The Stories Behind Spoon’s Album Covers


Captions and album artwork by Britt Daniel 

Not everyone can get away with a greatest hits album.

But with a nine record back catalogue of infectious classics to choose from, Spoon absolutely can. The Austin exports have just released Everything Hits At Once, a sonic retrospective of twelve thoughtfully curated tracks (along with one new track to remind you that this ain’t the nail in the coffin for future releases). To celebrate twenty-five years of all things Spoon, the band’s frontman and brains behind the album covers, Britt Daniel, agreed to give us a rundown of how each iconic cover came to be.

TELEPHONO

The cover is a relic’d photograph I took at a house party in Austin: Phillip from the Teen Titans wearing Dracula teeth and the sunglasses that I wore on stage at the time—which is maybe why when the record came out, a lot of people assumed the cover was a picture of me. Phillip also named the album. Somehow, it seemed appropriate. We wanted the package to be simple and basic. I think we were thinking ‘punk rock.’

A SERIES OF SNEAKS

The cover is by the futurist painter Giacomo Balla. It was one of the good things we got out of the Elektra deal—they paid for the rights to it and we would have never been able to afford it otherwise.

GIRLS CAN TELL

This cover features a photo by Amy Bowman, a friend of mine. In the photo, it was easy to see that the record spinning on the turntable was The Fall’s This Nation’s Saving Grace, but we blurred it so one could imagine any record they wanted. We also blurred it because The Fall was not the vibe we were going for at that point—it was for the first couple records, but this one was more about oldies radio and Motown. I laid everything out and stole the title of the album from a song by The Crystals.

KILL THE MOONLIGHT

This one is from a series of photos called After Dark My Sweet, by Kristin Oppenheim. I didn’t like any of the fonts I tried putting on top of the image, so I made my own letters by drawing and cutting them out one-by-one. Inside are photos of the band members—some real, some pretend. I wanted it to seem like a big gang had made the record, so we did things like instead of crediting me with playing all the piano, we made up a guy named Eggo Johanson. There are maybe seven or eight photos of ‘band members,’ though the band was a three-piece at that point.

GIMME FICTION

My favourite Spoon cover. The photo is by Sean McCabe, who ran with the concept of fiction by doing a photoshoot referencing Little Red Riding Hood. Most of the photos (and the first handful of drafts for the cover) were too on the nose; the model (his girlfriend) wearing a red cape and holding a picnic basket and a wolf mask. But we honed in on one that was a little more sly and mysterious. I never would have thought to use a serif font or to left justify the title/band name, but it worked perfectly with the theme. Inside, Sean painstakingly laid out the lyrics in a geometric maze that was a work of art in itself.

GA GA GA GA GA

The cover is a photo portrait of the artist and sculptor Lee Bontecou, taken by Italian photographer Ugo Mulas. Another red, white and black cover.  I water-colored the title/band name on the cover, and the back cover is a photo by Sean McCabe that includes the cover for Gimme Fiction amongst a pile of photos and images, including a kinda hidden one of the band.

TRANSFERENCE

A photo by William Eggleston. To me, the photo of the maybe uncomfortable, maybe cocky kid in a formal setting—the living room of some older generation—made sense with the psychoanalytical meaning of the title.

THEY WANT MY SOUL

For this record, we created a B-movie type horror story that related to the title and then shot photos for the cover and inside art as though they were scenes in the movie. The blue glowing eyes we used on the band members were re-appropriated by a few bands soon after (see: Modest Mouse.)

HOT THOUGHTS 

I saw this image on a friend’s Instagram account and I wrote to her and said, ‘You paint??’ I’d had no idea. The thing already looked like an album cover to me. Months later when we decided to title our next record Hot Thoughts, I went back to it and it fit perfectly.

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