An audiovisual walkthrough of harrowing nature apt for the hardcore it embodies.
Words by Luis (@heaviestofart):
“In order to understand the world, one has to turn away from it on occasion." - Albert Camus
The act of removing oneself from the turmoil of our surroundings is hard but often necessary for physical and mental wellbeing. For some, the feeling of loneliness brought upon by isolation is self-destructive whereas others find peace in solitude, using it as a moment of deeper learning amidst trying times. Regardless, it’s a commonality we all share in the human experience and boundless hardcore unit Vein.fm have looked inward to deliver the byproduct of their trials in the form of The World Is Going To Ruin You.
Released on March 4th via the always the consistent Closed Casket Activities, The World Is Going To Ruin You stands as the audiovisual embodiment of the power that exists with being alone with one’s thoughts, whether that be negative or positive. Suffering breeds great art and graphic designer Autumn Morgan builds upon the demons that Anthony DiDio and Vein.fm bring forth as a means of creative expression that is introspective yet universal in its accessibility. A maelstrom of symbols and ravaging imagery is brought together in a collage of harrowing nature that exists in synchronicity to the exhilarating songcraft that Vein.fm layer quite well. Consider The World Is Going To Ruin You a defining statement that pushes the band further into an upward trajectory marked by their path of unconventional sonic norms and heartfelt honesty. This is Vein.fm in prime form and Morgan’s creation of a newfound visual identity puts a fresh face to one of hardcore’s most thrilling acts of today.
We go Behind the Cover of The World Is Going To Ruin You with Vein.fm frontman Anthony DiDio and Autumn Morgan to dissect the bridge between the arts and album’s overarching themes of isolation, reflection, and catharsis amidst the turmoil of the human experience:
Autumn, upon announcement, ‘The World Is Going To Ruin You’ was welcomed by a great deal of anticipation given how strong ‘Errorzone’ (2018) was a few years ago. Visually, you excelled in your own right and encapsulated the record’s persona with precision. What did you aim to achieve upon being presented with the opportunity?
Autumn: When I had gotten some of their references and heard the album, some of the stuff they had initially shown be revolved around David Lynch and Dave McKean, who’s an amazing digital artist. You might know him from the Sandman covers, he’s a great comic book artist. I took that for a visual cue of the surrealistic approach that they wanted and envisioned for the album’s art. When I listened to the album and watched the video for ‘The Killing Womb’, it felt like the nightmare of the adult version of the boy with the scissors. It felt like this album was exploring more of the dark crevices of someone’s mind. That was the approach that I had in my mind when I was putting together the digital collage for the cover image. It felt like the soul of the album.
It really is the soul, and the two mediums exist synonymously. Was the multi-faceted mixed media approach taken to tie in the music and the lyrics intentionally with the arts?
Autumn: Yeah, especially when we get to the lyric book and gatefold component. I don’t know if the band had a specific storyline for the cover, but when I think of art, I instinctively think of stories and so, the album to me felt like it had a narrative. These images tie into that narrative. My intention was to show the “breaking through” effect of the layers in the image, similar to how you’d break through someone’s mind. This is the stuff that lies underneath what you see on the surface. The burning of the page on the cover felt like a fourth wall breaking to look deeper into the narrative of the album.
You paint a picture of what the band develops in this new world, hence the importance of the arts in this circumstance. As you’ve noted, Anthony, ‘The World Is Going To Ruin You’ is about having to deal with yourself. It’s introspective but from a universal standpoint that is relatable to the many that will hear it and connect to it in their own way. Would you say that you’re all insular musicians or is there a very direct intention behind your compositional approach?
Anthony: Always insular, and we’re like that 100% of the time. We’ll never write something for someone else, but we’re aware enough as fans of our band about what’s going to be the best fully realized versions of our own ideas. We always do it for ourselves.
The listener connection exists as a byproduct of your honesty then.
