“We wanted the artwork to reflect the ecstasy and the pathos in the music, and we wanted to transcend any obvious ‘drug culture’ reference points that the title might lead towards,” says lead singer Alexis Taylor of the cover for A Bath Full of Ecstasy, the group’s seventh LP.
The first time It’s Nice That was made aware of the collaboration was when Alexis posted a strikingly indecipherable, hyper monochrome set of tour dates on Instagram. Our interest was firmly piqued. And so we waited and waited and eventually Domino — the indie label that Hot Chip have been signed to since 2012’s In Our Heads album — sent over the goods: A semi-psychedelic screamer, replete with a custom typeface courtesy of Fraser and his team.
Speaking to It’s Nice That over the phone from his studio in London, Fraser insists that, “It’s not a font. It’s more like lettering,” having been extracted from Nicolete Gray’s 1986 study A History of Lettering: Creative Experiment and Letter Identity.
Describing it as, “a bit ‘arts and craftsy’, a bit folksy,” Fraser tells us that the slightly wonky choice of lettering was a way of navigating the fact that for a certain kind of music listener — likely anyone reading this piece — there’s a wariness about certain typographical choices. “People always say, ‘Oh, I’ve seen that before.’ In this case, you wouldn’t have done. You can’t quite place it,” he says. “It’s hard to read, sort of. It becomes an image.”
The arcadian-weirdness of the lettering is central to the sleeve; rendering the “Bath Full” of the title as one word, a spatial triangle emerges, imparting a paradoxical sense of quiet rigidity on a cover which seems to hover in front of the viewer’s eyes; as beatific and bucolic as a late summer’s evening somewhere in a verdant English enclave that lives on forever in the imagination.
Having developed what he describes as “a unique printing technique,” Fraser and his team created about 200 variations on the spritzes of colour that make up the bulk of A Bath Full of Ecstasy’s visual field. Having sifted through the bulk, a decision was made, and just as crucially stuck to. “The cover image isn’t doctored at all. It Is just the print,” Fraser tells us.
Asked how they came to work with the Turner Prize winner, Alexis says that he thought Jeremy would be the “perfect person” to collaborate with. Jeremy tells us that the end result is, “Jeremy Deller ten per cent, Fraser Muggeridge studio 90 per cent,” but still. Having hooked Hot Chip up with the Melodians Steel Orchestra for a performance at Glastonbury a few years back, Alexis and his wife found themselves bumping into the “very welcoming and warm individual” with some regularity.
“Jeremy immediately suggested we work together with him and Fraser, and they showed us some mock-up designs of what the cover could look like, focusing on a special font, and some screen-printed background colours,” Alexis says. “We spent a day in a studio together with all of us in the band — and Jeremy, Fraser, and Joe Nava, a designer at Fraser’s studio — hand printing our own versions of ‘the cover’, to try out as many options as possible. This then led to another stage of printing on a Sunday by Fraser and Anya Landolt (another designer at the studio) and soon we were somewhere that everyone was excited by. To be honest, the very first mock-ups that Jeremy and Fraser showed us were so good themselves that we were already happy at that point!”
The bespectacled style icon goes on to tell us that the artwork which features on the record isn’t the end of the collaborative journey with Fraser. They’ve worked together to create outfits for the group to wear — brought to life by designer Demi Amber — on the aforementioned tour, and we’re told that if we’re lucky we might get to dry ourselves down this summer with a Hot Chip beach towel. Which, frankly, we’ve been pining for ever since we heard And I Was a Boy From School and felt our hearts melt into a puddle of technicolour slush all those years ago.
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