Producer and musician Thundercat’s third album Drunk has been described as “dizzying”, “surreal” and “oddly hypnotic”. A review in Pitchfork described the record – which combines funk, jazz, soul and R&B – as “whimsical and somber, funny and meaningful, sometimes all at once.”
This mix of humour and darkness is reflected in the album’s artwork. The cover was designed by Brainfeeder Records label manager Adam Stover and features an image of Thundercat (Stephen Bruner) nose-deep in a pool of water. It was shot by photographer and filmmaker Eddie Alcazar, the director behind Flying Lotus-scored short FUCKKKYOUUU.
“We first were going to shoot it in Flylo’s [Flying Lotus] bathtub, I had it all ready and filled up with bubbles and even set up moody lights and everything, but he couldn’t fit,” says Alcazar. “We moved the shoot to the pool outside, right when the sun was going down and thats when things just got really magically weird…. I was shooting film and my exposure had to be perfect so he had to hold his breath and be still for minutes at a time. That bubble you see by his nose represents the struggle.”
Stover’s design was inspired by vintage jazz and funk records and a 1974 vigilante film starring Charles Bronson. “I wanted to focus on building a story around the photos Eddie shot,” he says.
“I wanted to convey a sense of theme taken from the subject matter within the songs…. You have lyrics that are very funny for some tracks, and some with darker subject matter. There were many emotions that needed to be conveyed with a single image, and so I decided to use a more ‘lighthearted’ font for the titles to create balance with the intensity of the photo.”
Titles are set in “whimsical” typeface Cooper, with kerning adjusted to reduce the spacing between letters. Credits, track listings and label copy is set in Franklin Gothic. “I also created a variation of our logo for Brainfeeder Records as a sort of homage to the old classic jazz, funk and R&B records that I referenced for inspiration,” says Stover.
“The cover and back cover designs were primarily inspired by the original soundtrack to the film Death Wish starring Charles Bronson that was composed by Herbie Hancock. Thundercat saw that record and wanted something in that style, and after a bit of consultation, we arrived at the final design.”
A deluxe vinyl box set includes four discs with sleeves designed by DJ, comedian and graphic designer Zack Fox. Each sleeve has a dark, humorous or psychedelic design: there’s a cat imposed against a swirling pattern, a kaleidoscopic image made up of horses, Viagra pills and guns and a repeating pattern made out of an image of Bruner’s face. Another sleeve features an unsettling image of a blood-spattered Chevrolet Impala. Images reference military violence, manufactured beauty, “shitty food” and cracking under the pressures of society, says Fox.
“I definitely just wanted to capture my sense of humour, which some would consider absurd or psychedelic,” he adds. The surreal designs also draw on the idea of using humour as a coping mechanism during darker times – something that Bruner reflects on throughout the record.
“[When] life is just punching you in the back of the head, you start laughing at shit that doesn’t even correlate – it’s a coping mechanism but it helps create timeless inspiration,” adds Fox. “I wanted to inject those experiences [into the artwork] and let designs be bold and confusing.”