Those unable to make the journey to Seattle last weekend for the Sub Pop 20th Anniversary festival can live vicariously through fan uploaded videos and Sub Pop’s own mobile broadcasting. Bruce Pavitt and Jonathan Poneman delve into the label’s history in a fair amount of detail in this interview. There are lots of reasons to celebrate the label, and those are balanced by a slew of missteps in the post-Nirvana age, referred to the Pavitt and Poneman as the “dark ages”.
Some interesting tidbits, regarding creating a visual identity that matched the sound:
This is something that’s rarely discussed or brought up, but I was always very, very conscious of networking and trying to link people up. In the same way that label would link up a musician with a graphic designer or photographer, I felt it was very important for different regional scenes, and bands in different cities to get turned on to what was going on in other cities, so the whole national scene could kind of coalesce into a more unified thing.
You say that every level needs a motif, visually. What other labels were you looking to for inspiration?
In my own mind, let’s say Blue Note, most famously. Factory Records. 4AD. And as far as the U.S. indie scene at that time, SST. All had very distinctive looks, and as somebody who had — I had also started a couple of indie record stores, I’d pretty much worked indie rock from every possible facet — what I would notice from working at record stores is that people would walk in and more times than not buy records simply because of the cover art. If there was a label like 4AD or SST that had a very consistent look, people would want to collect those records. Postcard Records from Scotland was another example. Because of the similar look, oftentimes people would want to collect everything in the series. This had a lot to do with how we packaged our singles; with the singles club, we had the bar running across the top. They became a series, and people would go out of their way to get everything in the series, and that led to a lot more record sales.
To me, the key to this identity lies in the black and white photography of Charles Peterson, which captures the sweat, hair, denim, and flannel in bipolar moments of frenzied motion or apathetic daze. His photos grace the front and back covers of almost all of the early Sub Pop releases. Pavitt discusses how the partnership with Peterson came about:
He had just finished printing life-sized photos of bands like Malfunkshun and Green River, and he had this whole showcase in his house. I looked at those photos, and I immediately knew that he was catching the energy of the groups, and combining these images with the music would work. Every record label needs a visual motif to establish [itself], and those photos would help do it.
Charles Peterson’s iconic music photography of the era has been collected in the book Touch Me, I’m Sick.
Elsewhere, Toru Aki’s blurry portraits are the antithesis of Peterson’s work — emerging from a white void, they cast everyday scenes and faces as memory ghosts. More moody photography from Lane Coder. Jamie Chung’s Project One contains black and white abstracts that are part rorschach blot and part ink on water cocktail. Be sure to follow up with her fungus photography in Project Two. (No direct links for these flash portfolios…)
More sights at Artlog in focus, but no permalinks for guests. The portfolio of the Swiss duo Fageta (via It’s Nice That) and the design & illustration of Tim Fishlock.
Felix Sockwell explains the design process behind his gorgeous icons for the New York Times on the iPhone (via Brand New). Meanwhile, some NYTimes Labs developers have launched ShifD, which could be an interesting player in the manage-your-notes-on-all-your-devices space. Old school GTD fans will probably be beside themselves at the mention of Beeswax, a curses based todo application based on Lotus Agenda. Those same people might also be interested in TwitVim, a Twitter client for Vim (of course).