Friday, November 2, 2007

The Columbus Dispatch discusses Black Swans Album Art:

Artists hand-paint 500 covers for vinyl album

Thursday, November 1, 2007 4:05 AM
By Aaron Beck

Dan Buban, front, and Bobby Cook of ARC Industries North paint album covers for the Black Swans.

Compact discs and their plastic jewel cases -- not to mention digital downloads -- have rendered album artwork an afterthought.

Yet one Columbus band, with the help of central Ohio artists, is returning the record jacket to the artistic spotlight.

The Black Swans last week released the CD version of their latest album, Change!

On Friday, in the North Side coffee shop Yeah, Me Too, the folk-rock group will unveil the 12-inch vinyl version.

Each of the 500 copies is packaged in a sleeve painted during the past two months by students in a vocational workshop at ARC Industries North, a division of the Franklin County Board of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities.

Each artist produced a distinctive artwork, not a copy of one cover design.

Bandleader and singer-guitarist Jerry DeCicca had long planned to release the second album on vinyl -- even though vinyl costs about $3,000 more than a CD version.

The album was mastered in New York by Rob LoVerde, who has mastered vinyl versions of recent Bruce Springsteen and Bob Dylan albums, and pressed in southern California by AcousTech Mastering, which has pressed reissues of albums by Pink Floyd and Creedence Clearwater Revival.

"I think vinyl sounds better," said DeCicca, an employee at Used Kids Records who shares a home with thousands of 12-inch records.

"It's warmer. It's not as harsh-sounding as a CD."

The idea for the artwork revealed itself while the band was recording Change!

DeCicca had bought a painting by ARC North workshop member Debbie Porchetti. Her painting was part of a display of works in Yeah, Me Too, which doubles as an art gallery.

"One day, Jovan (Karcic, Yeah, Me Too owner and former Gaunt guitarist) said, 'That would make a good Black Swans album cover,' " said DeCicca, 33.

"It seemed like a nice companion to have the two things go together. One person could do the artwork for the CD, and everyone else who wanted to could do the artwork for the record.

"For me, it was a great experience being able to go there several times and meet the artists and see the different expressions they created and just see the process of painting as they listened to the music."

On a recent morning at ARC, Jon Craig, Joel Carter and Dan Buban -- three of the more than 50 students who have participated in the project -- sat with paintbrushes in hand.

"Are you guys ready to paint more album covers today?" ARC instructor Jackie Boyle asked.

"Yes, Jackie," answered Craig. "Yes, I'm ready to paint, Jackie."

Boyle was delighted when DeCicca went to her early this year with the idea.

"I always want these guys

to be expanding their horizons," she said. "This sort of thing is great for them. They would paint and paint for hours if we had time. Sometimes, during the album project, I've just had to stop and stand back and stare at what they've done. They're amazing."

The students, who derive inspiration from books of art, painted the white cardboard sleeves as the Black Swans' slow-motion chamber-folk flowed from a boombox.

The music ended, and the room went silent except for the swish of brushes.

"Do you want to listen to Jerry's album again?" Boyle asked her students.

"Sure, Jackie," Craig said for the class. "Let's listen to Jerry's record, Jackie."

DeCicca, sitting across from Craig, said, "No one has listened to this record as many times as these guys have."

Each album, which costs $20, comes with a booklet,

an artist statement and information about ARC, which also sells students' artwork

at the Open Door Art Studio in the Grandview Heights area.

"I enjoy the artwork of the ARC painters because it's a lot more uninhibited than most artists' stuff," DeCicca said. "It's much more of a raw expression, which is something that I deal with as a songwriter and a lot of times can't come to terms with.

"They can do it in their artwork without that being an issue -- which is what makes the artwork from them, to me, so unique and special."

* The Black Swans will have an album-release party at 7 p.m. Friday in Yeah, Me Too, 3003 Indianola Ave. Admission is free. Call 614-784-9374 or visit www.

To watch ARC Industries students painting the album covers, visit

Watch the making of Change! vinyl here: