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A Conversation With Colin Crane: Counterparts — A Eulogy For Those Still Here

The mixed media specialist uncovers the creation of one of last year's best albums.

counterparts a eulogy for those still here
Artwork by Colin Crane

Text by Luis (@HeaviestofArt), Photos by Joshua Alvarez (@joshua.jam3s) at

The Glasshouse in Pomona on November 27, 2022:


On October 7, 2022, the celebrated Counterparts released a culminating record that built from the allure created throughout a consistent discography, that being A Eulogy For Those Still Here. The album, which arrived via Pure Noise Records, came in at #6 on our Top 30 Albums of 2022 list for good reason as it excelled in its instrumentation, profound lyricism, and intentional approach to songwriting. The mixed-media prowess of Colin Crane put a face to it all, introducing listeners to the themes of finality present throughout. More than it being a burial amidst cloaked figures and a burning forest in the background, Colin packed layer upon layer of detail into the collage, providing an ideal visual companion to the hard-hitting hymns embodied within.


Read through an insightful Q&A with Colin Crane below and scroll through to see live shots of A Eulogy For Those Still Here in action:

 

‘A Eulogy For Those Still Here’ (2022) is out now and in heavy circulation, standing as a cathartic record for the band that came about as a result of a preoccupation with endings, introspection, and really a self-struggle. How did you, as an artist, work to capture that through your own lens?


Colin: My work has typically gravitated more towards a colorful, dreamy, somewhat uplifting aesthetic, so really off the bat, I was embracing the creative challenge of working in a realm where the themes and inspiration at play were darker and heavier than anything I’ve collaborated on before.


With any band that I’m doing artwork for, one part of the process is listening to whatever demos they’ve given me while I’m in the creative zone, and in that way the music naturally works itself into the visuals, like a transfer of energy from one medium to another. It was definitely the case with 'A Eulogy For Those Still Here' that the music itself really guided the imagery, on top of some specific direction from Brendan about what they were going for.

Brendan Murphy, Photograph by Joshua Alvarez

The mention of “endings” in your question is definitely hitting the nail on the head – that specifically became something of a guiding theme that they had given me from the get-go and that became more and more essential to the final product as we worked through some early drafts of what the album art eventually became. I know they wanted the artwork to really carry a sense of weight and a sense of finality, like in the sense that *if* this were the last thing that Counterparts ever put out, that the artwork would stand as a sort of totem to the end of things.


That definitely added some gravity to the creative process, or the sense of responsibility I felt to really nail the visuals, and so the almost end-of-the-world, funereal, apocalypse vibe portrayed in the final album cover was definitely an attempt at capturing that “this could be the end of it all” feeling.


Even though this definitely stands as the darkest thing I’ve done imagery-wise, I still feel like the essence of the style I’ve honed in on in the past few years is still really present, as if it’s still the same core components and visual tendencies just filtered through a prism of brand new thematic elements. The challenge of capturing those new visual themes through my personal lens ended up being an extremely rewarding process, and kind of expanded my sense of things I may be interested in exploring more in the future.

There’s certainly a lot of symbolism and foreshadowing here, which fits perfectly with the record’s overall messaging. Excited to see where your work expands from here on out! Continuing on that point, how would you describe the collaborative process with the band? It seems you hit it off considering the partnership extended to include tour posters, which are great!


It was honestly just such an easy and effortless process from start to finish – they had sent me an email about a year before the album release date, seeing if I was interested in coming on board for the visuals and quickly after that, we had a phone call to talk about the general vision and scope of the project. I really love when bands kind of give me a broad sense of their vision and any visual inspiration touchstones or themes but then let me just run with that and do my own thing. I really thrive with that kind of collaboration and that’s exactly what this one ended up being.

Photograph by Joshua Alvarez

Everyone from Counterparts and from Pure Noise was just super enthusiastic & encouraging about the work of mine that they had seen, and the vibes with everyone were awesome from the get-go. In that first phone call and then later that week while listening to the demos they sent over, I just became really excited to contribute to this project, and to something I could tell carried a lot of personal meaning for the band.

Photograph by Joshua Alvarez

Actually, all of the designs that ended up being the tour posters were originally imagined as artwork for some of the singles, but I think it ended up being the right call to kick off the album roll-out with the final artwork as the visuals for the singles. Of those, believe it or not, the one with the kind of cloaked figure in the foreground was my original proposal for the album art itself.

Artwork by Colin Crane

Brendan really dug that one but didn’t feel like it fully captured the weight or full scope of the album, so we kind of went back to the drawing board to get even darker with the imagery. That was kind of funny for me because even that original proposal was in my mind way darker than what I usually make, so it was definitely a creative challenge to go deeper down the rabbit hole of transposing my normal style into something that fit the kind of “end of the world” vibes they wanted to capture. Even in that revision process, the collaboration was really effortless and everyone on their side had some great suggestions that ended up contributing to the look & feel of the final artwork.

