I've been working on some music design recently, and having a blast with it. I find myself exercising very different design muscles than what I do with DVD or book design. With DVD design, in particular, I'm very much bound to the details of the film, and, as regular readers of this blog will know, I tend to over-intelllectualize that process. With music design, I'm finding that it's much more important to capture a mood or vibe, and actually, anything that's too direct a reference (to lyrical content or band name or whatever) feels wrong somehow. It's a more intuitive than the way I usually work (which could mean it's less interesting to read about, I suppose—if that's the case, sorry!). Plus, it's giving me an opportunity to do more illustration and handmade design, which has been great.
Kicking off my recent spate of music-related design, the Randy Bandits (whose bass player is a friend of mine) asked me to design their upcoming live CD, Live at Otto's Shrunken Head. As they described it to me, they considered it a sort of between-albums recording for more die hard fans, so their idea was to package it in just a simple single envelope, no bells or whistles. Their initial design concept was to do something along the lines of Live at Leeds or those Pearl Jam "bootleg" CDs that were coming out a few years back, to emphasize some of the raw quality of this particular recording. So I did two versions of that—the first, in the vein of some other stuff I've done, like Olivier's Shakespeare or the more recent Lexicon of Labor:
And then a one-color variation, based on the possibility that we might be able to print these as letterpress on actual brown kraft stock (which turned out to be cost-prohibitive):
And those are competent enough, sure, but nothing particularly special. I wanted to give them another option, something a bit more fun.
The first idea that stuck in my head was that "bandits" for some reason made me think of pirates—which doesn't make a whole lot of sense, upon reflection. "Bandits" usually implies Old West, doesn't it? (Now that I think of it, their last album was called "Redbeard," that may be where I got the idea.) Anyway, I had this idea of a big goofy smile with a couple of gold pirate teeth, but I was never able to execute it in any way that said "pirate"—the gold teeth seemed more hip hop than I intended, and the whole thing just didn't really work. I never even sent this one to them, actually—this is the first time it's seen the light of day. (For good reason, really.)
After abandoning that, I sat down and re-listened to a bunch of their songs for inspiration. One song in particular that stuck with me was called "I Will Fight the Hungry Lions," which got me thinking of lion tamers and a kind of circus vibe reminiscent of The Basement Tapes or something, which seemed to capture something of the Bandits vibe. As it turns out, I was listening to the wrong live recording, and that song isn't even on this particular CD‚ but actually I think that made it work better. Like I mentioned before, when the references get too specific, you lose some of that ineffable rock n' roll cool.
So I did a quick google search for some visual reference for lions, and put pen to paper. Here's the initial drawing I came up with:
Then I set to work photoshopping it to death, adding color and layers of schmutz. (Part of my inspiration was the silkscreen class I've been taking, so I had in the back of my mind the whole time that I might want to convert this into a poster as well as a CD cover. But I didn't think the pure flat colors would carry enough weight in standard 4-color printing: thus the schmutz.) Here's where I wound up:
Luckily, they liked it! All that remained was to finish up the envelope and create a disc label, which you can see below:
For more info on The Randy Bandits, check out their website at www.randybandits.com