[Exclusive] Designer Robert Beatty on Tame Impala’s 70s-Inspired Album Artwork

Graphic art inspired by turbulent flow, the way gas or liquid travels around an object.

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20 July 2015, 2:30pm

Tame Impala "Currents" album cover

This article originally appeared on The Creators Project Australia.

Kentucky-based designer Robert Beatty is the mastermind behind the album (and single) artwork for Tame Impala’s much-anticipated Currents, released last week. The artwork recalls the airbrushed, graphic, almost-Magic Eye aesthetic of old school record covers, corresponding perfectly with the album’s overall sound, which Tame Impala’s Kevin Parker says aims to “convince a few die-hard rock fans that 80s synths can fit over a 70s drum beat.” We caught up with Beatty to talk about the creative process and inspirations behind this project.

The Creators Project: Tell us how this came about?

Robert Beatty: Kevin Parker got in touch and already had the concept in mind, but he basically let me interpret it how I wanted after some brief discussion. I had only heard a couple rough mixes when I started working on the cover. I mostly went off of the concept that Kevin sent over, which was all based on vortex shedding and turbulent flow — basically the way a gas or liquid travels around an object.

Tame Impala "Eventually" single cover

How do your visuals and Tame Impala’s music go hand-in-hand/compliment each other?

I think both Tame Impala and I use elements of things we like from the past and personalise them without making art that is a pastiche or retro. We are also both are often labeled as being "psychedelic", but I think that word is overused and doesn't really mean what people think it does most of the time.

How did you actually go about making the art?

Everything was made digitally in Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop. Making this artwork was very process-oriented with a lot of trial and error; figuring out what tricks I could use to get the lines to look as if they were actually flowing around the objects.

Tame Impala "Cause I'm a Man" single cover

Were there any particular influences or inspirations for the Tame Impala project?

When Kevin sent over the reference images he had collected I immediately noticed how many of them looked like op art. All of the images had moire patterns and tight parallel horizontal lines that vibrated when viewed the right way. I was looking at a lot of Italian designer Franco Grignani's designs that he made for Penguin sci-fi books in the early 70s and Czech film posters by Zdenek Ziegler and Karel Vaca. All of these things implement stark graphic elements with photographic collage elements, which made sense for what I was going for.

Franco Grignani cover design for Penguin, via Grapheine

You are also a musician yourself, playing in Three Legged Race. Is it similar process to write a song and create an artwork?

I approach both music and art in a similar way, which is for the most part is in a very improvisational and experimental way. I don't necessarily know what I'm going to do when I sit down to do it, I just go with my instincts and see where it takes me. I'm always trying out things that may or may not work and seeing what mistakes look or sound the best in the end. Part of the fun is the process of figuring out how to achieve a certain result.

Do you have a favorite album artwork of all time?

I have too many favorite album covers to name, but a few that come to mind are 10CC's self-titled album, The Pretty Things’ SF Sorrow, Bruce Haack's Electric Lucifer, Cornelius' Fantasma, Steely Dan’s Countdown to Ecstasy, and tons more.

Bruce Haack "The Electric Lucifer" album artwork by Isadore Seltzer

Tame Impala's Currents is out now on Modular/Interscope. For more of Robert Beatty's work visit his website

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