The guitarist elaborates on the pairing of colossal sonics and enthralling visuals.
Earlier this year, UK unit PIGSx7 (Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs) had a well-rounded release cycle planned for the arrival of their latest composition Viscerals, which arrived on April 3rd via Rocket Recordings. An extensive North American tour, including an appearance at SXSW, reviews, music videos; everything was set to best support their 8-track maelstrom of psychedelic doom. As you'd come to expect, the COVID pandemic came and took those plans with it.
Despite the shift in schedule, PIGSx7 remain steadfast in their support of Viscerals as the months continue to pass for it serves as their strongest effort to date. The multiple elements of doom, sludge, and punk present within the record come complemented by the vintage horror of Max Löffler, who's work has represented the likes of ELDER. TURNSTILE, and PHISH among many others. Together, the two have crafted a stimulating audiovisual experience that ranks high among 2020's psychedelic arena.
We talk to PIGSx& guitarist Adam Ian Sykes about the band's visual approach to Viscerals months after many have basked in the heaviness:
‘Viscerals’ is months out and audiences worldwide have been able to engage with the material in their own respective manner. In doing your own personal insight, where do you see the record now compared to when you were putting it together?
Sykes: I’m still not entirely sure. We released 'Viscerals' in the first week of Lockdown here in the UK and so with the exception of 'Crazy in Blood', we haven’t really had to chance to play those songs live. The cycle of an album release hasn’t played out like it usually would and so it doesn’t feel quite complete yet. But with that comes a great deal of excitement and anticipation for our future live shows. It’s an odd feeling but once we’re able to present the album in its live form and speak to the people who have bought the album and have spent some time with it, it’ll feel complete and it’ll be a long time coming.
Musically, ‘Viscerals’ is what we would categorize as the ‘Heaviest of Art’. It’s suffocatingly heavy yet also diverse in structure, speaking to the musicianship and camaraderie between you all as a band. How did you bring said camaraderie and honesty into the music itself?
Sykes: Trust. We’re all very close friends and were before we formed the band. It began, like a lot of bands, out of nothing more than a desire to play music with friends. Because of that, we trust each other, not just as people but as musicians.
Personally, I struggle making music on my own. The self-doubt is all-encompassing a lot of the time and so having others you respect be an equal part of the musical output gives the confidence that’s needed. I like to think that shows in the music.
You transitioned from Chris Reeder to Max Löffler for the album art. What inspired this decision? Perhaps the sweet cover he did for Elder?
Sykes: Chris Reeder did the artwork for 'Feed the Rats' (2017) and Sophy Hollington the artwork for 'King of Cowards' (2018). It feels important for us to have a different artist represent each album, especially artists with such a distinct style of their own.
Reeder runs our record label and we’re very lucky to have him be a part of the process. We simply sent him a mood board and he came back to us with a long list of artists he thought may work. Max was perfect for what we were looking for and working with him was very easy.
Visually, what were you looking for in working with Löffler on the art for ‘Viscerals’?
Sykes: We knew we wanted bodily organs to play a heavy role but wanted to treat it with a degree of levity and lean toward the more camp end of body horror. So amongst the references were a lot of late 70s and 80s horror movie posters. After talking amongst ourselves, Matt pulled out a copy of ‘Bollywood Bloodbath’ (2011) on Finders Keepers from his record collection, which began the mood board.
Did you find yourself letting Löffler take it in his own direction or did you feel it was particularly guided throughout the collaborative process?
Sykes: Other than the mood board, which was presented as a very rough guide, we simply asked for the organs to be presented or displayed to the audience in some way. The eyeball, the fork, the composition, that was all Max.
Cover aside, the video for ‘Rubbernecker’ is something that must be appreciated for it evokes the same eerie feelings of Tool’s early music videos. As you’ve mentioned before, it was inspired by Hieronymus Bosch’s “The Harrowing of Hell”. Can you elaborate on your collaborative process with Rafael Bonilla Jr. for this?
Sykes: Again, we gave Rafa a lot of creative freedom. Much like the internal aspects of the band, we try to only work with people whose work we trust. The main narrator of the song is a clown, observing the chaos around him. From that, Sam (Grant, guitar) had an idea of featuring the video in a circus, with each of us as performers. I wanted it to take place in hell because, y’know, rock music. Other than that, he was given free reign and with good cause. The results are fantastic.
In a time where streaming dominates the way in which people consume music, why is it important for you to invest in the artistic side of Pigs?
Sykes: Every action has a reaction and thankfully, maybe because of the ride of digital music, physical music is still very much here. The resurgence of vinyl is a fantastic thing, to me the artwork has always felt almost as important as the music, it’s compatible to the art of world-building or character-building in a film.
Mandatory question for us here at Heaviest of Art. Do you recall a time when an album cover made you pick up a record or even change the way you engaged with it?
Sykes: Being born in the late 80s with two much older brothers, I was brought up listening to a lot of grunge. Though not a band I listen to often anymore, I remember 'No Code' (1996) by Pearl Jam having a real impact on me. The CD came with a set of polaroids in the packaging which were taken from the album cover. I was fascinated and it was the first time I’d really noticed packaging be more than a simple cover image and track listing.
‘Viscerals’ radiates energy from start to finish. Though live shows aren’t in our foreseeable future, how do you see the record translating over to the live setting once they resume?
Sykes: We always write songs with the live setting in mind but having not had the opportunity to present the tracks in that way yet, there’ll be a longer than usual period of adjusting them for live, there may be some shortening of tracks or combining of others. We’ll see.
Viscerals is available now via Rocket Recordings. Order your copy of the record HERE.