Withered Hand: Heart Heart EP

Of all the things I work on, I think the stuff I get to do for the Scottish music label Fence Records is my favourite. I've been a fan forever and this latest project has allowed me to be involved in something that I remember wishing I could do back in college.

Back then, Fence would release really cool little EPs on CD-R as a kind of record-club called Picket Fence. I had tons of these things. The artists had complete freedom and, because it was quite a small-scale set up, you'd get loads of odd music and weirdness that you couldn't find on 'proper' albums. Each PF release came in a neat wee cardboard sleeve with artwork by the act themselves and, if I remember correctly, a spray painted issue number. *

I loved that stuff. I remember showing them to my classmates saying how cool it would be to work on something like that.

Well, recently Johnny and Kenny asked me if I'd be interested in working on the artwork to a kind of spiritual-successor to the Picket Fences. Of course I bloomin' would! Didn't they know I'd said to my classmates how cool it would be to work on something like that 10 years ago?

So, as of last month, I'm happy to announce the launch of Chart-Ruse. The initial set in the F3NC3 R⅓CORDS’ 33s subscription-based EP series. **

Kicking things off, is Heart Heart EP by Edinburgh's mighty Withered Hand. The 7'' vinyl features 3 tracks plus a King Creosote remix which is exclusive to the record itself (as in, you can't even download it like you can the others). The title track is particularly fantastic and can be enjoyed here:

For the artwork, I gathered together dozens of ancient maps, charts and diagrams and set to work with my (digital) scissors and glue to collage together a bright green (chartreuse - get it?) fantasy-world of mountains and sea monsters. The reverse (which can be seen properly here) features a broken-heart design that I adapted from Withered Hand himself.

The end result is something I'm really happy with. I tried to keep it loose and fun and, well, Fencey, while at the same time giving the series its own particular look and feel.

Moving on from here, the artwork for the next two Chart-Ruse EPs (by Delifinger and a still-secret third artist) will feature different islands and additions to part 1. Following that, we'll change the colour, change the title and change the artwork for the next 3. And so on, and so on. Confusing? Yeah, kinda, but that's the fun of it. As time goes on, it'll start to make sense.

The Chart-Ruse subscriptions have sold out but you can buy Withered Hand's Heart Heart EP and pre-order Delifinger's Escapes EP individually. Keep an eye out for news on the third release, and subsequent sets in the series, by following Fence or myself on Twitter. The full artwork is on my site and there are more photos on my Flickr.

* The spraypaint would make the CD stick inside the sleeve in the most maddening way. It somehow added to the charm, however.

** Fence, as you may have noticed, LOVE a convoluted title and a bad pun. KC's doing, I think.

Jonnie Common: Master of None

Jonnie Common - Master of None

In August, Jonnie Common released Master of None, his debut solo album. I was massively proud when he asked if I would provide some drawings (one old, one new) for the artwork. If this sounds familiar, I briefly wrote about this project back in July - it's worth revisiting in a little more depth with some new photos, though. 

From my side, it was a fairly painless process. I sent over my Dog drawing and put together a big, furry pattern for the inner sleeve. JC then added some rockin' pink magic and handled the layout. The end result is a really great wee collaboration - something completely new and different to what we'd think up individually.

I first started talking with Jonnie a while back after I made a little music video for Infinitea by Down The Tiny Steps (his old band). I did this on a whim to accompany a blog post announcing it as my 4th most listened to  track of 2009. By happenstance, Jonnie also knew my work and we began chatting about maybe collaborating on something or other. This was a weird thing because I was a fan, y'know? I'd been listening to his stuff for damn near 10 years and I'd seen plenty DTTS / solo sets at various Fence gigs. How many dudes who live on your iPod do you get emails from? Aye, exactly.

Anyway, Jonnie's a good dude. I've since caught up with him a handful of times in person and we're hoping to work together on a couple different projects over the next few months. Stay tuned here or on jonniecommon.com for further news and information.

Jonnie Common - Master of None

As for Master of None, it's my favourite album of the year by a long way. I really, really love it. Honestly, it's amazing. I kinda wish my artwork wasn't on the cover so I could sound completely genuine when I gush about it to my friends. I also kinda wish I didn't know Jonnie so I could act like a totally lame super-fan without being, um, a total creep. Alex says it's her go-to record 'it feels like having a conversation with a friend' and it's a rare day that we don't either give it a spin or find a track or two sneak into a playlist.

Without writing a flat-out review (there's a great one up here on Song By Toad), I'd just like to recommend you give Master of None a listen. It's a sweet, funny, charming album that can effortlessly drift from a beautiful letter to his future kids (Heir To The Throne) to a wordplay-fuelled rap (Bed Bugs) without missing a step. Jonnie's distinctive voice (in both senses of the word) somehow creates a personal, cohesive whole from a big ol' mountain of sounds and styles.

