Best recording package isn’t a category that’s typically top of mind for Grammy prognosticators, but one group’s album art stands out among its peers this year. Surfaces, the Texas duo of Forrest Frank and Colin Padalecki, met on the internet and began collaborating via SoundCloud files, so it stands to reason that their visuals would also be of the digital variety.
Boasting the cool, elemental “Miami Vice” color palette associated with the tropics, and reflected in the breezy, laid-back pop of songs like “Sunday Best” — incorporating elements of jazz, bossa nova, doo-wop and lounge music — the distinctive geometric, pastel visuals of sunrises, sunsets, palm trees, sandy beaches and blue skies carry over to the band’s merch adorning T-shirts and baseball caps.
The imagery is Padalecki’s vision, created on Keynote, Apple’s Power Point-like app. “I’ve always been a big fan of pastel colors,” he says. “Too much saturation seems to tell you what to feel rather than letting it be interpreted. They’re also softer on the eye, they just make you feel better.” As for his process, Padalecki adds: “I used a shape designer and color wheel to bend lines as well as make corners, circles and squares, with a layering application to give it that wall or mural feel. It’s very simplified.”
Frank and Padalecki both studied business in college (at Baylor and Texas A&M, respectively) and have approached their music career — which launched in 2017 with their debut album “Surf” and continues with “Horizons,” released in February — with an eye towards branding, cohesion and an emphasis on multiple senses, revealing hidden depths and layers as the name Surfaces suggests.
“It’s important to develop more than one medium of art,” offers Padalecki. “It’s not enough to just put out music these days. If you’re not pouring out your heart in every facet of what you do, people won’t pay attention. You have to care about the creative process and how it’s being received. Our label has been supportive in that. No one tells us what to do when it comes to our music, our sound design, our artwork, our videos, our merch, the way we’re marketed. We have our hands in every area, because if you lose that, you hurt the brand.”
That label, Elliot Grainge’s 10K Projects, has been riding a wave of visibility that’s landed “Sunday Best” in a current Beats by Dre TV campaign with LeBron James and Serena Williams, and their newest single, “Learn to Fly,” scored a star-powered cameo by Elton John, who responded favorably to a demo sent by the duo’s publishing company UMPG.
“He had some great suggestions,” says Padalecki of the Zoom session between the guys in Texas and Sir Elton in L.A. “Listen to the piano outro on the extended version. That’s all him, and it’s amazing, this big, crazy ending.” The video for the track picks up on the band’s visual style creating an animated flight with the two by Elton for the singalong which never actually happened in real life.
With music and images increasingly intertwined online, Padalecki believes it’s more important than ever to grab not only the ears, but the eyes, of fans. With a potential nomination for best new artist, and what should be a shoo-in nod for packaging, perhaps Surfaces will be able to lock in both sound and vision trophies this Grammy season.