I’ve been working with Trwbador for a few years now, and when they asked if I’d design a 7 inch cover for their new single ‘Breakthrough’ I jumped at the chance.
I have been working with overlapped geometric forms for a while, it’s something I enjoy working with, and this also informed elements of the debut Trwbador cover.
Wanting to develop these themes further, I layered stepped geometric triangle / diamond / hexagonal shapes. Initially keeping these stark and coloured, I then then masked the shapes around photographic elements. The angle of the hexagon-to-triangles give some sense of movement and the photos literally ‘break through’ these shapes. As a finishing touch, I included some scribble drawings from my 2 year old niece (I’ve wanted to include them in some work since she could hold a pencil). The Song is about taking in the world and streets of everyday passing life, amplifying the small and mundane to see the magic that’s all around us (at least that’s what I’ve gleaned from the lyrics!).
The electro-folk-rave duo Trwbador recently asked if I’d like to make a video to accompany their new single ‘Breakthrough’
Owain asked if it could follow the design of the 7 inch single cover, which seemed like an exciting challenge. The 7 inch sleeve uses images from a multitude of sources – 35mm, digital SLR, phone camera and digital harinezumi. I’d have to gather similar footage, but ideally all from one source, so I set out with my DSLR filming aspects of urban life, with special mention for small bursts of nature and macro details. I wanted to keep the footage quite raw, to make no apology for it’s ‘video’ quality (rather than over-grade and make it feel more like film). The shapes from the cover take the form of simple animated masks. Initially seeming like simple video wipes and transitions, somewhat reminiscent of a 1980’s daytime BBC2 school documentary, building up to a multi-layered collage at the songs’ finale.
Rather than focus the animation and movements on the songs’ beats and rhythm as I do for Trwbador’s live visuals, I wanted to take it in a more unexpected route and follow the underlying synth patterns, breaking the pace slightly for the chorus and breakdowns. Finally, I blended in animated loops of my niece’s scribbling endeavors, pulsating them according to the song volume.
(please make sure it’s on HD setting before viewing)
It’s that time of year again when sweaty palmed music lovers get up one morning and queue up at their local record shop to spend lots of money on ‘rare’ pieces of fragile plastic. Yup – Record Store Day is happening on April the 19th 2014. As part of this national day of independent music love, a concurrent event called Secret 7″ takes place, a blind auction takes place with the proceeds going to charity for 700 one off pieces of Seven inch sleeve artwork with a selected track inside. The Artists and designers are a mix of invited famous names and those who happen to submit their own entries. Surprisingly, I wasn’t one of the invited artists, but I thought I’d give it crack anyway.
There are 7 tracks to choose from to create artwork for (each one is pressed 100 times). I went for Massive Attack’s Karmacoma as my choice, and eagerly began my design.
I had recently been doing some geometric line designs for the ‘Octa’ event in February, so I wanted to carry on with that flavour, and a single cover seemed a perfect excuse.
As the cover was to be a one off, I felt it would be fitting to screen print it – printing being a means to mass reproduction, so a single print seemed a poetic way of creating it.
Taking my design to the PrintHaus in Cardiff, I printed out the deisgn onto acetate, making sure it was the right size for the sleeve. It was, Just.
Next the design was burned into a freshly reclaimed screen. A few minutes in the exposure unit…
…and it’s done! (bar cleaning off the excess emulsion)
A test print needed to be done onto a fixed sheet of plastic to help aid the ‘registration’. As it was a one chance only situation to get it right, I had to make sure it lined up.
I printed out a couple onto paper for safe keeping / framing and gifting. The annoying thing was these came out pretty well. My single use 7 inch sleeve wasn’t the best pull, and lost a bit of quality in one of the corners. Note for next time – GET SPARES!
Anyway – the process was rolling, and I felt the cover needed a little something extra.
It might be that I had been swayed by my easy listening at the time so I decided to glam it up a touch. Discovering that fine line glue pens exist, I went to town. A sober onlooker would have advised I quit while ahead, but I had a vision dammit, and that vision was golden and sparkly.
Almost there, I needed to add a frame. The rules state that the track title and artist should not be included on the design, but I thought it would be a nice touch to include, but obscure them – The final owner of the sleeve could then remove the ‘frame’ and have the finished artwork.