Anthony: Yes, a total byproduct. Also, I never really knew any of this was ever going to happen with this band. I used to play bass and then switched and adjusted to vocals. That allowed me to write whatever I wanted without having to think about how I was going to play it. I could write things out as I was hearing them. So, I didn’t think all of the crowd relatability shit was ever going to happen but it kind of just happened naturally. It’s a natural byproduct of the process.
That’s a true testament to how everything flows into the compositional process subconsciously and organically, which happens to extend to the visuals as well. As we’ll discuss today, it’s clear that the visual component is as much yours as it is the artist’s. I say that because that component of a release is usually passed off to an artist or a separate visual team for coordination, but you were very much involved in every step of the way. What role do you feel the visuals play in conveying your message through Autumn’s lens? Would you say that the visuals are key in completing the experience here?
Anthony: Absolutely. The visuals are always an important part of the band, just as much as the music. Even in the writing stages of the music, there are visuals that influence the music more than music itself, if that makes any sense. We’re always hands on with that stuff and care so much about it. The visuals can influence the music just as much as the music can influence the visuals.
That said, did the music inform the visuals for ‘The World Is Going To Ruin You’? The album has been done for quite a while.
Anthony: Yeah, there’s a lot of inspiration going into the visuals. As we sat with the album and did the video, it definitely evolved. We had the artwork done in under a year after recording the record and it definitely evolved in that span of time as we had it. It goes back to what I was saying. Visuals might have influenced the vibe on the album sonically and then that reinspired the visual part.
We took a shot at it and got in touch with Autumn. She heard the album and I think she did a really good job at making it come to life.
It’s noticeable with how strong the audiovisual cohesion is. Anthony wanted to see things through intentionally rather than simply pass off the project to a separate person for completion, which speaks to the genuineness and integrity of their output.
Autumn: Absolutely. The way that I describe the dream-like and surrealness of the artwork was definitely in their vision for the album. Some of the references they sent are very heavy and into the dark surrealism angle of art. They really wanted something that was in the realm of the psychological, but also grounded and gritty at the same time.
Your strengths are really rooted in the strong relationship you were able to build with the band and their compositions, which is seen with Code Orange as well. How significant do you value the camaraderie that you build with bands, especially with how well you’re able to immerse yourself into the projects that they present to you? This is more than a mere transactional process for you and the band.
Autumn: I highly value that. The way that I view commercial art is through the lens of communication. It’s extremely important for me to maintain the integrity of the person or group that I’m collaborating with because although I may have my own sensibilities for how I think things should be done, if I’m making something that misses the mark, who am I making it for? I’m just making it for myself rather than the partner.
There’s something really beautiful about a shared collaborative process because you make things that you wouldn’t expect to be making. Instead of having hyper control over every aspect of its development, you end up with something that organically kind of grows. That’s beautiful and it makes for more successful commercial art, especially with music. It’s incredibly important. If you don’t collaborate with the band intentionally, you risk losing the soul of the band that you’re working with.
Very well put, Autumn. The cover itself is a maelstrom of elements that coalesce as one harrowing being. Is it cathartic to see it being engaged by audiences across the world with how much heart went invested within it?
Anthony: Definitely, especially because it only exists to you for so long. To think that many other people then get to see it through their own lens is very crazy. It has been a long while that we’ve been sitting on it. It is cathartic. You gain a new perspective on it when seeing the artwork out and about.
You get to see it on shirts, all sorts of tour merchandise, and other mediums, and it becomes its own identity. You don’t really think about the reciprocal effects of your work as insular artists, but then you realize that so many people are connecting to it in so many different ways. Does that create a sense of pressure for you all where you’re realizing the reach and responsibility that you have as musicians is greater than what you perhaps thought it was?
Anthony: Yes and no. I want to say yes because I’m not really on social media much, so when I do see shit like that, I’m like “Whoah, whoah.” I do forget that people are talking about our music and picking it apart. At the same time though, when people say things about it, whether it be good or bad, nine times out of ten it isn’t real to me. In a way, I want to say no to the question because I try to pretend that it doesn’t exist and walk it all out. I don’t even really believe what anybody is saying half the time. I do get what you’re saying, though. It’s crazy to see the feedback and you’re like, “Wow, a lot of people are paying attention.” People are looking closely at the material.
