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Vis-Ed: La Boca

A mouthful from DC Recordings’ 
squirrel-lovin’ space cakes.

Scot Bendall of British design outfit La Boca says Oval, on the Northern Line, is his favorite London tube stop. “You can’t go wrong with circles,” he avers via an email from Cannes, where he goes yearly to attend the legendary film festival and drink bottle after bottle of fine French wine. La Boca’s work is a shapely business indeed. The foursome first caught our eye via their record covers for London’s DC Recordings label, having provided spacey, geometric future-scapes that perfectly fit the psychedelic analog-keyboard-lovin’ music within. Their breadth within that label’s covers is impressive, encompassing everything from Higamos Higamos’ super-sunshine-y look (reminiscent of Madchester, early Sesame Street, and Peter Max) to the considerably darker Padded Cell covers, full of mysterious horror and psychic phenomena. They’re also the folks behind memorable covers for Simian Mobile Disco, Shout Out Out Out Out, Versatile Records, and Nightmares on Wax.

Despite being located in London’s trendy Portobello Road neighborhood, La Boca’s music-based work is none too trendy, an effect achieved by twisting reference points (’60s album covers, spraycan art, color wheels, retro-futurism) with a variety of analog and digital techniques. “I’m equally happy stroking our photocopier as I am tormenting my G5,” confesses Bendall, who strives to make the process of making the product as fun as viewing it. We asked the dapper fellow, whose style icon is his mum, to tell us a bit more about his interests, inspirations, and what squirrels actually talk about.

Why did you choose the name La Boca?
We had the name straight from the beginning and there has never been any question of us being called something else. The name is derived from the wonderful French town of La Bocca: the place you are forced to stay in if you can’t afford Cannes during the film festival. The idea of surviving as something small, dirty, and poor on the outskirts of something big, clean, and rich was the perfect metaphor for La Boca.

What ideas or directive, if any, did DC Recordings give you when you started working with them?
Since we formed La Boca we have always had a studio in the same building as DC, and over the years we have become firm friends and enemies. I think a defining point for DC and La Boca was when Andy Meecham delivered the very first Emperor Machine demo for the track “Pro Mars.” I remember sitting in the DC studio with label manager (and U.K. acid house pioneer) James Dyer and being completely blown away when he played it for me. It sounded so fresh, but was made completely on vintage synths. We set about echoing this with the sleeve by constructing all of the artwork by hand (via the photocopier) and only using a Mac to color and prepare for print. From this point it was clear that James had a vision for the label and, against all odds, he has somehow continued to find and release amazing music right up to today. This ethos of using the old to create the new has since become the benchmark for much of our work, and many of our subsequent sleeves for DC have followed a similar process.

Do you have a different concept in mind for each artist on DC?
Yes. Each artist has their own world devised by a combination of myself, James, and the artist. Some of the worlds go off into strange places and they often merge in outer space, but there is always a very conscious decision to create an environment for each individual artist to play in.

And for Simian Mobile Disco… What was the concept behind the Attack Sustain Decay Release album cover, and how was it achieved?
The concept was enthusiastically explained to us by SMD over a few beers in their studio, where they attempted to persuade us that spoons are the greatest utensil known to man and how society couldn’t possibly survive without them. (I don’t think they had been getting much sleep at the time.) Their passion for this unassuming tool eventually convinced us that they were, of course, right and before we knew it, we were in a field with photographer Jason Evans, a scaffold rig, and 3,000 shiny silver spoons! We spent two glorious days in the English countryside with a team of helpers placing each and every spoon individually whilst I barked kerning instructions from the top of the rig. We probably could have created the image through digital techniques but it just wouldn’t have been the same, and certainly not as much fun to produce.

What is the worst thing about 12” cover design in electronic music?
Most of the target audience tends to have beards.

What do you hope people feel when they see your record sleeves?
Hope and despair.

What’s one movie you find visually thrilling?
Holy Mountain by [Alejandro] Jodorowsky. A simply beautiful film.

Your movie posters are often so different than your music work. Do you think about this work differently?
Yes, movie posters are a completely different way of thinking and working for us. Generally, movies have far higher budgets than most music releases and therefore the risks involved are also much higher. This has created an unfortunate culture where film companies appear to be more concerned with failing than succeeding. The “art” of the movie poster died in the ’80s, I’m afraid.

As a kid, what TV show, movie, or book 
did you love?
Miami Vice made me the man I am today.

What’s one conspiracy theory you believe in?
Rainbows are created by governments to control our emotions and provide fake feelings of optimism.

Who are some enduring inspirations you’ve had since you were in school?
I was a 1980s kid obsessed with hip-hop culture, and graffiti in particular. As with most enthusiasts outside of NY, the book Subway Art was my bible. It was here that I first discovered Futura 2000, and although there was other more spectacular work at the time, his stuff really blew me away. You could see even then that he was thinking of graf on a completely different level. He continued to be part of my life with his Mo’ Wax covers and later with the U.N.K.L.E. projects, and amazingly—now, 25 years after Subway Art—he’s still an integral part of street culture with his clothing label, Futura Laboratories.

What have been your biggest inspirations this month?
Smirnoff Blue Label and Châteauneuf-du-Pape.

If you had thousands of pounds to burn, what luxury item would you blow it on?
A set of life-sized Kraftwerk dolls.

What are some of your favorite materials to work with?
Maybe less than it would appear on the final artwork, but I do have a particular fondness for charcoal.

What are you listening to these days while you work?
Dabrye, Little Dragon, Floating Points, Digital Mystikz, Benga, Rusko, Arcadion, and, of course, the mighty Emperor Machine.

What is your favorite shop on Portobello Road?
Magic City Amusements. An “amusement” arcade with blacked-out windows and the best shop sign on the street. They also give you free snacks and have a dedicated smoking zone (according to the new six-foot-high poster outside).

Who is one band or artist you would like to design for?
Katy Perry. She’s so hot, I’d do it for free.

What is your favorite snack?
Smoked cheese from Slovakia with pickled gherkins.

What British tradition do you really like?
The good old British stiff upper lip.

You’ve been interviewed in lots of other cool magazines, like Clark, WAD, and Groove. Tell us something that they don’t know (or didn’t ask)!
Squirrels communicate through a series of chirps. The frequency and the duration of the notes communicate everything from laughter to alarm. Their frequency range is normally between .01 kilohertz. and 10 KHz. These sounds, when used in conjunction with tail gestures, form the basis for all squirrel communication.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
Shit or get off the pot.

images Scot Bendall

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