Ta Da! All done.
I posted it off before catching a flight to Texas, reasonably pleased with my glitzy tasteless sleeve.
sadly, I was not accepted to the final selection, which can be seen here
I got back into the British music embassy a bit later than expected (it’s taking me a lot longer to get places than I think it should) but just in time to meet a Canadian publicist and Australian design agency director at a speed networking event. 2pm quickly comes around and the venue is packed for Gulp’s first SXSW show – for the fist gig of the day, it packs a punch with some great sound engineering in the mix. My visuals run as expected and initial feedback seems positive. Gulp’s new label manager asks if they can be put on a memory stick; sorry they can’t. A part of me was hoping she’d ask me along for the LA gig the band are heading to next week, but no such luck (one day!)
I spent a few hours that afternoon in the convention centre taking in ‘flatstock’ the annual gig poster exhibition. This is a collection of a who’s who of poster artists and designers with the big names of current poster design such as Methane studios and DKNG sat at booths hawking prints, stickers and t-shirts. I picked up a small print for burning red and got lost amongst the swathes of A2 papers and smell of acrylic ink. Admittedly much of the work almost blends into one – there is undeniably a ‘gig poster style’ which is exciting at first but does begin to feel a little generic. There were a handful of studios making some genuinely fresh work, and these really do stand out – however particular names right now escape me. I added to my business card collection (I’ve got a rather large pile which will need some serious sorting when home) and after a quick visit to south of the river on congress it was time to drop my gear off at the hideout theatre ready for the night’s gig and met the band for a pizza and glass of wine. Having a pre-show coffee in the coffee shop at the front of the venue, the familiar faces of the Cardiff bands turned up – gruff, sweet baboo, Mr. Hawkline and Cate le bon all in the house. At least there’d be an audience!
It seems that the midnight hour wasn’t in tune with the gulp party. Gwion had to improv a drum kit without toms, Gid’s guitar didn’t have the sound he was looking for, a synth went wonky and half way through the set, I think the wound engineer accidental nudged the space that’s projector had been balancing on, sending it tumbling. I got it back up and running to a degree for the last few numbers but it did put a dampner ony last evening in Texas and the climax of why I was there. But hey – for all intents and purposes the show was a success and after bidding everyone goodbye I got back on the night owl bus out East for the last time.
SXSW Day 5. Late Pancakes, Springs and Welsh Music in a church
I’m hoping that my body clock and sleeping patterns are so thrown up and sideways right now, that when I get back to the UK, I’ll sleep so well I’ll be right as rain for work Monday morning. Stranger things have happened. Which is how I had a 2pm breakfast (despite waking at 9am) in the Kerbey lane cafe, a typically Austin take on the American diner – all fresh juice, responsibly farmed produce and tacos on the menu along aside French toast and burgers. I was proper stuffed after my short stack of buttermilk pancakes 🙂
Checking out the Guadalupe road area around the university campus, I found a few decent thrift stores and an arcade bar playing punk rock in amongst the coin-ops. Seeing as I’d had a 2 o’clock breakfast I headed south to take in some of the south of the river vibes at Barton springs — a natural spring that is open for a short period every year for the public to swim in. Unfortunately the pool was shut for cleaning, but there was an area a little along that had people paddling and soaking up the sun. Feet all refreshed, I had to get downtown to get some music in me. I wanted to catch up with gulp and some of the contingent Cymraeg, so I went along to the turnstile records party at the st. David’s epistle church. It is a bit odd going all the way to Texas and hang out having a drink with a room full of people from wales, but it was a good night. Gruff Rhys played a lovely set accompanied by kliph Scurlock on drums, and Cate le Bon blew me away, despite having seen her a number of times – the sound and energy the band produced was great.
SXSW Day 4. Mary, Meetings, Cameras, Fans & Tradegy
South by takes over this town, for good and not. It clearly brings an overwhelming focus and celebration of creativity to the town and generates a huge level of excitement and revenue, but also it seems a strain on the area and it’s resources.
