Braids + Marc Rimmer = Native Speaker’s blissful blur-scape
What’s actually happening in this vivid cover art by Montréal’s Marc Rimmer is deceptively simple, and much less cheesy. It’s a photograph composed of two unlikely props: A digital image of a mountain landscape on Rimmer’s desktop, and a 4-foot by 2.5-foot (or so) plastic light panel from Home Depot that he held in front of his camera lens.
The concept came to light simply as well, albeit via a pile of trial-and-error. Rimmer had taken some outdoor photos of the Montréal foursome atop Parc du Mont-Royal while brainstorming album art ideas for their first full-length release. After those experiments, he wanted to keep the textures of the leaves and branches and trees, but he also wanted to distort them further, to blend additional layers into those textures — a nod to the band’s approach to making music. The notion of using a florescent light panel to nail that effect came to Rimmer one day in French class, presumably with his eyes procrastinating on the ceiling.
“To me, it says Braids,” says Rimmer, who listened heavily to Native Speaker for a month or so while designing the album packaging. “It’s very rare that I’m pumped in this way about something this long after I’ve done it. The artwork has been done for almost a year, but when I look at it now, it stills says that album. I just like the texture of it, and it’s really colourful and it’s really abstract, but also really minimal and clean. You don’t really look at it and get too much out of it.”
The band wanted their inaugural record cover to convey a sort of indiscernible fluidity, and also to fuse a broad palate of moods.
“We wanted to create something that blended together a full spectrum of emotion,” explains Katie Lee, who plays keys and sings for Braids. “Our album doesn’t have one specific tone. It explores different feelings, but it’s all intertwined, it’s not jagged or separate.”
The woven, unleashed colours that adorn Native Speaker represent that blend. Lee also points out a sort of harshness created by the light refracted through a plastic panel.“It’s metallicky, not entirely smooth,” she says. “I think that works too because it’s not just a smooth album. There are moments where it’s a little bit rough around the edges. At the same time, behind that roughness is something very beautiful.”
Accentuating this effect, Rimmer was also intent on keeping the very fluid, matte-finish artwork separate from the black and white monochromatic box with album details, printed with a UV spot varnish to make it really shiny and wet. “I didn’t want to confuse or dilute the idea, or make it busy,” says Rimmer, adding that he originally had hoped to put a sticker over the solid chunk of texture rather than add copy to the layout.
The musicians who make up Braids share Calgary roots with Rimmer, and they’re all fans of his past musical contributions to Azeda Booth. They asked him to invoke this debut crop of songs with an image for two reasons: 1] they trust and respect his imagination, and b] for the sake of band unity and fresh ideas. Lee says that if one of the four band members had come up with something, everyone would have been more critical than they would be with another artist’s interpretation.
“It’s hard to see your music visually, because it’s so personal for each person,” explains Lee. “What I see when I listen to our music isn’t necessarily what Taylor [guitar, bass & vocals], or Raphie [lead vocals & guitar], or Austin [drums & vocals], or anyone else would see. I like to think that the visual side of things should be a collaboration with people who are well versed in that area — more so than my vision, or even our vision.”
Like a Braids performance, Rimmer’s complement to the band’s sound is lush and full of subtle surprises. “The band is all about flow and colour, there are lots of layers and things going on. And to me, this artwork is very tangible. A lot of people ask: What is it printed on? Well, it’s not printed on anything special other than paper, but it’s just very… juicy. Like you can touch it.”