I can't tell you how excited I am to have this thing sitting on my desk right now. Just being able to reach out touch and smell it, perhaps even drop the needle on it. It has taken a lot of revision for this record to be in my hands but the actual concept for the art had been less a creative process and more of a series of moments shared between myself and the band. A brief history...
This blog is in its infancy, but if you've been following my social activity at all for the passed five or six years you'd know that my appreciation for this New Jersey punk quartet isn't much of a secret. I first photographed The Scandals in Bayonne in 2011 at a spot where the Newark Bay Shore is nestled against the parking lot of an abandon A&P supermarket. A spot all the kids in Bayonne know about and frequent whenever engaging in undesirable behavior. Though Jared Hart is the only remaining member from that time, I immediately felt a kinship with all four of them. They had around 20 years each to my almost 30 and while the punks of my graduating class were mostly jaded by now, to me these kids represented what our high school bands could've been if we'd kept at it when we got to college. They were fresh off a weekend on the road and I showed up 15 minutes after I'd asked them to meet, ostensibly missed the sun set I had banked on. I grabbed some passable photos and they were all super grateful. An image from this night appeared on the insert of a European seven inch and another on their website. In the months that followed my band The Wait consistently played shows with The Scandals and we became buds. Like a lot of other people who discovered the band at that time I decided that something was happening and I wanted to be around it. I continued bringing my camera to their shows.
The irony of my perception of The Scandals as "the ones who were sticking it out" was that the band soon fell apart around the time they graduated college. Of course there are different versions of how these things happen and I don't doubt it being a heated debate but no matter how you slice it Corey Terriogo, Mike Benus, and Sam Dokes all left the band. It could have fizzled out had Jared not shifted into the role of "the one who stuck it out" and began vetting friends and colleagues for full-time positions in the band. I was already friendly with Anthony Iarossi and Paulie Yaremko who took over on guitar and drums. The only member I didn't know was Sean Carney who lived in Rhode Island. I'd soon meet him while hitching a ride to Pouzza fest with the band. He offered hours of hilarious New England style vulgarities for my enjoyment and immediately became one of my favorite people.
Over the years I've spent countless nights both at home and on the road with The Scandals and each of the members individually. Seeing something of ourselves in each other, Jared and I have become close friends. It's a relationship where ideas are batted back and forth and criticism is as accepted as contribution. I respect his talent and his opinion on art and I like to think he feels the same way about me. I've photographed the boys playing in huge theaters in major cities and grimy basements in the middle of nowhere, sometimes back to back. I've gotten the call anytime they needed an updated promo or profile and was happy to help out. On the day we shot the image that ended up the cover of 'Lucky Seven' we had no agenda whatsoever.
The EP had been recorded for a while but had yet to find a label. We'd already attempted a cover shoot during a BBQ at The Compound: our brother Tommy Gunn's house-show oasis in the uncharted territories of Hackettstown, known for its cold brews, raging bonfires, home made pizza, and broken coffee tables. Cover concept version 1 featured a gaggle of our besties simultaneously reaching crossed fingers over a Scandals logo that Jared had just stenciled on the pavement with white spray paint. The resulting images were not terrible. It had something to do with luck, taking a chance, and community. We liked the idea that a bunch our friends had 'been there' to share the experience and that they'd be able to point out their own hands on the cover. In the end Jared and I both knew that the image itself wasn't as strong as it had been in our heads and we kept an open mind to other possibilities.
Some time passed before the EP would ultimately get a release date. Jared had taken to the studio to casually record a solo full length LP. The layout for the record entitled 'Passed Lives and Pass Lines' featured some photos I'd shot during the recording session at Treehouse Studio. The music was really well received and lead to Jared being asked to join the touring band for The Gaslight Anthem front man Brian Fallon. Fallon had produced the songs that would end up being 'Lucky Seven' and had just finished recording his own solo LP ' Painkillers'. He offered Jared a place at his side playing acoustic guitar, doing backing vocals, and occasionally pulling double duty as opening act with his own material. An opportunity you'd have to be a fool not to take if you're a young man with his heart set on a career in rock music. Needless to say you don't see people as much while they're touring but nowadays people are never that far away. I tuned in to watch Jared make his late night TV debut on Stephen Colbert and followed his activity on Instagram. When he was home for a weekend we'd grab a drink or a sandwich at whatever diner was convenient and catch up.
