I was pretty excited to hear that Bon Iver's third album, Bon Iver drops in June - his music is gorgeous and incredibly moving, and definitely in my desert island play list. However, I was extremely stoked to see Gregory Euclide had created the art work for both the album and the single. Gregory's work is ethereal and intense, depicting landscapes of places we would all want to visit, if not live. I chatted with Gregory recently about the process behind creating the art for Bon Iver's latest effort. He was gracious enough to share images and his thoughts on and of the experience. Read on to find out WWJVL - what would Justin Vernon like - and what it was like to create work for his music.
detail. Album cover, Bon Iver. Farm fields, Sedum trees, Buckthorn root, and monoliths.
Bon Iver's upcoming album Bon Iver and the single Calgary, features your art, were these pieces designed specifically for Bon Iver?
Yes. Justin had sent me a lengthy email with images and pieces of paintings that he was feeling. He explained what the songs on the album were about and what the overall vibe of the album was. Then, he explained the general vibe of the image he was looking for. There were things he was clear about - things that were not to be in the cover. I took all of that information into account and just started to make a painting based on what I felt through the music.
The only perimeters that I was going to place on the work was that it was going to be a square and I was going to exclusively use melted snow for the production. I didn't want to feel too directed, I can't work under those conditions. It was bad enough...I was constantly thinking: WWJVL (What Would Justin Vernon Like). I had to get over that and just make something that I liked...and hope that [Justin] would like it as well.
Calgary single, Bon Iver.
Why the use of real snow?
Justin and I talked about the concepts of the album and one of the main concepts was transformation. I felt that having some of the materials undergo certain changes and transformations might tie in nicely. Using melted ice and snow for all the water needed was one way to achieve this end.
Have you designed cover art before?
Not in the sense we did here. I would have to really love the music to make something specifically for it. Commissioned work is difficult and I don't really enjoy it. This was a little different, because I was back and forth with Justin the entire time. I'd do something and shoot him an email. He would respond with a "Fucking awesome reflector vibes" and I would move forward. It was organic and that made it feel less like directed work.
How did you get involved in the project?
The whole story is pretty long. It involves bands named after me, albums named after good friends, University of Wisconsin Eau Clair, special lady friends, and a little bit of 6 degrees of separation. In the end, Justin had purchased a painting of mine a while back, liked it, and wanted me involved with the album cover.
Bon Iver, Bon Iver. Geranium leaves from the garden, soaked in snow water and pigment - then pressed into the paper.
What was this experience like for you to create work for another creative person? Bon Iver is a pretty admired band, I don't know too many people who aren't in love with Justin Vernon. ;)
Justin is really humble. He would never make [one] feel uncomfortable. He's one of the most open and welcoming people I have ever met.
Did you discuss with Vernon what exactly he was thinking for the final outcome - was it a collaborative joint?
He was open to what the outcome was, but there were specific things that he was looking for to tie in to the album. Those things were things that I do already. So, it was like: 'I like when you do this or that.' We set up a series of elements to work with and there was freedom within that system.
Yeah, I was making something that was to be reproduced and not really exhibited. But I didn't think about that when I was making it at all. I was just thinking about making a strong piece. It had to translate on a flat album cover and as you know I am not a big fan of the flat. So I had to resolve that. I wanted it to contain relief elements. I wanted the finished cover to have the feeling of relief - I wanted to avoid the graphic design thing or the album looking like it was an illusion. In the end it was Justin's call obviously, but I was pushing for that.
We enlisted the help of a great photographer, Cameron Wittig, to shoot a really strong image of the work, one that made the work feel true. He did an brilliant job lighting the work to accent those relief elements. We were able to develop the work as a work - on paper - made out of paper. The shadows of the physical work are in the cover, there is illusion and non-illusion, I really like that.
Did you listen to the upcoming album as you created the piece?
I spent a couple weeks listening to the new album exclusively. It felt like what an actor might do to get ready for playing a part. I listen to music for at least 90% of my awake life. So, to listen to the same album over and over for two weeks was really strange. It was impossible to listen to the album all the way through because they had this website set up where I had to click each song. There were always these tension filled gaps between the songs where I was working and didn't want to stop. I went through a couple of phases with the music. I felt excited to hear the new album. Then, after about 25 listens, it became a rather nauseating phase where I felt like time was standing still...It was surreal for sure.
What's your favorite song on the upcoming album?
Lisbon, OH. Hands down.