Aitor Throup and Sergio Pizzorno of Kasabian Discuss the Art Direction to ’48:13′
It later became clear that the number was the title of Kasabian's fifth album and the total run time of the 13-track record. Having been described as anything from indie-electronica, brit-pop and neo-psychedelic, the award-winning band sought to strip back stereotypes with its latest release, presenting a simple but powerful pink record sleeve with the numbers in Helvetica. Led by the acclaimed British designer Aitor Throup, the artwork mirrored the motifs of the Pizzorno-produced album -- rowdy, honest and undeniably fun.
Establishing his name as a fashion designer, Throup successfully dodged seasonal expectations of the fashion industry, presenting innovative projects on his own timetable that doubled in both art and fashion. Following from Throup’s 2013 collection New Object Research -- assisted by Pizzorno's musical curation -- the two teamed up again with Throup transmitting 48:13's simple yet unnerving message in visual form. In this project, Throup oversaw the album artwork -- which included photographing and styling the images above -- and directed first the music video of “Eez Eh” and then the band’s forthcoming show at Glastonbury's Pyramid Stage. We caught up with both artists ahead of their show at Glastonbury next week and learnt more about the genre-bending album, the shooting of “Eez Eh,” and Serge Pizzorno’s love for chocolate biscuits.
How did you two first meet?
Sergio Pizzorno: We met back in 2010, when Aitor designed the England Home and Away kit for the football World Cup in South Africa. Aitor had his iPad and some sketches, and I instantly fell in love with his work. AItor's aesthetics made it really natural for him to join us on this journey.
How did you develop the concept for 48:13’s artwork ?
Aitor Throup: Before we started the art direction, I was fascinated by the way Sergio works. He’s always obsessed with the length of a record and its optimum running time. To Sergio, every release has to be perfect from start to finish. I was thinking “it doesn’t matter if the record is two hours long, who cares?” But to Serge, everything had to be considered including the transition from track to track.
So Serge’s obsession with the running time became the basis of the record?
AT: It started from that, but he also wanted the record to be direct -- what you see is what you get. I don’t like album titles that are based on one of the songs. It’s like the album is about one song rather than the whole collection. Naming the album the running time of the record felt like the most authentic way of summing up Kasabian's work.
For each track, you’ve chosen one-word abbreviations rather than the track’s running time. What’s the reason behind this?
SP: When you name a song, there’s an element of framing it; and over-thinking that makes it less genuine. I like abbreviations because they say a lot without saying much, and it often allows the viewers to make up their own meanings. Each track name is an abbreviation of the narrative, and 48:13 describes all the tracks.
I heard that 48:13 was a guestimate time of all the tracks?
AT: Yeah we guessed all the tracks would add up to 48 minutes and 13 seconds. That was six months before the album was mixed. Out of pure coincidence the album came up to 48:13 minutes. It’s incredible really.
The most striking part of the album artwork is the use of pink. Why did you use this color?
AT: Pink is very subversive. The punks used bright pink in a definitive context to make an aggressive point. In this case, we used the color for two reasons. First was a reaction to how Kasabian has been misinterpreted. The pink is to redefine the public’s perception of the band, as a retort to those who have categorized Kasabian’s sound - whether its Brit pop or indie-rock. Pink is the antithesis in color standards.
Second was a reaction to how we see the music industry. There seems to be no true definition of rock and roll these days. Everything is so calculated, and people change who they are because of it. We want to represent the ultimate punk rock and roll spirit. The true essence of “cool” is not give a shit. From the album art, song titles and the lyrics, this record is as direct as possible.
SP: When we starting writing music for 48:13, we wanted to redefine the conception given to the band and be instantly recognizable. We’re often interpreted as masculine and grungy. We wanted to flip that with the last color people would associate with us. It’s a really naughty color.
In this project, how do Atior Throup’s aesthetics coexist with Kasabian’s?
AT: Pink perfectly brings together Kasabian's sensibility as a band with my own aesthetics. My work is generally monochromatic, with little pops of color. If you dissect the aesthetics of Kasabian’s music, you can hear riffs of psychedelia alongside electronic textures. These could be translated as laser colors. If you were to interpret those swirls and textures with my minimalist approach, it results in pink. Bright pink resonates with the late ‘60s psychedelia and rave, but it’s also a futuristic color. It perfectly distills the whole musical direction of the record into one color.
