Behind the Cover: Cave In - Heavy Pendulum

Looking into the band's grand return through its unique astronomical being.

Words by Luis (@heaviestofart):


"There is a sacredness in tears. They are not the mark of weakness, but of power. They speak more eloquently than ten thousand tongues. They are the messengers of overwhelming grief, of deep contrition, and of unspeakable love." - Washington Irving


Though almost two centuries old, these words by the famed American short-story writer ring true for those living through hardship. There's power in vulnerability and tears can serve as one's conduit for strength, allowing for a multitude of different outlets to exist as coping mechanisms. For some, that outlet is music and the ability to overcome said sadness takes the form of an earnest craft. Boston's Cave In are among those who pushed through and let loss channel a newfound existence as a tribute to the heartfelt camaraderie of time before. With four years now since the passing of bassist and longtime friend Caleb Scofield, the band refuse to abandon their art form and remain stagnant, instead opting for a resurgence that finds the collective at the culmination of their experience. It takes the form of Heavy Pendulum, Cave In's first first full studio record in over a decade.


Released on May 20th via Relapse Records, Heavy Pendulum is the epitome of finding love and strength in the struggle as the band welcome Nate Newton (Converge, Old Man Gloom) on bass and vocals. The wondrous art of Richey Beckett finds a home here as a cover illustration worth basking in. Visually speaking, Beckett's work harnesses a planetary symbolism to catapult the band's driving message to staggering, emotional success. Saturn crashes into a blood red sea as asteroids follow behind amidst starry skies. pairing well with contrasting blend of serenity and aggression found throughout the record's diverse tracks. Glistening guitar melodies and tones reflect the beauty found within the cover's color palette, highlighting the intentionality about every aspect of the release. As guitarist/vocalist Stephen Brodsky mentions, Heavy Pendulum is "a new lease on life for Cave In”, and rightfully so as it comes sparked by the glorious nature of Beckett's artistic prowess.


We go Behind the Cover of Heavy Pendulum with Cave In frontman Stephen Brodsky and artist extraordinaire Richey Beckett to learn of the vivid intricacies behind the record's commanding cover artwork, the collaborative process, and the organic audiovisual connection that exists within its detail:

 

'Heavy Pendulum' is as fully realized a Cave In experience as you get with an expansive, constantly unfolding scope of the musical composition being properly illustrated by Richey Beckett's wondrous talents. In short, it's an experience that honors Caleb Scofield in the best way. Stephen, is it cathartic to see this fully realized?


Brodsky: The record is still pretty fresh, as far as it being out in the world and outside our little sphere, so it hasn't fully hit me yet. It does feel good knowing that everyone involved in this project took no shortcuts in their contributions, and Richey is no exception. Speaking of Caleb, you'll notice that the pendulum illustration of our faces on the inside cover has an empty space allocated for him. He’s front and center of the 5 weights, and I think it’s a fitting tribute.

Inner Gatefold Artwork by Richey Beckett

I agree. As if the cover wasn't enough, that inner artwork is a great reason for audiences to pick up a vinyl copy. Visually, what were you looking for when you approached Richey for the project?


Brodsky: Originally, we wanted to make a poster for a couple shows scheduled in Brooklyn at the beginning of 2020. We approached Richey about designing something, and he sent us a poster-sized black and white version of the crashing Saturn image. Immediately, we were like "this is too good to be just a show poster - this should be an album cover!" And of course, the pandemic followed by lockdown made it so that we had to postpone our shows. The silver lining was that we had some awesome visual inspiration for writing new music. It’s always been the other way around - music first, artwork last. This time, we had a visual barometer for making everything sound as epic as Richey’s work.


It's neat to see that the art informed the music in some way. The melodies and scope of some of the tracks is certainly reflected in that. Aaron Turner was of course the band's longtime artist and Richey's work now marks a significant visual shift in the Cave in discography. Would you say that this is representative of the mindset that 'Heavy Pendulum' finds you in after 'Final Transmission' (2019)?


