Write On: Wild Beasts’ Hayden Thorpe

Writes 'An ode to a feather'

Ramble, rant or reminisce, this is an artist’s opportunity to pen their own Clash article.

Wild Beasts front man Hayden Thorpe produces an ode to feather.

“Feathers, if I may, were the dynamo objects that allowed our new album ‘Smother’ to take flight. My fascination began with simple symbolism.

Feathers stuff our pillows when we rest our heads to sleep. They are the things upon which our dreams are enacted. Icarus flew with feathered wings too close to the sun and subsequently fell back down to earth with a bump. Dumbo held his magic feather high into the air and soared like only an elephant can. A dove’s feather speaks of peace whereas a peacock’s feather speaks of bravado. Feathers of exotic birds from far reaches of the Earth are bestowed with a neon brilliance that can only spellbind and dazzle. Hawaiian tribal warriors wore helmets impossibly adorned with the most fearless red down (as can be seen so lovingly in the British Museum). They are ageless; such an item could easily have belonged to Lady Gaga. In short, feathers symbolised the feel and subject matters that we were striving to document in our album. It’s all about comfort, mythology and texture. 

So when we requested that our album artwork be done by Jason Evans, the hugely talented photographer and art director behind the imagery on Four Tet and Caribou albums (to name but a few), we gave him one mission statement: to incorporate feathers by whatever means he saw fit.

For this task he went about collecting feathers from every place he went, from Japan to his home in the humble Newport. The fascinating and bizarre variety he collected seemed to come from creatures that could only be fantastical. Spotty ones, stripey ones, spotty and stripey ones, golden ones, tiny microscopic ones, huge HM Customs-troubling ones; in truth his house became a strange antiquated museum of feathers. 

Jason then went about putting the feathers though a mind-boggling printing process which revealed a gobsmacking level of detail and color. The feathers became “hyperreal”; they were no longer of this earth. They melted into a multicolored abstraction that we felt perfectly captured our album. And the printing process was producing such a large quantity and quality of work that we were spoilt for choice, with enough fodder to subsist the entire album campaign.

It’s quite a realisation when you come to understand that it is always the smallest fragment of an idea that develops, outgrows its rivals and then steam rolls its way to be being the pivot upon which a project is hinged. The final piece in the end is simply a by-product of the all important process. The process is the thing you live with, it’s the all-consuming and cathartic thing which gives folk like us reason enough to get out of our comfy beds.”

Wild Beasts new album ‘Smother’ is release May 9th on Domino Records.

Join the Clash mailing list for up to the minute music, fashion and film news.