Sprawling both musically and visually, Touché Amoré's latest masterpiece Parting the Sea Between Brightness and Me is a benchmark in the band's undoubtedly promising career. With the release came the conceptualization of a lofty deluxe edition, which included a hardcover-bound collection of artwork to go along with the gritty, yet moving arrangements the band offered on their newest full-length. Touché Amoré guitarist Nick Steinhardt gave Review Rinse Repeat a look into the thought process behind his creation of the artwork for both the standard and deluxe editions of the new record in this edition of Artist Insight.
I began the artwork for Parting the Sea Between Brightness and Me about midway through writing the record before many things were set in stone. Early on I conceived of some fleeting ideas for the LP format which were more derived by their "different" nature than by supporting any sort of concept. I collected reference imagery and brainstormed a bit around lyrical concepts as well as the overall mood the music was taking on. One of the first things I consider for a release is how the printed format can enhance the artistic intent, as well as not repeating something we've done in the past. The idea of doing an overtly photographic package for the first time seemed fitting and exciting, so I reached out to our good friend and talented photographer Ryan Aylsworth. We discussed lyrical themes I had in mind and told him to run wild. Ryan is primarily a fashion photographer, but I felt his beautiful and candid viewpoint would lend an interestingly iconic and also spontaneous quality to overall feel of the package. The final output was particularly influenced by the art of Hreinn Fridfinnsson, whose work explores the nature of mirroring as a framework for reflection, as well to completing or repeating an image into infinity.
Jeremy's lyrics are always the first place I start for inspiration. As the album title easily reveals, the record deals with the road being a pathway as well a physical and emotional division. The concept of 'home', discontent with it, self-reflection, all stemming from one another. I chose to take on some of these concepts quite literally: The white line bisecting the album cover is a painted lane line from a street. There is a photo of a center divider. The logo is meant to be a sun and road converging on the horizon. The deluxe edition book has a 'mirrored' aspect that you can literally see yourself in. All of the imagery is meant to be presented as a familiar, yet distant and disconnected "landscape", whether that's the city we live in or being on the road.
Landscape, signs, song, and the people immediately around you are the only things that really speak to you from the bubble of a moving vehicle. The motion as well as the glass between you and the outside really distort your perception. I wanted the photos to have a disconnected feel as if seen through a filter, much the way your own eyes would see things off far in the distance. In lettering all the type by hand, my goal was to embrace the feel of painted American signage as you would see from the road: on the sides of trucks, buildings, and marquees in passing. The quirks and inconsistencies in spacing, weight, and form were embraced here. To me, this drew a connection between what signage and lyrics are both intended for: conveying a message to its viewer or listener.
A countless number of hours went into this. At any moment I may have to go sketch an idea or be that guy rudely typing away on his phone mid-conversation as I make an extremely long and ranty reminder note to myself about an image to remember later. Much time spent reading the lyrics and delving into themes as they would come into mind. Ryan took a couple road trips and an insane bike ride in order to tackle all the photography. I drew lettering for several key lines of lyrics. Jeremy sat at my kitchen table and hand-wrote every lyric for the inner sleeve. Lots of scanning and time in InDesign ensued.
On the formatting of the deluxe edition of Parting the Sea Between Brightness and Me...
The hardcover book was the first format really conceived and decided upon. I'm always a big fan of deluxe packing and thought there would be no better way to showcase all the beautiful photography we had shot for this record. The nature of a book's linear format leads way to telling a story through text and picture. I just thought it would be a way to showcase its natural flow. The feasibility of producing a large quantity of these books just wasn't there, so I had to make sure the overall message still came across in the CD/LP front and back cover.
My role in this project was much more from a directive and curatorial standpoint than in the past. The task was more in acquiring, arranging and designing the sequence of images in the book to best tell a story. I created relatively few actual "art elements" aside from the sun/road Icon, drawn lettering, and the sort of 'digital collage' that the cover ended up being.
On inspirations in creating art...
Particularly inspiring artists in the music world: Vaughan Oliver, Don & Ryan Clark, Aaron Turner, Stephen O'Malley, Kim Hiorthøy. These people have all brought amazingly cohesive and interesting artistic direction to various genres, scenes, or labels and represented each one well. This ethos is something I strive towards with Touché Amoré in creating a strong art direction with flexibility to move freely in and out of what may be expected.
Outside the music world; Wim Crouwel, Hrein Fridfinsson, Ed Ruscha, Alison Schulnik, Erik Yahnker are inspiring in all different ways. Insane attention to detail, skilled execution, patience, imagination and forward thinking are all artistic qualities I extremely admire.
Check back soon for a full interview with TA vocalist Jeremy Bolm, and be sure to check out the band's stellar new record Parting the Sea Between Brightness and Me, available now through Deathwish, Inc.