Initially I couldn’t make it to town for a networking breakfast due to my bus running almost half an hour late (I was running late anyway) and I just about managed to make it to the convention centre for 11.30 where I was due to meet the band I’m tagging along the coat tails of, Gulp in order to pick up my music wristband. It turned out I could pick it up on my own, as as they were running late, was just as well. Without any coffee or breakfast and rather tired from however many nights little sleep it’s been now I walked past Jarvis Cocker who looked like he’d just arrived – of course I recognise him so I gave a friendly nod, smile and hello. A momentary glimmer or recognition from him faded into a confused scowl. I forgot his doesn’t know me. (but he’d probably like to).
I got to the dregs of the network breakfast and freeloaded on coffee, croissants and the strongest bloody Mary I’ve ever had (these Texans do like to free pour). A coffee shop meeting also failed to happen, so I spent the time drinking a cappuccino skyping with my wife.
At a bit of a loss, and deciding to save music for the evenings, I went to the Charles Long exhibition at the Contemporary Austin. I place of solace away from the crowds and a space to consider the impact humans are having on the planet due to our greed. An ode to Catalin – an early toxic forerunner to plastic and how our hunger for cheap and ‘safe’ substitutes has lead to the slow destruction of the ocean and our need for air conditioning and a comfortable life errodes the ice caps. There’s nothing subtle about this show, but that’s probably a good thing, and the 3D ‘datamapped’ iceberg sculptures have an ephemeral delicate beauty about them that certainly helped to centre me ready for main Congress. Towards the West or downtown, I took snaps of the area and visited Book People, local bookshop who’s had a who’s who of visitors from Simon Pegg to Timothy Leary (their photographs adorn a celebrity wall). I read a book on some interesting sketching techniques which gave me a little inspiration to get drawing (one of my personal aims of being here) . It’s not a library, so after browsing for a good hour , I bought a postcard, some chocolate and left. I LOVE American indie bookshops, well any bookshop really, I could spend all day in them browsing and feeling rejuvenated by the wealth of ideas, cover designs and knowledge (even if I’m terrible at actually getting to read of the bloody things once I buy them)
Across the road was Waterloo Records, one of the larger records shops – not first on my list as I was holding out for a smaller place, but I went in anyway, as one doe and left with a few cheap second hands: A Willie Nelson (I’m in his town afterall), A solo Todd Rundgren, and the new St Vincent album. I had a fantastical vision that if I did, somehow I’d actually get into the gig tonight and she’d be happy to sign it for me.
Another juice later (it’s all I seem to be eating and drinking here as I’ve lost my appetite in the heat, travel and sleep dysfunction) and I went into Hut’s Hamburgers, an old style joint from the 30’s with authentically delicious grass fed Longhorn burgers to match. Nothing mind blowing, but how I imagine a very good all American burger should be, with fries that have their skin on. Whilst eating I Met an LA PR agent who’s been doing SX since the 80’s. She’d had a few glasses of wine as it’s her day off, but we got on well and she insisted on walking me out to where she was heading. I drew my first band of the day, and headed to town.
The NPR showcase was tipped to be a good one, and some of the crew Cymraeg where at the venue. I discovered that they don’t allow ‘Cameras’ into the venue (more on my thoughts on this in a another post), and I pleaded and tried to work out a solution with the security and venue staff to let me in as I never take (digital) photos of bands these days, and how I was only out tonight to see St Vincent, but no. The man at the gate took a photo of me on his cameraphone and said I’d be able to jump the VIP queue if I came back after stashing it, which was really good of him. thanks to the sound engineer at the British Music Embassy, I stowed my cameras with him and heading back to Stubbs and saw Kelis then St Vincent play live. It was fantastic, despite the crowd taking lots of pictures with their cameraphones after being asked by the woman herself beforehand not to and afterwards I wandered backstage unhindered to see if she (St Vincent) would sign my record, but she was clearly upset about something and apologised before being hurried away by her people. I was the only person there, Vinyl and sharpie in hand, but no. Wandering lonely around 6th Street, a homeless tour guide told me where to get pancakes near my house and about the oldest jazz bar in town – literally underground called the Elephant, so called because they found a wooly Mammouth bone while building it. I wasn’t sure if I beleived him, but sure enough there it was after everyone else had dumped me. I sat at the quiet bar drinking a nightcap of local bourbon on the rocks and a Spanish Austinite told me about the best burger joints in town and some super local tips as well as where Willie Nelson was playing tomorrow.
