Coachella 2017: Behind the Scenes with Album Art Designers
In less than two decades Coachella has come to dominate the music festival landscape. But behind every great band is great album art. Album art represents a meeting of music and design that can create captivating results. We sat down with some of the designers whose album art will be featured this year on posters and merchandise at Coachella to learn more about the inspiration behind their designs.
Tacocat takes on Coachella culture
For Tacocat, the key to great album art is collaboration.“We threw around a lot of ideas for Lost Time,” says band member Emily Nokes. “But in the end the focus landed on Kit Cat clocks — those little cat clocks with the moving eyes and tails.”
Emily had grown up with one of the clocks in her kitchen, and her bandmates were more than familiar. “We sat down and had everyone create their own versions of a Kit Cat clock. We made tons of them, and they became the album cover. It’s fun to have people guess which ones they think were made by which bandmate.”
For Tacocat, designing album art is very natural and very seamless. They’re simply, “making something we like to look at,” Emily explains, “and not necessarily trying too hard to tie the art and music together, because they naturally do that anyway. We’re making both of them from scratch.”
At the end of the day, it’s platforms like Coachella that encourage these creative convergences, something that’s central to Tacocat and to their fans. “Our music and art is an extension of us as people,” Emily adds. “People who have a specific sense of humor and sense of style that translates to everything we do.”
Creating, collaborating and curating with Warpaint
Mia Kirby, designer for Warpaint’s latest album Heads Up, has always loved working with fellow creatives. “Working with artists and musicians is my favorite thing to do,” she says. “I think most of the people I’ve worked with trust me to understand what they’re looking for, or trust me to bring something else to the table that they haven’t seen or thought of.”
Emily says she wants her album art to be eye catching, not too obvious, but also not too abstract. “Mainly I want the band to feel that the album package matches how they were feeling creatively with the music.”
Creating a finished product that works for everyone involved can be a challenge, but Mia says the result is worth the effort. “I truly like to bounce ideas back and forth with the band,” she adds. “I do care deeply about what each band member thinks and feels. Warpaint consists of four different girls with different opinions who are all creative. At times you can kind of feel like you’re losing the plot by going back and forth with each individual, but eventually, we always end up agreeing and happy with the result.”
Chicano Batman fights for freedom & self-expression
As Chicano Batman’s album designer Allah-las was deciphering the sometimes-haunting messages behind Freedom is Free, he started to see a pattern. “For me everything has the same meaning underneath all of the layers,” he explains. “We, like everything else, are cosmic beings. We are infinite like nature itself.”
Allah-las believes often we aren’t using those innate powers for good. “We’ve created havoc on this planet,” he adds. “We commit genocide all over the world in the name of freedom.”
Through his artwork for Freedom is Free, Allah-las hopes to shine light on this global downturn. “The point of the piece, is that we are already free, and the status quo as we know it is what’s really suppressing us and all other plant and animal life on this planet.”
Allah-las describes his album cover as, “a tapestry of love that contains the gruesome realities of our present human condition.” It leverages everything from hand drawings to books to Adobe Photoshop to bring the tapestry pieces together. His hope is that we “bring our world back to harmony with itself.”
Leaving something to the imagination for Bonobo
Designer Neil Krug sat down with Bonobo in LA and, almost immediately, the album cover began to take shape. Bonobo’s advice to Neil: Make it beautiful but sinister. “He was really clear about what he had in mind, and I immediately knew what to do,” says Neil.
Those words clearly resonated with Neil’s own creative journey. “I just went in that direction and tapped into those things in my mind and composed the scenes,” he explains. “I tried not to be too heavy handed with it, to leave a little bit of ambiguousness so that people can read whatever they want to read into it. I don’t necessarily need to spell everything out for the viewer.”
That, he believes, creates the best multi-platform experience. “I think it is more fun,” Neil says. “I personally like it when whoever is the maker of the work leaves a little bit for me to get into and figure out. Maybe it is just my own interpretation of it and the way it makes me feel is all that is meant to be felt.” To Neil, that’s the modern art of it all — and that’s exactly what his Bonobo cover delivers.