Eliott Verity: Visuals in Music
As one third of sharply dressed Leeds based based garage punks Nosebleed, and also now co axe man in punk rock’s most mysterious band Knife Club, Eliott Verity is very much a much loved and familiar face within the punk community. Alongside his musical contributions, Eliott Verity has also been steadily developing a name as a visual artist within the scene, who’s work is synonymous with some of underground’s most beloved festivals, records and merchandise of the last few years. We caught up with him to talk about visuals in music.
Alright Eliott, nice art wanna tell us a bit about it?
Yeah I do. I draw spooky things, lot of skulls and death and kinda occult stuff and just general sadness. Lot of tears, lot of crying. You know, to match my cheery disposition. Always black and white, though I’ve recently started experimenting with red which has been fun. Pen and paper, I’ve never mastered digital stuff, I have to enlist help to put my art on the computer, I’m just the pen man. I do it mainly for Nosebleed, but over the years I’ve done art for a few bands and festivals, as well as just stuff for me.
How important a role do you feel strong visuals play in music?
I think visuals are a huge part of music. At the end of the day, music is all about image. More often than not if you pick up an album you know nothing about, you can pick up a good sense of what it is by looking at its art. I think this is seen as a dirty word in the DIY scene amongst some people, but bands really need to think carefully about their branding and image, if they’ve not got that right then it’s gonna hold people back. And I don’t think that applies to just art either, the entire presentation of a band is important. That’s why Nosebleed have our suits, it all ties in with the branding of the band.
I’d much rather see a band who has an image, all the stage presentation and artwork and marketing all tied into one package than a band who doesn’t really consider it. At the end of the day, music is entertainment, it’s a package, it’s an experience, and you want to give people the best experience. I guess what I’m saying is people wouldn’t watch game of thrones if your man was walking round in a jeans and t shirt would they? I’ve gone off on a tangent here, the point I’m making is yes, visuals are important.
How has your own visual art evolved over the years?
I think I’ve honed it, I know what my strengths and weaknesses are now. When I was first starting out I was trying all sorts, some of it worked, some of it didn’t. People would come to me with ideas and I’d try replicate them, and a lot of times that didn’t work. So now I do very much what I want to do, if someone comes to me for a commission I’ll try my best not to get any ideas from them, just draw and see if they like it. I do better work that way. Same with Nosebleed, at first I was trying to draw to a spec – I need art for this t shirt that says this. But now I’ll draw something and then build from there. We’ve got songs written to fit drawings I’ve done now.
Would you say your visual work has evolved alongside your work as a musician?
Quite the opposite I think. Musically I’ve really started to branch out, I started out writing short minute and a half fast songs, and now I’m trying to write more involved stuff, over lockdown we’ve been playing with a synth/disco track for Nosebleed, our next albums got some surf and a power ballad, we did a cover of a hip hop track. But artistically while this has been happening I’ve really narrowed down my drawings, sticking to similar themes and ideas I know I can do well. Probably not the way to do it, but it works.
Who is your favourite visual artist working alongside music?
Nowadays I would say Jaap from Batwölf. We’ve got a similar approach to art and music, you see a Batwölf or even a Black Volvo record or t shirt and you know exactly what it is, and he’s got a really unique style that ties into that. On a larger scale Hayden Menzies from METZ, his art is incredible. He’s one of these who has a very narrow style but it’s uniquely his.
And have you a favourite from yesteryear?
My favourite of all time is Joe Petagno, who did all the art for Motörhead until 2008. He designed the Snaggletooth based on Lem‘s ideas and now that’s probably the most recognisable band logo of all time. He really knew how to take a theme and explore it, and build around it. You’d be surprised how much is going on in the art he did for Motörhead, not just the warpig. Take for example the cover for the Sacrifice album, there’s so much hidden in that cover, war, hell, sex, all sorts. His greatest cover was the cover for Another Perfect Day, that’s an amazing piece. I’ve got 6 Motörhead tattoos and one of them is that album cover. Phenomenal.
Which bands working today do you feel accompany their music with strong visuals?
Nosebleed, clearly. A band I’ve really enjoyed aesthetically is Twin Temple, a satanic do-wop band, they’ve really got their visuals down to a tee. They’ve got a theme, and they’ve stuck with it to great effect. X-Ray Cat Trio too, one of my favourite bands, they’ve really got all their visuals right. Their album covers, especially the last two are perfect, and they’re overall great at branding their band. I know a lot of people shit on them but Ghost have amazing visuals. Their album covers, their on-stage look, everything about them is visually perfect. A few others who really kill it from an artwork point of view are Czarface, Drab Majesty, Horror Vacui, Tyler the Creator.
Favourite album cover?
I can’t pick one, so here’s three. Motörhead – Another Perfect Day Horror Vacui – Living for Nothing Grave Pleasures – Motherblood
What are your future plans for your visual artwork?
Keep doing it I guess. I keep trying to set myself up with it under the moniker “Work for Idle Hands” but it’s never really taken off, which is a shame. For the stuff that I like but wouldn’t work for Nosebleed. Luckily I’ve got some fans of my work, and I really appreciate the support. I’ve got guys asking me to design tattoos for them which really is an honour, and special shout out to Zoë from Casual Nausea/Knife Club who has always supported what I do. We keep meaning to collaborate on an art project but it never happens because of who we are as people, so I guess that should happen.
Would you buy an album solely based on what it looks like?
Have done, will do again. At the very least looks cool on a shelf.