on the footage, grading it to give it the warm, grainy, contrasty feel you see in the final cut. it was that final lick of varnish that properly started to give us the shivers. the thing was done, we were flat out of time and there was nothing we could do but send it off.
none of us could be happier with the response to the video. you just never know if you’re going insane in that editing suite. many days in the dark with breaks at strange hours for food or beer, and then back into the darkness. hearing the song a thousand times over to the point where it’s just noises and everything in your head is tied to its ebb and flow. it gets a bit bewildering. so much so that at one point we did an edit of the video laced with eerie footage of cats that we’d shot at matt’s girlfriend’s apartment nearby. inspired as we were by the cats that had been on set throughout the shoot, and often leapt onto the stage right into the shot. of course the ‘cat cut’ really didn’t work but we felt we had to try everything just to be sure, haha. ?so yeah, thanks and thanks again.
the sonoio project is going from strength to strength at this point and we’re very fortunate and grateful to be a part of it.
if you’ve ever heard their cover of cheap trick’s song he’s a whore, you’ll know that both big black delta and war widow are bands to keep an eye on. both new, both from LA and both with singers called jon. now whilst we’ve been working with big black delta for some time now, war widow are pretty new to us. both bands share the same record label – coming home records – who have handled not just releases from a large amount of nine inch nails alumni, but of course also the magnificent mellowdrone. it was through coming home records that we got wind of some of the new tracks by war widow. the label’s boss erik andrews posted a couple of tracks on soundcloud one morning and i joined the others on twitter who follow the label’s feed, and gave them a listen over a hot cup of coffee.
tear it up (above) is the track that immediately grabbed me. the first thing that struck me was the dirgey feel of it. then when the dark + seedy lyrics filled my ears i started getting a range of very particular images dancing around in my brain. so i immediately looked to see if any artwork had been announced for this release. sure enough they had a record cover on their website. it was of a cat snarling. rich colours. very vibrant. it was tough, but it didn’t seem to mesh with the music i was hearing. so i quickly fired off an email to erik and asked if the artwork had been printed yet. he said it hadn’t. i then started ripping through various photographs i had lying around on hard drives and bookmarked on various sites, trying to find things that seemed to fit the music. i then put together a few designs using the bands logo and some of these images, and fired it off as quick as i could to erik. he amazingly passed them right onto the band and just moments later i got news that they were into trying a new cover and wanted to know what else we had up our sleeves.
i then emailed two people. first my friend?matt sundin, who took the photographs for the 65daysofstatic album cover,?we were exploding anyway. i briefed him quickly on the sorta images i was after and asked him if he had anything lying around. i then reached out across oceans into distant lands i’d never set foot in and contacted a ukrainian photographer who’s flickr account i’d been obsessed with for some time now. i felt his photos were utterly perfect for this and had in fact used some of them in the initial comps i sent to the band. this guy’s name is alex alekseenko, and you can see more of his work here.
knowing both would need some time i then told the band i’d need a day or so to pull things together and if they could hold off the printing presses for a moment, it’d be worth their while. they were cool with this.
the next morning i was elated to find an email from alex in my inbox. turns out he was 100% down with us using one of his photos for a record cover, particularly for a rock band. he himself was a collector of many records and was very excited at the prospect of having some of his work used in such a fashion. similarly matt also got back to me with a few shots of his own that he felt stepped into the murky conceptual arena i was after with this.
the images then started to speak for themselves. certain images coupled very well with others and those that didn’t lead me to ask if they could delve deeper – send me anything. i wanted them to send me the stuff they might even be scared to send through, because of the content of them. needless to say but we were all excited and definitely beginning to get that feeling again. that feeling that made you remember why you do this damn thing for a living.
pretty soon it was done. round 2 was off to the band and we were checking our emails regularly for anything back from them.
the band got back to us after a few days. they’d made a decision. they wanted the image you see above for the cover, and the image you see below for the backcover. we then started about ‘finishing up’ the design, which of course involved making it feel like you’d find the record in the damp corner of someone’s basement in the middle of nowhere.
