Utah band, Desert Noises contacted me after a brief encounter at a music festival in Denver. I was super excited to get their phone call as I'd been loving their music for quite some time. The original plan for their album art was a bit of an homage to Georges Méliés (the amazing film maker from late 1800's early 1900's). I had built up a large set of hundreds of hand cut out stars and giant black backdrops. I had huge polyfill clouds and a wonderful model. The idea was a man floating in space drilling a hole through the universe. However, after the shoot, we all decided that the photos didn't depict the model as "lost" enough in space. Given the time frame that we had to put out the album art, we had to go with a second idea.
This second idea consisted of taking hundreds of iPhone pictures supplied by the band and collaging them together to tell a story. I threw in some scans of old film photos I had around and a bunch of animal stock I had gathered at numerous times through the years, and viola! we had some cool looking art!
Each piece has a playful element while still holding a heavier meaning about being a touring musician nowadays. My great friend (and fellow designer) Greg Carr, says it best; "It's like driving through Iowa. There are so many corn fields. Just millions of little yellow cobs trying to get your attention as you drive by." As a touring musician, it's becoming increasingly harder and harder to make a difference as your voice is lost in the sea of music. However, when a great band like this comes along, I have no doubt that everyone that hears Desert Noises will be overwrought with the feeling of joy and power that this wonderful traveling band carries with them.
Rated #4 Best Album Cover For 2013! - Westword (see bottom)
The Outfit kicks ass. Hungry, tough, rock n roll. They're awesome to be around, and I feel like everyone wants to have a chance to snag a drink with these boys. I've worked with The Outfit several times after this album on live concert shoots, including their awesome debut at Red Rocks in Morrison, CO.
We wanted something equally young and hungry for their cover. As the record was harkening back to High School with "Cool Kids," we thought it all needed to stay kind of light with a clear statement. I opted to do their portraits as double exposures with animals they had chosen that best represented themselves. Going with the animal theme, we thought it would be great to shove an elephant in an apartment complex to illustrate the cliché of the elephant in the room. Each band member has their own story in the cover. It kind of feels like an awkward high school party with Where's Waldo.
Kind words from the Westword about this design –
"4. The Outfit | Tough Kids
Scott McCormick's artwork has graced many a local album cover at this point and he brings his gift for creating otherworldly imagery grounded in a dreamlike reality for this cover. There is literally an elephant in the room being ignored by the humans. It even has a glowing orb on his forehead like a symbol of divine wisdom much like Eric Johnston's surprisingly illuminating lyrics couched in pop songs."
I've been lucky enough that most of my clients have become great friends. Faceman is now one of my great friends and it was this project's fault. We've done many other massive endeavors together since - see "Wild and Hunting" video here.
His music has an element of whimsical carelessness that I've always loved in musicians like Deer Tick, and the late Lou Reed. Combined with a sense of altered rock n' roll, Faceman produces some of the newest sounds I've heard in a long time. For the album art, I really wanted to show some of the struggle that Steve (Faceman) goes through when writing songs and performing.
When the band started out, Faceman would play behind a large metal head casing that would project movies on the wall and hide his face. This was due to a massive case of stage fright. I feel like whenever I talk to Faceman about new songs or performing, he's going through a massive internal struggle figuring out if it's even worth putting out into the world. While I think it's AMAZING stuff, I totally know that thought process. It feels like you're always just beating yourself up....hence this artwork. We all feel like we're questioning what we're doing at one point or another. That feeling combined with the title "Talk Talk Talk," led to artwork based around an internal interrogation sequence.
Glowing House has a wonderfully unique and soft, yet powerful sound. The folks in this band are equally kind, genuine, giving, humble, and driven. Their music is accessible and truly wonderful.
For their album art I went out though the entire state of Colorado to multiple towns and got 53 photos to cut out and stick together. I wanted to make sure I didn't have to do much in the way of shadows on photoshop and wanted to get lighting and sections as natural as I could for the project, so it meant going out around the same time every day for about a month to gather the photos. There was a killer abandoned mine outside Idaho Springs, CO that became the foundation of the image. Walking down a frozen, slick, wintery mountainside with busted shoes to grab the photo was certainly an experience...
This "Glowing House" gives a feeling of loneliness with a dark, writhing beauty from the smoke. The album features true talent and brilliant songwriting. With a hovering fog of lush sounds, moments can stir in or break through and thus create a dynamic, powerful range of feel making Glowing House a true musical gem.