While he was away I'd seen this shirt on a mannequin at Another Man's Treasure vintage shop in Jersey City. I wasn't thinking of a cover concept I just knew it was cool. If you've never been to this place just go now. It's owned by the coolest and most stylish couple you've ever met. Meika Franz is classically beautiful and super talented seamstress with a unabashedly whimsical sense of style. Her husband Warren is an Englishman, a bass man, and a guy who looks awesome in everything. Warren and I had spent a few nights just BS-ing about punk and New Wave and he'd recently helped style a few photo shoots with inventory from the store which is always ripe with interesting and unique garments. They are both super knowledgeable and passionate about vintage clothing and I love listening to them talk about it. The 'Lucky Seven' shirt is one of Warren's most prized possessions. When I first saw it and asked about it he explained its significance. He said the shirt is a one of a kind and was hand stitched in the early-mid fifties. Which means this shirt is around 65 years old, its first generation rock and roll, there is only one of it in the world, and this is it. I wasn't sure he'd let me take it out of the store but I'd heard the rough mixes of The Scandals EP and I knew they had a song called Lucky Seven. I sent Jared a photo of the shirt and though I can't remember exactly what he said it something along the lines of "holy shit, what is that?"
One day when he was home between tours I basically just said 'Hey lets hang. Go to some cool spots. Take some pics. Have a beer'. Warren had no idea who Jared was but he allowed me to borrow the shirt along with a bad ass leather jacket that I would always try on and secretly wished I could pull off myself. That afternoon we went up to the abandon train bridge near Harsimus Cove Cemetery, I busted out the leather, and took photos while we traded stories of our respective hustles. When the sun went down and it was too dark outside to shoot we went back to my studio at The Tenmarc building, drank some beer, and I shot a few frames of Jared against a canvas drop cloth I'd used while painting my studio having partially failed attempting to dye it black.
The motivation was really just to get some nice pics of the shirt and its stitching to give to Warren and Meika for their promotional channels since they'd been so gracious letting us borrow it. I asked Jared to roll up the sleeves which over the years seemed to grow longer and drape slightly more than originally intended. Between rolling one and the other he cocked his head left, reached one hand to his back pocket and the sleeve slid passed his elbow. I clicked the shutter. I'm really happy with this image because to me it embodies the history of the band and the relationship Jared has with the music he, Sean, Anthony, and Paulie create. He's reaching back to a time that a lot of us have nostalgia for though we've never experienced. A time romanticized in America as much for its dark side as its light. The shirt itself is something someone put real time, effort, and creative impulse into making. It was loved and eventually abandoned after some change of heart or unfortunate event like the end of a life. Its creator was an artist who most likely will never see it on the cover of this record yet it now has the potential to be seen by people all over. Jared dug the images and the band agreed it would make a cool cover so we went back to Warren for permission sort of nervous he wouldn't want it being used in this way. His response to the idea of it being associated with The Scandals and being a 12 inch cover was simply 'Its about time that shirt had its day'.
Jared went ahead and designed the thing. I didn't see the the layout until about 2 weeks ago when we went to dinner and he handed me a copy of the record. On the back cover he used one of the stencil images I'd shot from a ladder on Tommy's driveway. The full band fold out photo on the insert was shot right after load in on the last day of a tour with The Falcon at Brooklyn DIY venue Shea Stadium. The live shot behind the liner notes was from a show at Milkboy in Philadelphia the night before. The whole layout was unplanned and every image was created as a result of my friendship and proximity to these four guys. I've shot a few record covers in my career and there has always been a conversation about what its going to look like ahead time and to be frank thats usually a good idea. This record however is not just a piece of art I helped create. Its a collection of moments I've shared with some of my closest friends. For this reason the images and the music that make it up will always be monumental to me and I'll always be thankful for the times we've shared.