On the bus home, we drove past a street of police cars where an hour earlier a drunk driver ploughed through a crowd killing 2 people and injuring dozens. A sobering end to the day.
So, although I intended to get an early night, I couldn’t get to sleep until 2 am then woke up again at 4 until finally passing out at about 7. I’m not used to insomnia and pulling myself out of bed at 11am was a struggle. I don’t normally get jet lag going back in time, but somehow the day has been more of a haze than Sunday. More migas and coffee on my morning amble took me to bannau’s coffee shop . So hip it hurt, but a good friendly hurt with old sofas and chipped crockery. Almost everyone was sat at their laptops or iPads, everyone. The complimentary power supplies hanging from the roof do encourage it though. My cappuccino was a bit disappointing but the pizza slice was darn good.
Again I walked to downtown with camera in hand soaking up the east side atmosphere and ended up in the empire club, a re-appropriated auto garage and went to a VJ meetup in the main dance floor. A handful of local beamers we’re taking about their techniques and I met Topher Sipes, a local media artist, born in Bedford, raised in Texas. He’s projecting for scrillex on Thursday night in the garage – so if I can’t get tickets to lady gaga playing in the BBQ next door (unlikely) I’ll try my hand there instead.
I met up with a friend from town who I met at a wedding in Italy last year (it’s a small world) for some margarita and tequila before he and his wife and friend had to get the ‘last’ train (at 6.30!) back up to the northern suburbs . Bleary eyed and a little legless I wandered the streets looking for my RSVP’d parties. I couldn’t get into he Wes Anderson talk and screening of Budapest hotel ( no surprise there) and I missed the party at the Jones centre contemporary gallery. Tired and disillusioned I west eastward where I’ve found the onion party in the Mohawk club. Chet faker on the decks and cymbals are out back. I thought I saw Donald Glover in the audience (it wasn’t) but it’d be fab to see him play this week. I’ve been told he’s doing an afternoon party on Wednesday, so I’ll try my luck if I remember. Now it’s bed time for reals.
After being woken by a bird (I presume) that sounded like a Guinea pig, and not being able to figure out how to use the coffee machine I headed out to explore the ‘hood. I picked up a coffee and a migas taco and walked west toward downtown via the Blanton museum of art. Housing a permanent exhibition of art from the Americas, the contemporary galleries displayed a refreshing Latin (and female) perspective on the rise of American abstract expressionism. The temporary exhibition was a retrospective of Eva Hesse and Sol Lewitt’s drawing experiments and how their relationship spurred each other on to challenge themselves. The musum’s main Atrium houses a commisioned permenant installation by Teresita Fernández made up of thousands of tiles of incandescent turquoise, giving the space an almost Mediterranean or Arabian feel.
A postcard later, I pushed on downtown to see if I could so some sxsw. The chaos of sixth street pushed me into the halcyon coffee shop for a recharging snack of Nutella crepe and an iced coffee before wandering about the ‘interactive’ trade show in the convention centre hall. I thankfully managed to pick up some free t shirts ( I didn’t bring enough) and some temporary NASA tattoos.
As the sum went down, I went to the river to watch the bats fly in and out from under the congress bridge. They squeak a lot.
Over the years, I’ve managed to build up a fair sized collection of things. Stemming from an innate inability to let go of ‘stuff’, I continuously fail to live the zen-like lifestyle I like to think I aspire to. whether it’s badges, retro games consoles (and every version of street fighter two I can find for anything I won that has a processor), pens, magazines and on the shelf above my desk at home, cameras. I haven’t set out to ‘collect’ cameras, and each one is relatively unique, be it from a historical perspective or practical use / medium or aesthetic. Most of the camera are in use and serve a particular function. Or if they don’t ‘they’ll be useful one day’… Here’s a list of (some) of my analogue 35mm and 120mm cameras. It’s all very hip right now to use ‘real’ film cameras, and I guess I’m typical of a breed of photographer clinging onto what may well be the last gasp of easily being able to shoot with film. There is a different discipline involved, and I recommend it to anyone who only thinks digitally when it comes to photography. There’s a different impetus on pushing that shutter button, as you know it has to count, and there’s no way of telling if a picture will be any good until it’s processed. I also believe that there’s a real physical quality to film based images, I don’t know if this is an imagined ‘false nostalgia’, but it’s almost as if there’s a spectrum of experience that defies current digital sensors in the same way that vinyl recordings hold audio frequencies either end the audible scale, I think that chemical photography includes a hidden spectrum that adds to it’s immediacy that can’t be faked with a retro filter.
