Following Lights Into the Forest

Click for larger image - you'll be able to actually read the text.

This was a weird project. My band cuppa joe wasn't very active in 1998. We formed at college in 1991, and put out some self-released cassettes, singles and then full-length CD on Dromedary Records until 1995 - that's when Doug, our singer/guitarist/songwriter, joined the Peace Corps and went off to Kenya for a couple years. He returned in 1997, got married to another Peace Corps Volunteer, and then re-upped with his new wife and set of to Papua, New Guinea in 1998 for more fun.

In that little year or so span, we got a new bass player (our third), played some shows and recorded a few new songs. This was around the time when it was becoming more common to be able to burn your own CDs, so we decided to put together our new songs, some old unreleased tracks, demos, and a few live tunes into our own self-released "best of" collection. The CD, which wound up being packed with 24 tracks, was to be named "Following Lights Into the Forest" - a title Doug came up with, I believe, while in Africa.

The title seemed to suggest to me an old English fantasy/magic story, so I came up with a concept where the five words of the title would be "pulled" from the text of a bigger story. I laid out the title on the lower left of the CD booklet, balanced it with our logo in the upper right, and then proceeded to fill in all the surrounding text - all in Courier, for an old-style printed look.

I didn't plan this out very much - I had the vague idea of a story about a group of young travelers on a quest for a magical object. In the chunk of the story depicted on the cover, they encounter an apparition while passing through a clearing. I knew the text was going to bleed off the left and right edges, so I didn't feel the need to fully compose it beforehand - I just wrote out individual sentences, making sure the words in the title fit into the sequence. It was fun.

The varied color of the text was created by placing a photo of a lush forest scene in the background of the cover, then revealing it (at a much-reduced percentage) through the text. The swatch underlying the white-lettered title is also a chunk of the same photo - this time, at 100% opacity. I liked the effect - I don't know if a single person ever bothered to try to read more than a few words, but the fact that it was there gave the cover concept and album's theme some added depth.

The CD's tray card interior, for under-CD printing.

The final CD contained very similar imagery - the same typeface, colors, and another chunk of the forest image. The inside of the tray card - the part that goes under the CD (if you choose to use a clear tray, as we did) was a collage of band photos over the years - each picture of me with 1,000 times more hair than I currently have, though usually in a much dorkier style.

We printed covers, tray cards and CD labels, put the whole thing together ourselves and sent or hand-delivered copies to 100 or so friends and family. We even got some play - eight years later - from Jon Solomon's awesome Local Support podcast. Here's the song he chose to include: P.D.A., from Following Lights into the Forest:

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