if you’re into hearing the record, needless to say we highly recommend it. it will be out on 12 inch vinyl and was produced by none other than jonathan bates of big black delta. you can grab another song from the record from the band’s site here, or from the label’s site here.
we hope you enjoy it and that the artwork in some way helps you get deeper into the music.
those who know 65daysofstatic will see this shift from a world-touring, 4-piece rock band into stage and screen soundtrack composers as unsurprising. their music has always been predominantly instrumental, cinematic and tonally complex. for those of you who still haven’t listened to a 65 LP, you’re probably falling behind. in the next few years it’s highly possible that they’ll be scoring the sort of films that we’ll all be checking out at the local art cinema. not that we have some inside scoop here, but why not assume as much? all power to them.
the above poster is one of 4 differing designs we produced for the band. the aim was to give their fans a memento of the unique experience to be had up at the glasgow film festival this weekend. the poster itself it was also produced in a weekend – one that started with watching silent running in bed on a saturday morning, and ended with a very sore back, blood-shot eyes and a wry smile on the face of the designer the following sunday evening. it’s been printed A3-size with a silk-matte finish and it’s very limited edition. heck, we might not even get a copy ourselves. those great few of you who made the trek to the highlands however, we hope it’s worthy enough of the experience you’ve had.
65daysofstatic.com is one of those sites where the work on it is continuous and so we’re never sure when to stop for a second and make a record of our progress. fans of the band will know that major redevelopments began back with the release of their last full length studio album, and that it’s taken on 2-3 guises since then.
based primarily around the original wordpress foundations that the band laid themselves back with the release of one time for all time (their second studio album), the open-ended nature of that fantastic (and free) platform has meant we can keep reskinning, redesigning and evolving the site whilst keeping the core database.
the latest version of the 65 site is more of a hub that incorporates not only their blog, tour dates and forum, but also their twitter, flickr, soundcloud and vimeo feeds. the design is of course based around their new album’s rather?fotografik aesthetic and was intended to allow the band a freedom from making multiple updates across their various outlets, and give fans a one stop shop for all information about the band.
in other news, with the japanese heavy sky EP tour on the horizon and a special edition of the EP in the works, we got talking to the band about a possible variation on the established cover design. after some deliberation we agreed that a design that felt more in sync with the japanese release of their single?weak4 would be appropriate. keen to explore that release’s more geometric artwork styling, we set about developing a design that echoed the original EP photography whilst exploring the implications of the EP’s title further. the resulting cover (above) was inspired in part by a series of early drawings and paintings by the artist thomas newbolt.
65daysofstatic’sheavy sky EP pretty much has to be heard to be believed. it’s a collection of songs that for one reason or another just didn’t make the cut for we were exploding anyway, their last album. perhaps its most intriguing quality is its slightly erratic nature, in terms of sounds and styles. in and of itself this is nothing new for an EP, however when it arrives after an LP in this fashion, it offers an exciting insight into the band’s thought process when they made that album – sonic directions that for one reason or another they didn’t pursue.
therefore our task this time around was to create a sleeve that echoed the artwork of the album, but that had a more abstracted, less direct narrative. as such we kept the same design template as before, but looked into an entirely different style of photography. one that was more transient, and that focussed more on mood and ambience.
after sifting through 50 odd photographs we’d taken that echoed this sentiment, we put together a sleeve design that had this texas chainsaw massacre / halloween type vibe about the setting. which isn’t to say it was about horror, but looking at it now it certainly has a darker, almost voyeuristic tone to its domestic leanings. a tone that is of course balanced by the record’s title and the warm, evening glow that permeates through each photograph.
you can download a track from the EP for free here:
we were recently asked to write an article about the artwork we created for 65daysofstatic’s new album, we were exploding anyway. the article has been included as part of a ‘takeover’ over on drowned in sound this week.
it’s not often we get to talk openly and at length about some of the inspiring relationships we’ve built with some of our collaborators. furthermore to be given this chance and to have everything we said posted up, unedited, was something we’re very grateful for.
we hope you enjoy the article. you can read it here.