And, man, the man has a way with a lyric - I'd happily write out Hand-Hand in its entirety just for fun. There's more ideas in those 4 minutes than in most full length LPs. Highlights: opening with "sing for us, Jonnie!", facing mortality "when I leave this planet, I don't wanna leave a mess" and a curiosity about horse-hair brushes: "do they pluck them from the living ones or do they take them off the corpses?". It'll put a smile on your face and a shake in your arse. Listen to it, learn it, sing along:

Hand - Hand - Jonnie Common by FollyOfYouth

Good eh? As I mentioned, being associated with this LP in any way makes me very proud. For any artist, designer or illustrator, providing artwork for music you love is a dream job that can't easily be beaten? I mean, what else comes close? Film posters? Maybe, I dunno. Oh yeah, I've put a few more photos of the vinyl cover up on my Flickr page.

Jonnie Common - Master of None

So, should you want to check out Master of None for yourself, it is available on vinyl (with an mp3 code included) through Red Deer Club records. You can also download a digital copy over on Boomkat and, should you want to try-before-you-buy, you can stream the whole record (!) right here on Soundcloud.

Support Jonnie Common, he's one of Scotland's finest songwriters and he's made a wonderful thing.

Fence's Flamin' Hott Loggz Poster

Fence's Flamin' Hott Loggz Poster

Again I am delighted to have been allowed to help out the Fence Collective with another poster design. This time it's for a Guy Fawkes shindig up at their Anstruther HQ. Johnny 'Pictish Trail' Lynch asked if I could come up with something suitably silly to illustrate his 'Gunpowder, Treason and… Plop' Bonfire Night theme.

My time was quite tight but, thankfully, the brief kinda suited something being a little rough around the edges. Taking a cue from my What I Wore Today drawings, I cranked out this pair of beardy fellows and a titular hott-logg and things just came together. This is actually my first ever fully hand-drawn poster design, which took me a little by surprise. The colouring was added digitally but apart from that, it's all pens and paper. Getting text to sit well with my drawings is something I've always struggled with.

As with all Fence events, I wholeheartedly recommend you get your arse along to the Hott Loggz party if at all possible. Fence Records consistently put out some of Scotland's finest music and their live gigs are a joy to witness. Recently I've caught a little sneak-listen to some upcoming releases and, honestly, if you follow what they do, you're in for a treat. Here are the details:

Fence's Flamin' Hott Loggz
An all-day (2pm - 1am) event of music & excitement
Saturday, 5th November
Anstruther, Fife, Scotland
Featuring a yet-to-be-announced line-up of Fence Collective members + friends.

Tickets are available here.

I'm gonna try my best to head up for the show. Despite the promise of a bonfire, a Scottish seaside in November will be damn cold, so wrap up warm.

Homegame Logo

Every year for the past, I dunno, 5, we've attended Fence's fantastic Homegame up in Anstruther. So how chuffed do you think I was when Johnny asked me to put together a logo for this year's festival? Exactly, Chuffington World of Adventures.

Now, logo design isn't something I've ever particularly had a knack for, but I gave it a go nonetheless. After a false-start or two I finally settled on the above. My Homegame logo was constructed entirely from collaging together letters and shapes from an old, old stamp collecting book of my Dad's (not the stamps, just using the book itself). All the little scraggles and wonks are genuine been-in-the-loft-for-50-years scraggles and wonks.

Also, I unconsciously managed to hark back to Kirsty Thomas' lovely cut-out design from last year, with the bunting-esque elements. A good thing!

As for the festival - get yourself there if at all possible, it's always brilliant fun. I've posted about it many times on this here blog. Head to fencerecords.com for details of acts, tickets, times, dates etc. etc. Perhaps I will see you there, dogg.

Kid Canaveral's Christmas Baubles

Here's a quick poster I've made for the fantastic Kid Canaveral and their Christmas party / gig / event type thing, Kid Canaveral's Christmas Baubles. Really chuffed to have been asked to do this - I've seen KC (and a bunch of the other bands on the lineup) a good few times over the years at various Fence things and I'm a big fan. I'd thoroughly recommend getting a copy of their recent Shouting at Wildlife record, it's top of the pops.

As far as the poster is concerned, I had a wee false start with this one and completely changed direction at the last minute. The mashed-up Radio Times Christmas listings is my, very British, nod to Art Chantry, who I'm a great fan of. I'm gathering quite a collection of really weird vintage clip-art these days.

Anyway, the gig will kick off at 2pm at The Lot in Edinburgh on Saturday 18th December. If you can make it, you definitely should. Great music, great food, great fun. Great! Thanks to Kate from Kid Canaveral for getting me on board. Here are the full details for easy reading and for the old search engines:

Kid Canaveral's Christmas Baubles
What?: A festive party with live music
Where?: The Lot, Grassmarket, Edinburgh, EH1 2JU
When?: Saturday, 18th December from 2pm
Who?: Ballboy, King Creosote (solo), Kid Canaveral, Come On Gang! Cancel the Astronauts, The Last Battle and Gummi Bako + Song, By Toad & Straight to Video DJs
How?: For tickets, visit kidcanaveral.co.uk or nip in to Avalanche Records in Edinburgh.

If this sounds like it's up your street (or up the street of people you know), give it a mention wherever you can. That would be magic. Christmas is really creeping up, eh? Jesus Christ.