Brodsky: I love all of Aaron's artwork for the band. Jake Bannon also did some great design work for Cave In early on, especially with 'Until Your Heart Stops' (1999). I guess having a new line-up plus a new home on Relapse made it seem like a good opportunity to change things up.

Photograph by Jay Zucco

You definitely made the most out of this opportunity. Richey, as a huge fan of the band, illustrating 'Heavy Pendulum' is surely a highlight of your career and overall visual trajectory. What does it mean to you, as an artist, to have bands you admire and have been inspired by throughout your youth trust you for the visual side of their projects?


Beckett: It’s a huge honour and definitely a career highlight. In many ways, it feels inconceivable to get to work with a band you’re such a big fan of. But at the same time, it feels very right, as it’s that connection you feel that draws you to a band in the first place. “What you seek is seeking you,” as Rumi says. I always felt a deep connection with Cave In, musically and aesthetically, and always found them incredibly inspiring. It feels great to be pulled into their orbit in such a way, to find myself becoming a part of the narrative and contributing to their legacy.

cave in, richey beckett
Original Pen and Ink Art by Richey Beckett

Your work is now synonymous with the band's contemporary strengths, and as Stephen mentions, it even informed their composition. That's quite a feat. How would you two characterize the collaboration as the cover illustration evolved from its early stages to the final product?


Beckett: As Stephen mentions, I originally drafted the artwork in 2019 as poster art for the St. Vitus shows. When those shows were canceled, Stephen mentioned that the band were excited about the prospect of maybe using it as cover art for their next record. Honestly I didn’t allow myself to get too attached to that idea at the time, as I didn’t want to get my hopes up in case it didn’t work out! But then around July, Steve hit me up and told me he’d been busy writing new Cave In material and that the Saturn illustration had served as visual inspiration. So, the pen and ink illustration sat in a drawer for the whole of 2020, until December, when Steve hit me up and said they really did want to use it as cover art. Serendipitously, the day I sent the pen and ink artwork to Steve was the morning after the ‘Great Conjunction’ between Jupiter and Saturn, when the planets had been closer to one another than they had in 400 years.


Brodsky: Richey was very generous about sharing his process on every level, including paint selection, colors, vibe, concepts, etc. It's similar to how I work on music, obsessing over each little detail, so I found it both relatable and endearing. He was also open to having Nick Sherman onboard to assist with typesetting and general layout assistance, and the two talents made an incredible team for this project.


It was a communal effort and the results speak for themselves. Like all of your other works, 'Heavy Pendulum' benefits from an incredible attention to detail that mesmerizes any keen eye. Did the visual direction change at all along the way, Richey? Or was it cemented early on to where you were just simply adding color and definition?


Beckett: Thank you. It was intentionally a mix of planning and organic freedom. The basic layout and the positioning of Saturn was clearly defined from the start, but the red sea beneath it was something I had to study to achieve as I’ve not really draw an ocean before, so that became almost a drawing within a drawing for me. Then, the sky above was constructed very freely, creating large flowing shapes that brought movement and energy to the piece, then zoning in on smaller areas and working on them piece by piece, each having a different kind of energy and mark making technique. I liked the idea of Saturn representing something very solid, disciplined, identifiable but extraordinary, and then around it there’s a great clashing of forces: the sky, the sea, interstellar phenomena. It felt very fitting for Cave In, being a band that work with such a vast ever evolving sonic palette but also have a very strong identity as a band.


It's beautifully done and riddled with detail, per usual. Stephen, where do you find commonalities between the cover illustration's symbolism and the record's overarching themes and messages?


Brodsky: I immediately took to the image of Saturn because it follows Jupiter in our solar system. The "Jupiter" record was such a radical shift for the band, and it seems fitting to mark another massive change for Cave In using the likeness of that planet's successor.

'Heavy Pendulum' (2022), Photograph by Richey Beckett

Though the band envisioned something particular on their end with Saturn as a core element, what did you set out to achieve with the effort as far as messaging and audiovisual cohesion goes?