Going back to the question, it’s a little bit of both. In a positive way, people really care. There are kids who are just as excited as we are about the art aspects of the record, which I think I like the most.
For young bands like yourselves to realize that you have that sort of reach is important, since you’re coming to terms that your music is more powerful than you initially thought it was. Touching back on the accessibility of the record, the band’s themes may have stemmed from the band’s unique demons but it’s also where people find community, relating to it in a way. The art works in that same vein and now that you’ve seen the cover evolve over the months, does it change your perspective on it all now seeing it from a third point perspective?
Autumn: Honestly, not really and only because I was really excited about this project from the beginning. It felt like from the jump, it was in my wheelhouse. Something about it clicked and that excitement hasn’t changed now that I’m seeing it in print and out there.
I can’t really look at anything that I’ve done without being critical about it. It’s common for most other artists I’m sure. I see some of those things in the cover and I haven’t seen the printed packaging for the gatefold and lyric book yet, but they’re there. Persistent, nagging voices aside, it’s amazing to see it out in the world.
It’s a high point in your artistic career I’m sure.
Autumn: I would say so! I’m a graphic designer in my actual job and doing this work for Vein.fm was a window into more projects that I’d like to do in the future. Sometimes, there’s a spiritual element to it where this project really felt like a good fit. That gives me a lot of hope and drive for similar projects in the future.
Every aspect of Vein.fm was taken into consideration. The drifting typography of the album title, the visceral collage art, the new logo; there’s just so much going on. Is the intention here to encourage dissection beyond a surface level? You’re not direct and don’t explicitly state a message, instead encouraging viewers to form their own interpretation.
Anthony: That’s the thing. With album covers, you want something that’s going to sum up the whole entire vibe of the music you’re listening to. You want it to be a one to one connection. With albums, maybe the first three tracks set a tone, but there are other songs on there that don’t reflect what’s on the album art. Sometimes, there will inevitably be things in the art that don't look how it sounds. You’re trying to get something that will encompass everything.
This album is so multidimensional and that’s what the album cover looks like to me. It’s kind of like a movie poster in a sense where it’s teasing a little bit of everything. There’s a house, there’s a weird, ethereal light that bleeds over into the back cover. The cover is technically a front and a back over and when it’s folded out, you see a whole spread. There’s the face underneath the house and then there’s the sky.
On ‘Errorzone’, it was just the eye getting cut open or getting surgery. The eye was the one thing that wrapped up how the whole album sounded the whole time really. This one has way more shit going on, which is why I think it’s cool. I like that there’s so much going on in the front and the front of the house really sums it all up, providing a focus for the whole thing. The house is from the video that we filmed for ‘The Killing Womb’ and that kind of served as the basis for the things that we used to create the artwork. Wait, what was the original question again?
You essentially answered it, but was the visual goal for the cover to be ambiguous? You present a platform for viewers to form their own interpretation.
Anthony: Yeah, it’s going to mean different things for different people. The goal of the album cover was to sum up how the album felt sonically and lyrically into one thing. When you listen to the album and the first couple songs especially, it’s as you were saying; it invites you into a fucked up, chaotic world. The front cover definitely achieves that. It almost looks like a portal that you’re about to enter into the album. Going into the album, the themes were visually centered around the house and isolation. You know how expansive that can be, so it's cool because there’s the house, all sorts of crazy shit, and then this underground, scary component to it.
There’s much to uncover and it’s all an enticing enough reason for people to pick up the physical copy. Color palette and fonts can be deemed as a marketing aspect, but one of things that stood out to me was the fading aspect of the lettering that you did for the album title. As we’ve touched on before, every aspect of the cover was intentional, but how does it all come together as far as structurally putting it together?
