Black and white still image of Oliver Sim and Fehinti Balogun in the short film Hideous

How Oliver Sim’s gory, glorious album art was made

We speak to Oliver Sim, designer Vasilis Marmatakis and director Yann Gonzalez about translating Sim’s debut album, Hideous Bastard, into a queer horror extravaganza

“Shame and fear for me is all about secrecy and hiding. That’s how it warps and grows, and so I’ve been trying to do the opposite,” says Oliver Sim, who rose to the spotlight as singer, songwriter and bassist in The xx alongside bandmates Jamie xx and Romy Madley Croft. His newly released debut solo album, Hideous Bastard, sees him run headfirst into those feelings rather than bury them away, and, accordingly, he has made sure there is nothing inconspicuous about the album art surrounding the record either.

The horror-inspired direction took shape early on, guided with the help of his team, creative directors Rana Toofanian and Sarah-Jayne Todd, and producer Simon Guzylack. He credits them all with putting “so much good art” in front of him via endless Zoom calls, exhibition visits, conversations on their group chat (nicknamed Creative Bastards), and hours spent around his kitchen table. No doubt some of that art made it into the zine filled with visual cues that he created for his own reference. “There’s lots of horror in here, lots of the characters that I love,” he explains. “There’s also a few Real Housewives. It was really helpful to put it all together and have that mix of humour and horror and faggotry.”

The album cover artwork, featuring a portrait shot by Casper Sejersen, was designed by Vasilis Marmatakis, the person responsible for Yorgos Lanthimos’ achingly pared-back film posters. The image leans into the uncomfortable energy of the album title, with Sim’s face punctured, bloody, yet displaying something of a smile. It symbolises an album full of multitudes, as he juggles desire and insecurity, pulling people in with one hand and pushing away with the other.

Image shows the cover design by Vasiliis Marmatakis for Oliver Sim album Hideous Bastard, which shows the album title letters inserted into a bloody portrait
Top: Still from short film Hideous; Above: Hideous Bastard cover art, designed by Vasilis Marmatakis. Portrait image by Casper Sejersen