Beckett: The beautiful thing was that through this leap frogging of the art and the music, the two things were being created at the same time, and throwing inspiration back and forth. So they are intrinsically linked, which is quite a rare thing, to be able to work that way. The band had the line art when they were writing, and also in the studio when recording, and then as they started to send me over tracks, I got more of a sense of the record and that definitely informed the colouration of the piece and the creation of the inlay illustrations.


I was thinking that as I generated these questions. There's such a wondrous use of melody throughout that just pairs well with the vibrance of the cover's color palette. Stephen, how significant a role did camaraderie play in the record's development? You've all certainly grown and evolved as people and musicians over the years.


Brodsky: I think all of us sharing the grief over losing Caleb gave us all the more reason to rally, and none of us wanted 'Final Transmission' to be the last thing we ever released. Nate joining the band really allowed us to reinvent ourselves - without him, I'm not sure how or even if we would've done it.


We're thankful that you kept it going amidst the struggle of doing so with Caleb's loss on the mind. You converted that into positive energy. As someone who has been deeply moved by Cave In's music and creativity, do you feel that it has informed your investment into this partnership in any way, Richey?


Beckett: Absolutely. We all need reasons to make art—inspiration and meaning—so that it’s a very exciting pressure to feel, channeling a band that’s very precious to you into your work. Cave In have never played by the rules and have always pushed and challenged themselves to evolve. They’re very brave in that sense, and that’s deeply inspiring. So it was very intentional for me to try some brand new techniques here that I’d not done before, including painting in coloured inks, and drawing all of the inlay artwork in negative (so that when scanned and inverted, black becomes white and vice versa). It was also a really interesting and rewarding journey working with Nick Sherman who handled the typography and layout. We spent several Zoom calls getting pumped on old space science text books, which became our aesthetic inspiration. It was a joyful experience.


You've had a wealth of clients from Metallica to Mastodon and Mondo, each of which has offered you a learning experience unlike no other. You continue to learn despite your successes too instead of simply phoning it in. What do you take from 'Heavy Pendulum', as a fan and as a key player in its audiovisual development?


Beckett: I really like that you speak of it as a learning experience. That’s exactly how I like to approach every project. I never set out to do something that I’ve done before—I’d regret it if I did. This project pushed me in really positive ways—the colouring of the cover art especially was a long and challenging journey with many pitfalls until I got it to where I needed it to be. Similarly, the inlay artwork was a very exploratory process; I created many small illustrations, all drawn in negative, but I didn’t want to match them directly with a song or lyric. Instead, I liked the idea of pairing them almost at random, so that a new narrative is created when we view the lyrics with an abstract image. It creates some interesting tension and the opportunity to use your imagination, rather than literally drawing a floating skull to sit beside ‘Floating Skulls’ for example.

cave in
Cave In Signing 150 'Heavy Pendulum' CD’s for Newbury Comics

Thanks for your insight, Richey. In closing, your special Decibel Magazine shows highlight how impactful your music has been to so many across the world. Stephen, is going through a new proper release cycle as exciting as it once was, perhaps in comparison to when you geared up for 'Until Your Heart Stops' (1998)?


Brodsky: I enjoyed the album roll-out process this time around. Working with Relapse is great - they've given us resources to do things that either we haven’t done before, or in a long while. The last time we made a music video was 2003, and in 2022, we somehow managed to make 4 videos in the span of 2 months! It's been rewarding to have our own enthusiasm for the album mirrored tenfold by their team. Compared to 1998? I remember Hydra Head being equally enthused about releasing 'UYHS' - we finished recording the album in the spring of that year, and by late summer we already had vinyl and CD's to sell on the road. I think we even made a limited cassette release for Krazy Fest. Of course, things work a little differently now, but looking back, it's pretty obvious that we were all just amped to get the record out into the world as soon as possible.

 

Heavy Pendulum is available now via Relapse Records (Order). If you’d like to learn more about Richey’s work and see behind the scenes, head over to his new Patreon page. Every month he’ll be taking a deep dive into the creation of a specific piece of art—and the first month’s feature is the album art for Heavy Pendulum: www.patreon.com/richeybeckett

cave in, richey beckett
Cover Artwork by Richey Beckett