Autumn: In terms of the selection of the elements to the image, they had a photographer who took a bunch of photos that they sent to me and I chose from that group of photos. I took what they gave me and turned it into what you see today.
We put together the imagery of the cover before we did the design of the typography. We focused primarily on trying to create a really striking image. Initially, they had approached me solely for the album artwork. As the relationship grew, the project evolved and expanded to more stuff. I essentially “shot my shot” for the typography. I had tried out a couple of approaches and I was interested in making the type feel like the music, which fell in line with some of the references that they sent and the conversations that I had with Anthony. It evolved from there.
While I was messing with it, I bent the typography and made it echo in a way that felt like a whisper. It seemed to fit; it fit with the music and it fit with the image that we had created. When we had those pieces together, we took that and applied it to the rest of the lyric book. To a little bit of a more extreme degree, we pushed the typography to match the phonetics of the songs themselves. Anthony wanted the book to feel like it was something someone had written in. He wanted it to feel like a screenshot of pages of someone’s actual journal. We took a different spin on that for unnamable aesthetic reasons and ended up going with black pages. By treating the typography in a phonetic way, it sort of got that message across. That was a big driving factor too and something we had talked about. We wanted the journal approach but not in a way that has been done thousands of times. We wanted it to feel fresh.
How long did that at all take to put together? A lot of patience went into this I’m sure.
Autumn: The album cover took like two to three weeks to complete if I remember correctly and the entire project took like three to four months.
I ask so that readers know this is more than moving elements around on photoshop and throwing effects over it in a manner of minutes.
Autumn: That’s for sure. I wish it were that easy. You have to know things about lighting and perspective. Making separate images feel like one cohesive body can be challenging but also really fun too. I love working that way because you can really explore interesting imagery. There’s a different tactile sense to mixing things rather than actually drawing. I took those images and collaged them and did a bit of digital painting over it. What I like to do is blend painting with photography. I like to make them feel synonymous. To me, it feels so satisfying. It’s like sinking your teeth into a sculpture.
What was your approach to the logo?
Autumn: The logo came about as I was working on more and more stuff and it ended up being part of the evolution of the project. As mentioned, Anthony wanted to do a spin on their logo that felt more like this album but didn’t drift too far away from the original. Unlike the artwork, the new logo is graphic and black and white. To try and catch the spirit of that, I took their logo and cut up one of the photos that they provided. I stitched it back together with the original Vein logo and then drew on top of that to make them feel connected. I added texture overlays to make it feel like Vein still but also match the grittiness and horror of the album’s direction.
You’re creating a new world for this new chapter in Vein.fm and each passing listen of the record presents new layers that you perhaps didn’t catch the first time. As Autumn notes, you both found commonalities early on and the ideas flowed really well, especially with how well she understood the record and embodied it instead of seeing this as another commission. How important was camaraderie to the development of the record, musically and visually?
Anthony: Absolutely important. I was glad that Autumn was able to connect with it as well as she did. I don’t know what kind of music she listens to and I don’t know how many other artists could really connect to it in that way, but she really connected. Whether she enjoyed it or not, she understood it. A lot of the lyrics were meant to be written out in a sort of distorted kind of way that complements part of the songs. When you read those, you can tell that she was listening to certain accents and certain inflections.
When we would talk about the choices she made visually on the inner booklet, which has more artwork, you can tell she was approaching this very intentionally. She did this with purpose and paid attention to everything. There’s plenty of other people who would probably take on the commission as another job and not really listen to what you’re doing, simply charge you for it.
You can tell that wasn’t the case here with how well it all fits together. Going back to the start of all of this when you were looking to start the visual development, what drew you to Autumn’s work initially?