Rossonian gets their name from a historical hotel in Five Points in Denver. The hotel has a great story revolving around being the only hotel that would house black musicians in the 40's and 50's. When legendary jazz musicians would tour through town, the Rossonian was the only place they could stay, so the hotel had an amazing reputation.
Through this, I wanted to do something organic and welcoming with a hint of structure. I remembered these amazing paintings by Jeremy Geddes, and I wanted to take from that style and look at it from a different light. The structural and yet freeing quality of a spaceman was a perfect allegory for Rossonian's music. Floating and yet full of form. The umbilical cord of the astronaut was to ground it a bit more in an organic space instead of just floating aimlessly through a wonderment of stars. I wanted this to have a place to live inside a quasi-womb.
Rossonian was GREAT to work with! We built this space suit on the cheap, gathering materials for about three weeks to try to get it perfect. My great friend Forrest Morrison did a majority of the building, and modeled the suit in our living room with fog machines in a house that was well over 100 degrees. Poor guy had to wear a full parka, a helmet made of heat-trapping material, and snow pants to puff out the suit. We only took 5 photos and drank a lot of water.
Strange Americans are awesome. Just awesome. Some of the nicest dudes I've ever met with an unbelievable sound. They all can play. They all can sing. They all can hang. And, their writing is damn good. Those boys are true talent through and through..and they're humble to boot.
That Kind Of Luster - 2014
The second album I've done with these wonderful guys (see below for the previous record info). We took two months and ACTUALLY made lightning! It took 450,000 volts, MANY hours, special gloves, a hand built miniature model, and a lot of dumb courage. We (in short) created a Marx Generator and ramped up the voltage from two CRT monitors (old computer monitors - the big guys). We then put two brass pieces about 7" apart and BAM! DC lightning, baby! What a fun album to make! I gotta tell ya, I really really like working with these dudes. I'm stoked for future ventures.
A Royal Battle - 2012
Working with them was such a giant pleasure. We got pretty wild with ideas and finally settled on a simple approach for their cover. We used Denver famous band manager, Mark Bleisener for the shot to show a truly Strange American. I wanted "A Royal Battle," to not be horribly literal and more of an internal struggle. We went through ideas like; playing chess with yourself, being a chess board (see blog photo) , struggles of working together, struggles of leaving, etc. But, all in all, I believe simplicity (as always) was the best route for a powerful image.
Boulder Acoustic Society has sort of a rough-and-tumble folk sound. Armed with top notched musicians and a ton of energy, the band always teetered on the cusp of being über dark in delivery and bright in presence. Through that, I wanted to grab kind of an old horror movie green for their shots and surround all of their art in a surreal idealism.
The cover image is the drummer, Scott Aller. I had a thought for about a year of making makeshift wings for someone to wear and putting them on top of a mountain or top of a building. I always loved the concept of shooting a hero about to dive from the highest height to save a town or person or whatever. He'd have obviously broken and worthless wings that can't even save himself after he jumps. There's something in that kind of dedication to an idea. Boulder Acoustic Society always seemed to have that kind of faith in their product. Like, even if their wings were torn and battered, they'd still have hope in delivery and dive with the utmost power to try to deliver it.
Finnders & Youngberg are an AMAZING bluegrass band from Ft. Collins, Colorado. Absolutely gorgeous voices, immaculate playing, wonderful uplifting lyrics, and personalities that could warm the coldest hearts. I feel so honored to know these fine folks, and I'm lucky to have worked with them on such a powerful record.
Due to the genuine quality of the music and pure intimacy from a gorgeous sound recording (Aaron Youngberg - swingfingers studio), I decided I wanted to shoot everything with film. The title, "I Don't Want Love You Won't Give Until I Cry," made me drive towards a warm feeling of lost love. We chose several articles of depression that best represented how simple it is to fall in love with the little things about a person. We chose left over clothing, a ring, a simple tea cup, a camera, a record player and records, and a bottle of wine. We then gave the objects an intimate feeling and background story through simple polaroid photos.
I get hired to do a lot of events; whether it be music festivals, weddings, or birthday parties, I feel like I'm always in the presence of people and the madness that we all embody.
Here's a few images from the lonelier standpoint of an event. These are moments that I tend to cherish in my own life; the moments where I can finally exist in my own world for a bit. So, here's a nice quiet break from all the yelling. +S