For the recently released Elbow album Little Fictions, the band initially approached illustrator Rob Hunter to create cover artwork, but a few months later, the partnership had stretched far beyond a simple cover to become an extensive creative collaboration, including a fully illustrated book of lyrics and animated videos to accompany the album.
It all started with a phone call. “They had got in touch with [Rob’s agency] Blink Art and set up a conference call with me and the whole band,” explains Rob. “They had seen my books Map of Days and The New Ghost and wanted a storybook quality, but not too childish, a bit darker.”
Guy Garvey read out some lyrics over the phone to Rob and explained their meaning. “A few times he mentioned a girl venturing into a new world, which became the character in my illustrations,” Rob says. After listening to some of the tracks, Rob set about creating a set of filmic and magical images to reflect the musical themes.
After Elbow couldn’t choose between Rob’s pitched ideas, the band asked the illustrator to create an image for each song, which follow a loose narrative following the girl through a fantastical, dream-like landscape. In one, she skips across a pool of water making perfect ripples in the surface; in others she wanders a jungle, or stands atop a precarious pile of rocks. The cover shows a rocky, flooded terrain inspired by a story Guy’s wife told him about a beach strewn with gem-like glass fragments. Each image is infused with the same pink and purple gradated colours, aiming to feel “optimistic, like a sunrise”.
In the animations, which Rob worked on with Blinkink and animators Salla Lemus and Freya Hoston, this world comes to life in an entrancing and dramatic way befitting the music.
The book was designed together with Stuart Hardie. Little Fictions is out now on Universal Music.