We had to be patient, but Framing Hanley has returned! After a three-year hiatus ended in April 2018, the band got to work and, in February 2020, delivered big in the form of their latest album, Envy, released via Thermal Entertainment. The recording, their first since 2014’s The Sum of Who We Are, demonstrates more mature songwriting and a continual musical evolution. In some respects, Envy is a reintroduction, particularly due to the fact that the album also coincides with the introduction of two new band members, drummer Shad Teems and guitarist Nic Brooks, who both became full-time members in 2018.
One listen to Envy and it’s clear to see that not only did Framing Hanley not miss a beat during their hiatus, but they have also put a tremendous amount of effort in coming up with a worthy comeback record. To mark the band’s return and the recent release of Envy, we spoke with drummer Shad Teems to gather his perspective on the album’s creative new cover artwork in our latest edition of UnCovered. Teems describes the process of how he and his wife Robin created the Envy artwork, what he’d like listeners to think when viewing it, and whether the team prepared any art for the album besides the cover.
What was the inspiration for the album’s cover artwork?
Shad Teems: “The cover pulls lyrical elements from the album. ‘Bubbles’ is an obvious pull from the lyrics. Lyrically, but there is also a lot of fake-ness happening everywhere. This cover was trying to represent that. Also, at the time, we were dealing with some people that tried to make this album not happen. It reminded me of dealing with a couple of clowns, honestly, so I jokingly suggested having two clowns on the cover. (Lead singer Kenneth) Nixon agreed and suggested having them look hand-drawn with the title changing to Envy. That’s when I passed the cover on to my wife. She came up with the rest. The style, the fake hand-gun motion, the bubbles.
We worked with the layout together. I had originally designed another cover that we were ready to use, but with all the ideas working together lyrically and thematically, this was going to be perfect. And I knew her style would be compliment this so well. So she illustrated the clowns and then I added the rest around it.”
How did you go about creating the artwork?
“The clown illustration was created by my wife, Robin, and I designed the rest around it.”
Please elaborate on the medium(s) used when creating the art. We’d love to know how the artwork was created.
“Robin used brushed Black Magic ink and charcoal on Bristol board and a Prismacolor pencil used for the red under the eyes. I designed the rest using Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator.”
Would you consider your wife an additional band member perhaps?
“She’s my wife, but everyone was already familiar with her work because she’s drawn up some merch designs in the past. So you can consider her with the band.”
Did your wife hear the album beforehand?
“She heard most of the songs throughout the time that we were in the studio. Like I said, she’s my wife so she heard a good bit through the recording of the album.”
Have you ever purchased an album solely because of its album artwork? If yes, did the music live up to the artwork?
“Funny story. In 2007, Robin moved to Nashville and picked up a random CD at Wal-Mart specifically because she liked the album cover. Oddly enough, it was Framing Hanley’s first album The Moment. She became a fan because of that random purchase. She didn’t know any of the band members at the time, and it wasn’t until 2009 that we met. We started dating in 2011 when I started teching for Framing Hanley.”
With the increasing popularity of digital music, most fans view artwork as just pixels on a screen. Why did you feel the artwork was important?
“It creates a visual theme for the album. Just like talking to someone on the phone as opposed to talking in person. There’s a face to it. It’s a different connection.”
When people look at the album cover artwork, what do you want them to see/think?
“I want it to draw their attention. It’s a hot cover. There is so much controversy today. So much is a facade and I wanted something bold to portray that. Part of it is a simple message for a very select few.”
Have any favourite music-related visual artists?
“For Robin, Alex Pardee (cover art, In Love And Death by The Used). For me, I’m thankful for Aubrey Powell and Storm Thorgerson for one of the best rock covers of all-time, Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon.”
What are your thoughts and/or the pros and cons about digital art versus non-digital?
“This one is interesting because that is us. I am a digital designer full-time and my wife in hand-drawn artist. I believe her art is way more timeless than what I do. I love design and there is definitely the need for it, but I love what she does. It’s tangible. It’s real. Both have their perks though.”
What do you think are some of the cover artworks that have translated best/worst onto t-shirts and other merch?
“Honestly, I love the way our album cover translated to our merch. We did a special shirt for pre-orders that is probably my favorite shirt we’ve done in the last two years.”
Do you prefer having the most creative control when you get a project, or do you prefer when the band gives you a lot of input?
“Yes (laughs). I like having input to know what direction they would like to go in, but as an artist, it’s always more fun and more creative having that freedom. So it’s nice having a good balance.”
Was the album art influenced by any of the themes explored on the band’s album?
“Absolutely. The fake gun with bubbles and the clowns are carried throughout this album. All are referenced lyrically in someway and partner well with songs like ‘Joke’s On Us,’ ‘Carousel,’ ‘Counterfeit,’ and ‘Bubbles.’ Really all of them in different ways.”
How do you think the album art will affect the listener’s perception of your album?
“It adds shock value. With the lineup change and current lyrical messages, we hoped to shock people with this album. So the cover had to match.”
Is the art for this album related to any of your previous album cover artwork?
“No. Not even close.”
When it came time to come up with artwork, did you offer guidance to Robin or was this just a natural brainstorm?
“Both. I suggested the clowns as a joke and Nixon confirmed and suggested it be hand-drawn with the title changing to Envy. Robin came up with the rest of the illustration on her own. Then I just added the extras around it, name, logo, title, and the red streak of paint.”
What’s your favourite thing about this album cover?
“The controversy of it. The boldness. It catches your attention and makes you think.”
Did you both work on any art for the album besides the cover?
“I handle all of the design-work for the band, with the exception commission by Robin or our guitarist, Ryan (Belcher). I designed the art for the first three singles, ‘Puzzle Pieces,’ ‘Throwing Knives,’ and ‘Baggage Claim.’ I took my wife’s clown illustrations to design t-shirts to go along with the cover.”
Do you have a favourite album cover of all time?
“Dark Side of the Moon by Pink Floyd. It’s super simple, yet makes you think. I’ve always been drawn to this cover. One of the reasons I love doing album artwork is because of that cover.”