Halloween aftermath/welcome to November: For the past two weeks, I’ve had the pleasure of collaborating with long-time friend Jesse Paris Smith and her fantastic New York-via-Michigan band Belle Ghoul. They specialize in spectral, lush, sugary pop, having recently released an EP of their own compositions through Elefant Records, as well as a smattering of singles, self-released tracks, and covers.
Jesse asked me to come up with artwork to accompany and promote their online-only/free-downloadable take on the Zombies classic Care of Cell 44—she said they were looking for a visual that was “sweet but spooky”. In case you’re not familiar with this little gem of 1960s British pop, Care of Cell 44 is written as a tender letter from a narrator who’s anxious to see his lover, after she’s completed an extended jail sentence for an unspecified crime.
I thoroughly enjoyed the back-and-forth flow of ideas that we had over email, and it’s interesting that Jesse and her crew seemed to respond most strongly to the more instinctive, less deliberate drawings that I presented to them. Jesse loved some of the ideas involving a paper airplane, but ultimately we all agreed on the image that you see above as the one that best encapsulated the mood of the song.
What I really like about the lyrics is that the listener walks away with a clear sense of what the narrator is feeling, but the intended recipient of the love letter remains elusive; her own feelings about finally being released from jail a mystery. I really wanted these ambiguities to come across in the finished image, while opening ample room for interpretation. I also have to come clean and admit that this drawing was inspired as much by the work of Edward Gorey (which seemed to be a good reference point) as by the shimmering, daydream-inducing haze of Belle Ghoul’s music.
If you’re curious enough to have a listen (of course you are), we invite you to stream and download Belle Ghoul’s cover of Care of Cell 44 through their Soundcloud page, all free of charge. Yesterday, shortly after the song went up online, we learned that Colin Blunstone himself (the Zombies’ lead vocalist/lyricist) gave his blessings!!!