Minolta Dynax 500si
My first ‘proper’ 35 mm SLR camera, which was a joint birthday / Xmas present when I first got interested in photography back in ’93. Although it might have been a bit overkill in terms or spec, it’s the camera I grew with and still used it fairly regularly until about 2007 when I inherited my first ‘D’SLR (a NIKON D70, which now belongs to my Dad). It’s still in good shape, despite the hand grip has discolored.
A Twin reflex medium format camera, similar to one reputedly once favoured by Dianne Arbus. Gifted to me in a semi functioning state, I’ve since shot a couple of rolls on it with pleasing results. it’s seen better days, and is a little temperamental, but once you get a clear shot from one of these things, nothing compares. wiki
Minolta Hi-Matic 7
After spending countless years gathering dust in my Father-in-law’s attic, I’m now the proud own of this wonderful little rangefinder. The quality of the lens is breathtaking in the right circumstances and the depth of field is fantastic. It has a rather peculiar focusing method, which doesn’t lend itself to super quick shooting, but as long as you’re not too precious when snapping with it, the results can be great. I tend to use this for people snaps, as I’m terrible at taking pictures of friends and family, but using this seems to take the pressure off, especially as I feel there’s an ‘immediacy of the moment’ that 35mm manages to capture, that can be too fleeting for the digital calculations of more modern photography. I’ve since seem a company that refurbished rangefinders like this to make them super fancy wiki
Another hand-me-down from a family friend who was about to list it on Ebay is quickly becoming my go-to camera when I don’t need the pin-point accuracy of my Nikon D7000. This is the only Canon camera in my rosta although I’ve gone through a few canon digital compacts, which I loved, but since owning a Nikon DSLR, the modern Canon’s never quite feel right in my hand. This analogue beauty doesn’t have this issue and I find shooting with it a consistent pleasure. wiki
LOMO Lubitel 166B
Picked up from a flea market a few years back, I only bought it because it was so cheap, and still with it’s original ‘Made in the USSR’ box and instructions. I’ve not shot anything with it as yet, but I’ve got a roll of 120 film in the fridge waiting to get exposed. wiki
This little compact got me back into using 35mm film in about 2004 after a good few years shooting with digital compacts. from the ‘shoot from the hip’ stable of LOMO cameras the novelty factor with this device is the flash, specifically the ‘colorsplash’ flash. a bit of fun, and adds a certain flourish to blurry toy camera prints.LOMO page
Polaroid 635 CL
I think I picked up this simple beauty with it’s retrograde 80’s carefree lines from a charity shop in the late 90’s – an era when Polaroid film was still being made and sold by Polaroid and smartphones looked like this.The only Polaroid I’ve owned, there’s very little to go wrong in the camera body itself, as the film included a battery. it’s very much plug ‘n’ play, provided you can still find the film. Impossible project page
I’ve got a bit of hunting to do to find any samples from the Polaroid, but will add then here when I finally recover them from an old shoebox in the attic.
I’m currently busy finishing off the 7 inch single artwork and video for Trwbador’s next single, so I thought it’d be nice to bounce some questions over to the duo at their home in Mid Wales via email….
How important do you feel imagery and graphics are to music – does design matter? (although I know it’s all about the music really)
Music is like the tasty cake and everything else are the icings and cherries. I don’t think there is anything wrong in making music a collective experience using other elements such as visuals,design & touch. For me I like to create a world where by people can choose to enter if they so wish, I see it more as a production as a whole, which is where I would like to take the live set furthermore too. Instead of the listener simply entering a room to watch us as people playing music, I would like for people to enter a small world to have a collective experience…..I guess.
Summer is the other side of this winter – do you have any festival plans or offers yet?
We play Dinefwr Literature Festival in June. There are a couple of others on the horizon too 😉
and finally, if you were being sent on a mission to Mars, what one thing would you take with you to keep you from going loco?
The new Trwbador single (name still under wraps) will be out in April along with a new album expected in the Autumn 2014!