Sub Pop's Creative Director Waxes on the Label's Album Art

Sub Pop albums are defined by a certain aesthetic, and for the past 24 years, the label’s creative director, Jeff Kleinsmith, has helped convey it through the label’s record covers. Here, he waxes on a few favorites
Creative director Jeff Kleinsmith and office Sub Pup Kenny

This article appears in print in the August 2018 issue. Read more from the Seattle magazine feature story here and from the Seattle Business magazine cover story hereClick here to subscribe.

Flight of the Conchords, I Told You I Was Freaky
“For the second [New Zealand musical comedy duo] Flight of the Conchords full-length album in 2009, the band came to us with Seals and Crofts’ Summer Breeze LP cover art as inspiration. We hired John Baizley [who also plays guitar in metal band Baroness] to take on illustration duties. Because John works strictly by hand, the process of getting some of the facial features just right was difficult. I have a few Bret [McKenzie] noses on small sheets of paper to prove it.”

Mudhoney, On Top!
“When this project came up, I knew I wanted to work with local illustrator Ed Fotheringham. Ed is incredibly versatile, so I knew he could easily pull off the abstract Space Needle image I was thinking of, something with a kind of [graphic designer] Saul Bass feel to it. I butchered one of [local photographer] Morgen Schuler’s awesome photos of the band and tossed [the pieces] into Ed’s art. And I added a piece of title type I hoped would just stay out of the way of the illustration.”

Sleater-Kinney, Live in Paris
“When I was in high school, my local record store had a pretty robust ‘bootlegs’ section, where I bought everything from Black Flag live to Pink Floyd BBC outtakes. Some had full-color paper sleeves, and others had the band name written in Sharpie on a white jacket. Zero art. So, when Sleater-Kinney [Olympia-based riot girl group named after a road with the same name] wanted to do a live ‘bootleg,’ I was thrilled to be able to bring my old bootlegs out for inspiration.”

Terminal Sales, Volumes 4 and 5
“There’s nothing more fun than collaborating with a band on their album art, but a close second would be getting to create Sub Pop–specific art and packaging. Sub Pop has been making samplers and compilations for radio stations and record stores since its inception, but my favorite is Volumes 4 and 5 from the Terminal Sales series, made for Record Store Day 2013 and ’14 respectively.  

“Volume 4 has an embossed outer sleeve that holds a deck of 19 cards (one for each band). Each card has a photo and band information included. Also included is a double-sided poster and a CD disc in a custom dust sleeve. Volume 5 is the companion piece; the outer piece is a cardboard box made of raw gray industrial packaging board and has three strategically placed circle die-cuts that reveal text bits printed on the inner book. The book is a 24-page perfect bound book with bio and photos of every artist included.”


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