Tour Poster Artwork by Colin Crane

At the end of the day, you created the visual identity for the entire album cycle, making it all feel cohesive. You of course thrive in surreal collage art, bridging a variety of distinct elements to create one, or many, unified themes within one core image. That’s certainly the case for ‘A Eulogy For Those Still Here’. What, if anything, informed the element selection for the project? Perhaps the connotations given to the symbols, like the tombstones or burning hills in the background?

Actually, the element selection process was one of the hardest things for me just because of the nature of how I put stuff together. A huge amount of the collage art I’ve done, both personal work and album art, uses source imagery from vintage magazines, especially old National Geographic issues going all the way to the 40s and 50s.


Over the years, the images I’ve pulled from those issues tend to be things that have appealed to my own personal tastes, which in general err on the more dreamy & colorful side of things. Essentially, not much of what was in my archive of vintage imagery was a great fit for the darker visual aesthetic needed for the Counterparts collaboration.


I went back to the drawing board with source material cultivation and probably went through 150 or more issues of old magazines looking for images that specifically fit some of the visual cues the band had given me from the get-go. Stuff like skulls, tombstones, crosses, flames, severed limbs, cloaked figures, or as someone said in our original meeting, “you know, metal shit.” After we agreed not to use my original proposal for the final album art, the feedback was definitely to go pretty much straight up apocalyptic for the next draft.


There really isn’t a ton of stuff like that in your average issue of National Geographic, so I definitely pored through way more stuff than usual to find things I thought fit the look we were going for. I’ll attach a photo of just one stack of “discarded” magazine pages that I tossed in my search – that’s probably a third of what I ended up going through.

Source Material, Photograph by Colin Crane

In the end, I wound up with a pretty decent folder of source imagery that I thought fit the overall aesthetic, and then just started grouping stuff together and getting creative with how to stitch together that apocalyptic world that ended up being the final album art. I think it was the central red figure that I started with, and then when I found the image of the cloaked figures with the books. I kind of built the rest of the world around that. I think in the end, the photoshop file ended up having close to 100 layers to create the final album cover spread.

It's quite amazing to see how it all comes together. So much goes into it and one wouldn't even know otherwise. Atmosphere is a strong element in your work, especially in Salt Creek’s ‘Out Of The Sky’ (2021) and Teenage Wrist’s ‘Earth Is A Black Hole’ (2021). One can say they serve as an escape. What role do you feel the arts play in the contemporary world, especially as messengers and avenues for coping?


There’s a literary genre called Magical Realism that originates in Latin America, and that has been one of the biggest sources of inspiration not only in the art that I’ve appreciated over the years, but also in terms of the art that I create. The general idea in Magical Realism is that you’re still rooted in the functional real world, but there’s an undercurrent of surrealism and magic lying beneath the surface that presents itself in unexpected moments.


That idea of blurring the lines between the real world and a fantasy world has definitely informed almost all of the collage art I’ve done, and has definitely made an appearance in most of my album art as well. I’ve sometimes referred to what I’m trying to capture as “something cosmic in the ordinary,” where you might have just a normal person as the main character in an image, but something about the visual world surrounding them is a little bit mystical or psychedelic.


At least for me, this isn’t something I just put into my art, but it’s an actual lens through which I try to see the world in my day-to-day life. Even the simplest, most mundane moments can really feel infused with magic & mysticism if you’re open to seeing them that way. As far as how we all cope with a truly insane “real world” on a day to day basis in both our personal lives and our collective lives as a species, I really think embracing some sort of appreciation for the surreal mystery and wonder of being alive is maybe one of the best coping mechanisms we could ever have.

Beautifully said. In closing, what does it mean to you to have your work become synonymous with such a special record in the Counterparts discography? You helped establish the band’s visual identity through cover artwork, tour posters, and merchandise with the artwork itself, all of which represent a Billboard charting record that will surely mean much to the thousands across the world.


It continues to just be so surreal for me. I remember as far back as my childhood really forming deep associations between early favorite albums and their accompanying album art, and over the years have loved so many records where the art is such an essential component of how I perceive the music. I really do think that the right album art can elevate someone’s experience of a record they love or infuse it with an extra layer of meaning, and I really hope that people feel that way about the art for 'A Eulogy For Those Still Here'.

Colin Crane, 2021

Being in a position to create something that I know people will forever associate with any album is really wild, and every time a band asks me to work with them I’m genuinely just so grateful to get to contribute my own little piece to the sonic world that they’ve created. Going through the process of creation, submission, revision, collaboration, and really all the ins and outs of it truly gives me a deeper appreciation for album covers as a proper artform in their own right, and gives me so much new appreciation for the album covers I’ve loved over the years and that I come across anytime I listen to new releases.


Counterparts was so awesome to work with, it seems like they have one of the most enthusiastic fan bases I’ve ever come across, and I’m just really appreciative for having been a small part of this latest incredible release from them.

 

A Eulogy For Those Still Here is available now via Pure Noise Records (Order).

Cover Artwork by Colin Crane

Counterparts Photo Gallery


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