By now, we’re sure you’ve given local Phoenix ska-punk-funk band Playboy Manbaby‘s newest album, Don’t Let It Be, a spin.
Released November of last year, the third full-length should feel and sound familiar. If you’ve been to any Playboy Manbaby show recently, you’ll immediately recognize songs off the new album, like “You Can Be A Fascist Too” and “Cadillac Car.” While the album has the same energy we’ve come to love from Playboy Manbaby, the production is a bit cleaner, allowing each instrument to have a presence in the mix — particularly when comparing to Bummeritaville and Electric Babyman.
More: Album Review: Playboy Manbaby, Scum Brothers
But it isn’t just the tracks that are impressive — the album art itself is, too. Just look at it.
The band held a show at the Trunk Space on Jan. 19, specifically to celebrate the release of this beauty — which was designed by vocalist and frontman himself, Robbie Pfeffer.
We caught up with Pfeffer get the lowdown on how the album art came about, the inspiration behind it, his advice to aspiring illustrators and more.
What was the inspiration behind the album art?
RP: I think for this one, I really was inspired by some art work by Battles (seen above). But really I wanted to try and do a sculpture since animation and cartoons are my usual medium, and I wanted to stretch it and try something different.
How long did the process take before you reached the final product?
RP: I spent like two days, I would say, making the creature thing on the album cover. I spent a day combing through the Dollar Store for different things and Micheal’s grabbing crafts and stuff. I pretty much made a mess across my entire house making this album cover happen.
Why name the album “Don’t Let It Be”? How did that come about, and is the album art inspired by the album name?
RP: We’ve done previous album names that are a take on other iconic album names, and the logical conclusion was to do one using The Beatles since they’re the most iconic band of all time. But I think it fits the ethos of the album. It’s a dark album, and it touches a lot of what it means to be scared and overwhelmed by the things happening around you and in your head. So I think the overall “message” of the album is don’t be complacent, don’t just accept what you’re given and what you’re told. So it seems fitting in that sense.
“I think the overall ‘message’ of the album is don’t be complacent, don’t just accept what you’re given and what you’re told.”
You had mentioned Austin [sax player] did the lyric insert poster.
RP: Austin’s done a couple posters and a shirt for us. He’s got a rad style that kind of fits with our vibe.
Are you basically the creative driving force behind the illustrations on your albums/merch?
RP: Yes, in the visual sense I do a lot; but in the music sense, it’s a huge collaboration. I like to say we argue everything into existence. TJ [Friga, guitar] helps with all the technical aspects of the songwriting, and I think he’s really the unsung Wizard of OZ behind what makes us tick.
How long have you been designing/illustrating? And what program(s) do you use?
RP: I’ve been drawing since I was very young. My mom really helped me and supported me in that. I started doing animation and more digital stuff in like 2013 after I graduated college. That’s been really fun. I use Toon Boom Animate Pro and a Wacom Tablet for animation and all the actual drawing and a bunch of random stuff from the Adobe family.
What advice to you have for others pursuing graphic design/illustration?
RP: Don’t go to school for it. Just draw and keep drawing. Learn on the frontline and not in a classroom.
Can you talk about your creative process? Do you start from scratch with each project, or do you usually have something specific in mind?
RP: I usually have a semi-firm idea of what I want the final product to look like. I try to push my style and test myself as much as possible. I don’t want to just do what’s easy. I want to be open to influence and change to keep things interesting.
“I don’t want to just do what’s easy. I want to be open to influence and change to keep things interesting.”
Were there any other close contenders that made it as the album art? Or other variations of it you can send us that you ultimately decided against?
RP: Not really, I had a couple ideas, but they never really made it out of my head.
If you did a Google image search for Robbie’s art brain, what images would come up?
RP: Hopefully just a mix of pictures of David Byrne, Tom Waits, David Lynch and Robert Crumb. I try my best to stand on the shoulders of the great weirdos who have paved the trail before me.
You can catch Playboy Manbaby’s next live show on Feb. 3 at Crescent Ballroom. Check out their tour dates here, and be sure to follow them on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Bandcamp.