Tower Groove Records: The Story Behind the Collective's Art, Plus Free Posters


  • All artwork by Adam Watkins

Ed. Now that the dust has settled on this weekend' three-day Tower Groove LP release epic, we'd like to leave you with one last thought about the collective (for now). Hopefully this information on the artwork adorning the vinyl you bought will give you something to think about as you're spinning through its 21 tracks.

The newly minted musicians' collective Tower Groove Records is still in its infancy, but its 22 bands (so far) and four founders have big ambitions for its future. Or at least open minds. But before they released any music, last weekend's double-LP compilation included, they needed a logo that would speak equally for all of those first bands and the score that will feature on the next record. Below, Tone Rodent's Adam Watkins walks RFT Music through the symbolism of the group's artwork, both accidental and overt -- and what exactly is going on in the album cover above.

Early on in the label's brainstorming process, its art responsibilities became the pet project of Watkins, who holds a BFA from Webster and an MFA from the Kent University of Art and Design in Canterbury, England. "It occurred to me that if we wanted to make this something real, it had to look official," says Watkins, who collaborated with other organizers on front-end idea generation. "It had to mean something when you held it in your hands."

So the art teacher researched other famous label logos, pouring over the emblems of SubPop and its peers in search of inspiration. But what resulted is strictly St. Louis: In its history and music scene, Watkins borrowed the fleur de lis from the flag in an effort to "steal it back from New Orleans," he jokes. "It's part of our spirit and our soul, and it gives us class."

The same symbol branches out from the central image, which Watkins calls "part open-heart surgery, part record-player retro and part throwback." In order to create it, Watkins photographed his own turntable and manipulated it until it morphed into the sign of St. Louis and branched out as if to reach across city neighborhoods. Because of the label's vinyl-only focus (it also includes digital downloads), the artwork's retro vibe developed early on.

But the cover itself is only the surface level: Watkins admits he initiated the entire project with the album's poster insert in mind. "The album art had to be slick and cool and elevate this hippie commune group of people, this mismatched collective, into a product that looks good on the shelf, that seems legitimate," he says with a laugh. "It should look like a real product and stand up on its own but not label any one genre in particular. So we needed an expressive insert."

Below is the result, which startled this reaction from the label's creators: "Holy shit, it's open-heart surgery!" Which is the point, says Watkins. "That's why we used red and blue, as these veins and arteries," he says. "The music is the heart and soil of the city for us, and that's why we do it."

The full poster artwork: Tower Groove Records Poster

This week's LP release poster: Tower Groove Record Release Poster

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