It’s all just a pile of Sour Grapes for The Criticals. The Nashville-based band just released their latest EP, Sour Grapes, earlier this month which was followed by the single, “Treat Ya Better,” a highly successful song which is closing in on a quarter of a million streams on Spotify alone. The album is the band’s largest foray yet into harder-hitting guitar riffs and more aggressive, in-your-face songwriting.

It’s still quite early in the game for The Criticals, with their history only dating back to 2018 when Parker Forbes and Cole Shugart decided to form the group. Forbes and Shugart were longtime acquaintances from the local rock music scene and thought to forge ahead together when they realized that they were both interested in forming a band based on youth, honesty, and enthusiasm for life.

One of the primary factors that stands out on the Sour Grapes EP is the intriguing album cover. For our latest UnCovered interview, we spoke with Parker Forbes about the creative process behind the creation of the Sour Grapes EP cover, his thoughts on album artwork in general, and a couple of fun alcohol-related questions for good measure.

The Sour Grapes album cover is crazy-cool. Tell us about the artist behind it and how you found him?

Parker Forbes: “When we shot the Sour Grapes cover, we were on a hard deadline. We gathered a bunch of items and shoved them all haphazardly into a corner of our apartment and invited our friend Dylan Joseph over, who had a camera. We sat right in the middle of the found objects and had Dylan shoot a couple frames. We then sent to our friend Kyle Neach for design.”

What was the inspiration for the cover artwork?

Jane’s Addiction’s Ritual de lo Habitual is probably the greatest inspiration visually.”

Did Dylan who did the cover art hear the album beforehand? Or, what kind of input did you give him?

“We had shown Dylan demos of some of the songs, but the creative direction came from our end. There are couple items to note in the chaos around us: a copy of John Dekay’s ‘Bullfighter’ painting, a Dali Tarot Deck, polaroids from the making of the record, a bottle of gin and whisky, and a painting Cole did of his grandmother’s hands.”

Artwork for ‘Sour Grapes’ by The Criticals

Do you like to write music with some drink in you? If yes, what?

“Every song is different. We have definitely been known to dabble in a little Wild Turkey when we write the harder stuff. We are southern boys, after all.”

Have you ever purchased an album solely because of its album artwork? Did the music live up to the artwork?

“Album art is becoming less and less important these days. A lot of times when I am digging through new music the album art is secondary. However, I did start listening to Brenton Wood recently because of this phenomenon… I was thumbing through a bud’s record collection, when I saw ‘Oogum Boogum.’ That cover is so damn cold, it deserves a listen just because of the cover.”

Do you have a favourite album cover of all time?

“One of our favourites has always been Combat Rock from The Clash and another phenomenal cover is Purple by Stone Temple Pilots.”

What do you think are some of the cover artworks that have translated best/worst onto t-shirts and other merch?

“Obviously Unknown Pleasures. Even though I’m pretty sure half of the people who wear those shirts have no idea who Joy Division is.”

Preferred drink, if you had to put it down on a rider for the whole band!

“I think it would have to be High Life or Stella.”

A fan asks to buy you a drink in a bar, what do you choose?

“Anything but a damn IPA.”

The Criticals by Daniel Chaney

With the increasing popularity of digital music, most fans view artwork as just pixels on a screen. Why did you feel the artwork for Sour Grapes was important?

“Everyone relates with a great album cover. Even today in a mostly digital world, an album cover can grab your eye while scrolling through a playlist with a hundred songs.”

Was the album art influenced by any of the themes explored on the album?

“Our creative space is always filled with a hodgepodge of things that interest us. Sometimes if you hit a wall while you’re writing or recording, picking up a deck of cards or drawing something random can get your mind back to the right place.”

If the world was coming to an end what would be your drink of choice to watch it all burn?

“Paddy’s Irish Whiskey or a cheap cabernet.”

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