Loom, the latest record from London’s Fear of Men, has been out since April. The album art, like most of the their other records’, consists of a sculpture. The one used for Loom took the band three months to make, for which they also have a short documentary, accompanied by an uncanny track they made from sound scraps. Vocalist and guitar player Jess Weiss took some time to discuss where Fear of Men's art meets their music.
Most of your record covers feature sculptures. Is that in any way connected to the type of music you make, that is, in terms of the space and form it inhabits?
We like to take a very formal, archival, museum quality approach to our artwork with the layout and typography as well as the objects, and I think that sculpture sits particularly well against the flatness of the text. Also I think we make quite personal, intimate music, so I like the contrast of these large classical sculptures with more vulnerable themes.
I was originally drawn to classical sculpture after reading Freud's Uncanny, where he discusses mortality anxiety and mourning for ourselves in statues, as well as Benjamin's Origin of German Tragic Drama, and Nietzsche's conception of Apollonesian and Dionysian elements, and the tension and strength in bringing music, and Dionysian force together with more apollonian sculpture.
What’s the sound that accompanies the video of the making of the album cover?
It’s a sound collage that Michael put together from some of the different tracks we had recorded on to a four track; all the sounds are taken from one cassette tape. We were interested in exploring themes of fragmentation and disintegration in the production to reflect the lyrics on the album so throughout the recording of Loom we would record string sections, backing vocals, guitar, drums and other parts really hot on to tape until we would get a tangible break up and distortion. As we experimented more with tape we learned more about how else we could manipulate sound, at times it can lend a haunting quality, and sometime we used it to make vocals sound crystalline and colder—you can hear it in the wordless section in the middle of “Vitrine” on the album.
About the artwork: It took three months? What's the story, process, concept behind it?
We were inspired by the casts of the bodies from Pompeii, but we’d put so much of ourselves in to the album that it didn’t feel right to just use a picture, we wanted to make the installation ourselves. Daniel and I worked with my friend from art school, Tom Malyon, who is a really talented set designer and sculptor. His bedroom became our workshop as we spent weeks, months, casting isolated parts of the body, fixing them together and modeling the body to create a whole. Layers were built up with plaster, wire and concrete.
We also built the vitrine display case for the object, which is similar to the museum cabinets the real bodies from Pompeii are shown in, and referenced a sense of detachment and isolation in the lyrics of Loom.
We took it to be photographed at the Regency House Project, an architectural research and conservation space in Brighton that I'd interned at, who were kind enough to let us use their room. The neo-classical pillars of the room and the large mirror, which doubled the body, both seemed to complement the piece.
The title Loom and the ash cloud imagery we've used ties in with the eruption at Pompeii, and the idea of the shadows that hang over a lot of people's lives, which is an overriding theme of the record.