Excuse my absence. There’s been a lot of work lately, which in theory is good, but it means less time to post. Plus I’ve been avoiding making this particular post for a while now because I knew I would end up getting pretty in-depth with it, but the list of stuff I want to show you is wracking up, so I figured I best just get down to it. This was initially going to be one long post, but I figured I’d break it into a couple. So, grab a cup of coffee or whatever and settle in for a good long read. Or just skip ahead and look at the nice pictures and make up your own story. That’s totally fine by me.
My rock band The Felix Culpa took a good two years to write and record our latest album, “Sever Your Roots”, which in turn gave me way too much time to overthink, unthink and rethink the concepts for the album art. I ended up collecting hundreds upon hundreds of images of type treatments and photographs that I wanted to feed into the creative process, and when it came down to it, the artwork was an amalgam of some of that inspiration but also some good old fashioned spur of the moment happenstance.
First off, I wanted the album art to be cold, intriguing and kinda random. I wasn’t so much concerned with making something that was “totally cool!” as I was finding imagery that was interesting, and since it was my own band’s project I had the freedom to attempt to create something that was thought provoking rather than merely palatable. I was totally ok with people saying “I’m not sure if I like this” as long as it stuck in their heads after seeing it.
That brings us to my first concept which was to take a picture of the band standing in the middle of a swamp at daybreak:
I don’t know where this idea came from really, it was just an image that I wanted to capture. So, I somehow convinced my band and a photography crew (photographer and band wife Andrea Coan, assisted by Twan Huynh and Nabeel Shaikh) to trek out into the middle of a swampy nature preserve owned by some good friends of the family at 5:00 am on the 1st of December… in Wisconsin. It was very. very. cold. But, regardless everyone was in high spirits and willing to make it happen.
Since this was my grand idea, I only thought it fair that I be the one to strap on the hip-waders and risk drowning in an attempt to locate a place in the middle of the water that had adequate footing for the band to stand on. But upon closer inspection, we found that the swamp had shallow banks which immediately turned into a steep 15+ foot drop into a quicksand like silt floor. I was almost swallowed into the water a couple times while figuring this out, by torch light in the pitch black no less.
It turned out that in order to find a place that we could actually stand, we had to create one. We found a relatively narrow part of the swamp (dubbed the frog pond) and actually made a “floor”. What you can’t see under us in the picture are planks of wood and large pieces of cardboard placed along a submerged ladder that was precariously balanced on the opposite shores. This pond was actually about 6 to 7 feet deep but it was impossible to tell exactly how deep because the makeshift floor kept sinking wherever you’d stand on it. As each band member came out into the water, it sunk a little further. I’m not going to lie. It got scary.
After securing a “floor”, we got everyone else got into position. Since I couldn’t remove the hip-waders, I had to simply pull them down below water level (I’m actually still wearing them in the picture). Dre snapped about 5 minutes worth of pictures right as the sun came up, leaving us just enough time to retreat before we lost complete feeling to our lower halves. I’m not going to say it was an all together pleasant experience, but the image came out almost exactly like my initial sketches, so that’s gotta be worth something.
Next on the docket, build a seven foot tall creature out of darkness and scribbles:
We nicknamed him Grand Champion. He was constructed by myself, band mate Joel and photographer Andrea using chicken wire that we spray painted black and then wrapped in 1500 feet of black bailing twine. He took almost an entire day to build. Here he is in mid-construction.
The plan was to have him photographed in various wooded areas as if he had just stepped out of the trees. We took a variety of pictures featuring him propped up in different places, but ultimately we ended up placing him back in the same exact swamp the band stood in, only this time at night fall, tying in the imagery just a little.
Here’s me positioning him in the swamp, again wearing the hip-waders:
The initial idea was to place LED lights in his head for eyes, but we actually ran out of daylight before we had to just go ahead and shoot, so unfortunately the eyes had to be added digitally in post using good old Photoshop. The yellow light that you see coming across the back of these photos was actually Joel’s car headlights. Tricks of the trade, kids. Tricks of the trade.
The final image made for a great 12″ LP cover, and in turn became the “unofficial” digital cover. It’s by no means a typically “prefect” image, but that’s what I love about it. I wanted it to feel more like a snapshot of a mythical creature spotting than a staged portrait for a cover shoot. I wanted it to be imperfect and weird, for better or worse, and overall memorable.
Here’s a picture of the entire double LP package, complete with clear/black swirled vinyl and hand silkscreened dust sleeve. Pretty swank.
And of course if you’re at all interested, you can pick up your very own copy of the double LP through Youth Conspiracy Records. Thanks!
You can also read about the making of the CD packaging.