Why was “Eez Eh” chosen as the single? What’s so powerful about the song?
AT: With a lot of British bands, you can see that their lyrics and the ways they dress, sing and talk have all been analyzed and marketed. But really, they’re saying nothing and pretending they're revolutionizing the world. Then you take “Eez Eh”: the forthrightness of that song makes it so genuine. Serge is making social commentary on how messed up the world is, but he’s saying it in the most obvious, sing-a-long rhyming way. I find that really inspiring.
Why is “Eez Eh” placed on track 11 of the album?
SP: We wanted to listeners to address the album from start to finish. It’s a natural sequence for the track to be placed there. Most artists would put their single at number one, but within this context it will only work at track 11.
There’s a strong element of fun in the music video of “Eez Eh.” What’s the concept behind that?
AT: Instead of being preoccupied with decisions on what might be perceived as cool, we purposely went against these conceptions. The fact that everyone’s not trying to be too moody or grungy makes them more rebellious than ever, and more real than what others are trying to imitate. That’s what punk is about, isn’t it? To not give a fuck and have fun.
SP: It’s quite interesting to release something that you have no idea how people are going to receive. Whether they're going to get it or not. We've taken a risk. Everything about the album is so direct. The lyrics and rhyming in "Eez Eh" is the same. We could have chosen a million words and people would have considered us clever, but the point of the whole record is to not overthink things and be clever for no reason. We wanted to choose words that were simple and powerful.
In the music video for “Eez Eh,” the band is jumping around with stuffed animals and water pistols. How do these props assist the message?
AT: We want to revisit the things that excited us when we were kids. As a reaction to how Art Directors over-calculate moodboards, we presented icons -- including a big foam hand and a water pistol -- that are timeless definitions of happiness. True cool is not pretentious.
SP: Rock bands often follow a rule book on what they should look like -- incorporating staples like the leather jacket, motorbike and skinny jeans. But really, foamed hands and water pistols are just the coolest things ever. We wanted to use props that represented "cool" before people tried too hard to define the meaning. The video make a satirical comment on how ridiculous the idea of “cool” has become. It’s funny how people over-analyze the music video, but ultimately the joke is on them because what you see is what you get.
Alongside the use of pink, you’ve chosen to use Helvetica in your lettering? Why did you use this font?
AT: Good design should be self explanatory, in the sense that you can feel the designer hasn’t overthought it. Helvetica is perfect for what we're trying to say with this record. It’s an iconic font, yet it’s also such a “non” font. It’s almost like we didn’t make a decision there. It’s blank but its bold.
Aitor, you’ve creatively prepared Kasabian’s forthcoming performance at Glastonbury Festival’s Pyramid Stage. What should attendees expect?
AT: We want to rethink how we can maximize a live performance and what the attendees can get most out of the show. It’s hard to explain details without giving it away. The show will be built on the contrasts of minimalism and complexity. There’s something at the beginning of the show that changes what everything looks like. It’ll follow an extremely minimalist theme that’s overpowering. It’s a very new approach but extremely honest.
SP: We're going to bring alive the world we've created together. It's a very simple idea in a massive scale. It’s not going to be overly technical. We’re not trying to create a hologram of Kasabian. Every aspect from the surrounding stages, to the lights and video screens will be directly informed by the music.
Is there anything you admire about one another?
SP: Aitor’s got such a good eye for design. His work comes from vast research. Aitor reinvents wardrobe staples like the button-up shirt or the jean jacket in such progressive yet unassuming ways.
AT: Serge really is a genius. The way he writes, the way he produces -- he has this inherent confidence to be true to himself. My niche is very specific compared to Kasabian's. Thankfully my work is recognized by the right people in the right places. Yet, Sergio’s context is of a completely different level. There's millions of people watching him. The way he can retain such integrity and deliver a record like 48:13, with all the pressures at such a commercial level, is incredible. It's a massive statement to not follow the rules that the industry has set.
Aitor, Is there something you can tell us about Sergio that we might not know?
AT: No one knows chocolate biscuits like Serge. He's got taste for the best chocolate biscuits. Almost a scientific brain when it comes to chocolate biscuits. A real connoisseur.
And Serge: vice versa?
SP: Aitor drinks aloe vera juice which is the most insane thing I've seen anyone ever do. I feel like he's drinking shampoo.