Flobots frontman Jonny 5 on The Circle in the Square's artwork and wordplay in the liner notes
The Circle in the Square, by Flobots, out today on Shanachie Records.
On Survival Story, Flobots' last album, Jamie Laurie (aka Jonny 5) said he spent hours and hours with Stephen Brackett (aka Brer Rabbit) mapping out cross references between songs and burying hidden treasures, as he put it, for the diehard fans to discover, all of which he revealed was inspired by the literary works of Jorge Luis Borges. "His stories will have these little hidden cross references," Laurie pointed out in a previous interview. "One story is kind of an allusion to a novel that doesn't exist. We took inspiration from that."
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On Flobots' new album, The Circle In the Square, out today on Shanachie Records, the artwork is notably more sparse, adorned simply with a minimalistic watercolor painting by viola player/vocalist Mackenzie Gault. But while the packaging isn't quite as elaborate as Survival Story, it's no less thoughtful.
In advance of today's album release and the band's in-store performance tonight at Twist & Shout, we spoke at length with Laurie about the new album, and in addition to giving us a track-by-track breakdown of The Circle in the Square, he also spoke to us a bit about the artwork, the wordplay in the liner notes and other buried treasures. Continue reading to see what he had to say.
Westword: On the liner notes themselves, there are some lines that are blacked out, and there are also some strikethroughs. What is the significance of that?
Jamie Laurie (aka Jonny 5): The strikethroughs were...we wanted to find a way to represent wordplay, because, you know, when you say, 'Reaching for hire like the apprentice,' if you just write 'higher,' then people reading it are like, 'Oh, it's that. It's not 'hire.' So I thought, well, let's find some way to represent those meanings.
First of all, I would also say that we wanted the liner notes to be interesting. I always get really excited for liner notes when I buy an album. But then when I actually look at them, there's always part of me that's like, 'Oh, it's just the lyrics.' Well, of course it's just the lyrics. What did you expect? So I wanted to give something else to make it interesting to look at, to maybe kind of reveal things about the wording.
And the words we blacked out were [redacted*] and [redacted*]. In Flobots land, it's the brand names that -- those are the obscenities, especially when you put it in your lap. It's like, 'I don't want that to sound like a shout-out.' If we're using it critically, I don't want people to be like 'Cool, [redacted].' Yeah, it's in my subconscious now. You need to black it out of this interview*, because now I'm talking about it too much.
*Oh, I'm totally going to strike it out in the interview.
But that also prompts the question: Why you left Mini Cooper [in "Stop the Apocalypse"].
Oooh! Well, now we're going to have to get the Magic Marker out. Open up those albums before they hit the shelves. That's a good point.
Also, the artwork for this one is really minimal compared to Survival Story. Was that intentional?
Yeah, we felt like with Circle in the Square there was really some kind of obvious places to go. So we wanted it to be striking, and also, realistically, a lot of people are going to see this on their iPod screen, so we wanted it to be an image that would hold up small. And luckily, we have a bandmember who's an incredible painter, who just has a really good visual sensibility. We experimented with some different images, and MacKenzie put together a few different ideas for the artwork. She did the art and then Matter did the design.
It also kind of seemed to me that maybe you were allowing the fans to paint their own picture.
Yeah, I think so, definitely. Again, we don't want to be too didactic about what "The Circle in the Square" is. We know where it came from, but we don't know where people want to take it.
On the last album, there were a lot of hidden things for fans to sort of discover, explore and find. Are there those things as well this time?
Yes. I think we built on the same...there's sort of a world that we established on the last album, and I think this album is carrying forward that world, and there might be the same buried treasures...
Now, I don't want you to give it away. I just want to know if there are indeed buried treasures there.
There just might be.