In It’s Nice That’s eyes, the best musical partnerships are not those of a songwriter and an instrumentalist, but a musician willing to work with and trust a creative to push their songs into visual brilliance. There are few greater examples of this kind of partnership than the relationship between director Harry Israelson and Chaz Bundick, better known to you and me as Toro Y Moi.
Whether the pair is creating a visual album performed to no one in a desert or a music video featuring not people but wind dancers, Chaz and Harry’s approach is to always “present a complete visual package,” Harry tells It’s Nice That. This is certainly the case with the latest release by Toro Y Moi, Freelance (off the upcoming album Outer Peace), which features a sleeve and video by Harry where both make an effort to “point to each other" in a way that "felt consistent and intentional,” the director explains. “Music videos and album art are most often conceived separately at different stages in the process. Chaz and I have worked together for so many years that we had the opportunity to connect the two organically, early on…”
Interestingly, the idea behind the album cover came first, rather than the video for Freelance which expands its frame into a narrative. With a title like Freelance, the idea behind Chaz’s latest single is clear, featuring the musician sitting at his desk drinking what we assume is a bottle of Perrier, tapping away on his Mac and singing lyrics such as “Cazadero got me wearing all camo, decked in Patagonia head to toe,” and “no more shoes and socks I only rock sandals, I can’t tell if I’m hip or getting old”.
However the initial, baseline idea for the album’s cover was to make something, “stylised, carefully art-directed and colourful to reflect the overall feeling of the record,” Harry tells us. “_Outer Peace_ is largely an electronic record with lots of lush synthesisers, so I looked to ‘producer-first’ album art from artists like Emir Deodato and Isao Tomita as early inspirations,” Harry, who art directed the shoot, explains. “My first inclination was a skeleton surrounded by synthesisers, implying that this producer character died doing what he loved. This eventually turned into some alternate artwork and a limited edition poster that comes with the pre-order vinyl.”
The final cover image, art directed by Harry and taken by photographer Jeff Leeds Cohn, mirrors the opening shot of Freelance’s video, with Chaz sat concentrating at his desk. It’s a design decision that means anyone who will have watched this video will automatically spot Chaz’s latest record on the shelf and already have a relationship with it. This decision also mirrors the way Harry personally interacts with records he likes too: “I personally love listening to a record with the cover in hand; in this case, we wanted to give listeners the chance to disappear into the album art – to be present during the cover art photo session. It’s as though you can stick your head into the cover itself and have a look around…”
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