Anthony: I have a list of influences and inspirations throughout the stuff that I’ve made. Jami Morgan and I were hanging out one evening and I told him a little bit about what we were going for. I mentioned Dave McKean. He was like, “Oh, my sister loves Dave McKean.” We then got in touch through him and it was cool because she understood a lot of the influences. I looked at a lot of her work and it wasn’t the type of style that she made for our album, but it was something that she really wanted to do, so she tried and experimented with stuff strictly for the record. She brought our vision to a more realized state. She was excited to work on it for that reason. The direction of it all aligned with stuff that she really liked, so it worked out well.
You obviously knew what you wanted and set parameters, but you allowed free reign in terms of her creative interpretation. One of the core themes throughout the record is introspection. Loneliness is perhaps a fitting theme to the occurrences the world has lived through in the past couple of years. It was a period of extreme isolation for many, a period where music and the arts served as an outlet for an expression of repressed emotions. What role do you feel the arts play in the larger scope of the human experience, especially in contemporary times?
Anthony: There’s a lot of things, but I think that in terms of this artwork, it serves as an escape, as a way to go to someplace otherworld or just someplace that relates to you. It’s really about going somewhere else, not physically but spiritually and mentally. That’s the purpose it serves.
I don’t think this is an album you throw in the car and go to work to. It’s not even because it’s heavy because there are plenty of heavy albums where you can do it. Basically, this is more like a headphones, more personal journey kind of album. It’s an escape. Some records are good for jamming as you’re on your way to work, but this is more of an escape.
Autumn, you of course have had the opportunity to do work for Code Orange and others as a means of activism through the visual medium. That said, what’s your take on that question?
Autumn: The first thing that anybody sees is an image. People are drawn to visuals. You get a lot out of what you see and it can sometimes make or break whether people actually listen to your album or not. It can make or break whether people listen to what it is that you have to say. When you put out artwork to try and go with an album and what you have to say, the image has to be really strong and hit something in your gut to get people interested. I believe Anthony and the rest of Vein.fm understands and really gets that, and I learned a lot about how to execute that by working with my brother and Code Orange. Am I getting too far off the question?
Not at all, that’s perfectly put. Your view on the artistic significance certainly plays a role in how the Vein.fm cover came to be.
Autumn: I think so. It sparks a couple of thoughts. When you are looking at an image that hits you deep inside, you sometimes don’t really know why that is. It’s my job as an artist to figure out ways to press those buttons and take the overall vision that we’re trying to accomplish and make it as relatable, or sometimes unrelatable, as possible. If you make something purposely off putting or hitting the negative aspects of humanity, you really speak to a lot of people, especially right now. People have always been struggling but we’re now in this weird space where we’re all very hyper aware of each other’s struggle. At the same time, a lot of people feel isolated in that struggle. That sense of being isolated in a crowd tied in for me to how this image ended up being. I think that everybody has felt that way to some degree.
Depending on who you ask, loneliness is a double edged sword. For some, it’s self-destructive and brings about negative thoughts and trauma, which is why some prefer to be in communal areas with friends and family. Loneliness can also be quite beautiful, right? These are moments we have to ourselves. Moments we can use for reflection, introspection, and learning.
Anthony: Absolutely! There’s good and bad to all things. Loneliness is hard because you do have to deal with yourself, but in that, there’s so many beautiful things you can find. I agree, and the record sounds a certain type of way because of that. It wasn’t made for fun times, you know what I mean?
There will certainly be fun times on tour though.
Anthony: Definitely, that’s for sure.
Autumn, as you see this roll out, is there something you wish viewers to take from the experience you craft for ‘This World Is Going To Ruin You’?
Autumn: I feel like it’s my job to care about what people take from the imagery. There’s a good chunk of art that is my own artistic vision and the band’s own artistic vision and there’s something beautiful about making art for yourself and writing for writing’s sake. I see my job in a lot of ways as making sure that I’m communicating the message effectively. What I’m hoping people get out of the imagery, if anything, is a dark sense of belonging, almost like a monster that you recognize in your own psyche. To me, that’s what this is supposed to be communicating.
This World Is Going To Ruin You arrived March 4th via Closed Casket Activities (Order).