Indie Craft

July 22nd, 2010

We’re excited to announce that William Schaff, the judge of our recent Album Cover Design Contest, is featured in the new book “Indie Craft” by Jo Waterhouse due out in October.  The book focuses on the new wave of D.I.Y. crafting that while still anchored in the disciplines your grandma used – embroidery, cross-stitch, crochet, knitting, etc. – is more cutting-edge and quirky.  Some of Will’s embroidery and other craft work is featured, so check it out.  Still waiting for some of our Figment bands to pick up the knitting needles and get to work, but in the meantime, congrats Will!

Time for the latest installment of “Cleaning out the Bookmark List”, so let’s get to it!

  • Stumbled on this incredible blog post on FontFeed while reading another of my favorite blogs – – it’s a rundown of the album art on some of the newest releases with special attention paid to the font and typefaces used.  I know this something that Will Schaff pointed out as being very important in his selections for the 2010 Album Cover Design Contest, so give it a read.
  • HardFormat also had a link to this incredible new documentary “Taken By Storm” that is being made about the legendary album cover designer Storm Thorgerson and Hipgnosis, the team that designed famous covers for Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, AC/DC, Bad Company, Yes, Scorpions, Peter Gabriel and many more.  Check out the trailer, it looks fantastic, or visit Storm’s site.
  • If you like Def Leppard you’ll love this set of blog posts by Andie Airfix, the designer behind all of their album covers since Pyromania.  Check out the original designs, etc.  It’s going to be part of a show at the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame opening in December of 2010 and running through 2012.  Speaking of Def Leppard, Hipgnosis designed their “High N’ Dry” album cover.
  • Love Black Sabbath?  Then you’ll love this!
  • While not technically what we’d call a fake band (since they actually recorded & released music) Sex Bob-Omb does have some famous members (no pun intended).

In the second installment of our Player Profiles series we thought we’d get to know the player known as JoshTheRadioDude.  For those of you who missed our first player profile, this series is aimed at spotlighting some of the creators behind the bands on Figment.   We’ll talk to actual Figment players to see where their inspiration comes from, what tools they use to create and market their bands, and what they like/dislike on Figment.

JoshTheRadioDude has playing Figment since November of 2009.  He hasn’t created a lot of bands or released that many albums (4 in total), but everything he’s created on Figment is top notch.  His bands all have strong back stories, strong visual identities and great song titles.  Judging from his username you’ve probably already guessed that he has a background in commercial radio, but we thought we’d give you all a chance to get to know him a little better.

Figment News:  Tell us a little about yourself.  (You can be as vague or as specific as you want to be.)

JoshTheRadioDude:  Well, I’m a freelance web and graphic designer with many other hobbies and interests, among which are music (first and foremost), sports, writing, politics, all things media and, oddly enough, city planning.  I also have a second job during the school year as a P.A. announcer for a local private school, and I’ll tell you right now, very few things in life beat getting paid to watch sports.

FN:  How did you find Figment?

JTRD:  Through a Facebook ad for a Figment band, as a matter of fact.  Darkling, if I recall correctly.  Unlike most ads, it caught my eye, so a “good job” and thanks are due to Tim Mamba!

FN:  What attracted you to the site?

JTRD:  Being the creative person I am and loving music as I do, it just seemed like a natural fit.  Plus, I have several “fantasy” hobbies.  That city planning interest I mentioned before has resulted in numerous maps of cities that don’t exist (as well as an addiction to SimCity).  I’ve come up with ideas for countless radio stations that will never exist.  I’ve created complete non-existent universes for stories that I’ve written just to make them seem more realistic so that I know exactly what I’m writing about.  It’s a sickness, really.  But it’s how I relax, so creating fake bands and fake music is just an extension of that.

FN:  You mentioned on your profile page that you’re a former radio DJ and that you are in the process of starting two internet radio stations.  What’s it like working in radio?  Are your internet stations up and running yet?  And if so, where can we find them on the interwebs?

JTRD:  Radio is my first love!  There’s no doubt about that.  I could go on for hours and hours about my passion for it, but suffice it to say that when you’re working at a station with people who are just as passionate about it as you are, your employers included, it is the best job in the world.  Nothing gives me more joy than to be on the air, doing my show and knowing that thousands of people out there are listening to what I’m playing, are interested in what I have to say and are entertained by the way I choose to present the content.  Not because it’s about ME, but because I genuinely enjoy serving people and making them happy!  The rush I get when I turn on that microphone is like no other.  Sadly, the industry is crumbling, and finding the opportunity to do things the right way on the air is almost impossible today.  That’s partially why I’m starting up my two Internet stations.  They’re not up and running yet, but I’m getting closer to getting them online each day, and I’ll be sure to let the Figment community know ahead of time when the official launch dates will be.  One station will be a talk outlet focused on the city where I live, and the other will be a Top 40 station.

FN:  Do you think you’re experience as a DJ has had any influence on the band’s you’ve created on Figment?  And if so, how?

JTRD:  Oh, absolutely!  I think above all, my musical tastes have been shaped by the music I’ve played on the air, and that goes both ways, better AND worse.  Most of my time has been spent working in the Adult Contemporary format (aural brain death, as it were), and I try to avoid the lighter, slower stuff as much as possible as a result.  I was never a fan of softer music.  Growing up in Miami, I listened mostly to hip-hop, R&B, pop and dance music, and the opportunities I was presented with to get into the radio industry never took me down that road (which is why I’m fulfilling that dream online).  I actually started out in the Christian music format before moving to the mainstream stuff, then went BACK to Christian soft rock and Christian modern rock later on.  The more modern Christian stuff is great, I love it, but the lighter stuff, Christian or otherwise, is just not my cup of tea.  There’s a common reality among radio types: we generally don’t listen to the music we play on the air.  If you end up working at a station that plays the music you truly enjoy, you’re one of the lucky ones.  So while my tastes were already formed before I started on the air, they were even further solidified by the formats I worked in, and the bands I create on Figment are a reflection of that.

FN:  Are your bands inspired by any real bands or are they more figments of bands you would have liked to have formed yourself?

JTRD:  A little of both, actually.  <3 is based on the attitude of bands like Fall Out Boy, Panic! At The Disco and All-American Rejects, but their formation is based somewhat on a band that some high school friends and I were talking about forming years ago.  Fitchburg Subdivision has roots in a more recent series of real-life events, though there was no talk of forming a real-life band.  The Doll House Girls are a take on girl groups like The Pussycat Dolls, Danity Kane and so forth.  Free To The Public is the one band I’ve created so far that really just came from a desire to do something different.

FN:  You mention that you are Top 40 kind of guy.  Do you think it’s harder for fake pop bands to get traction on Figment versus other types of musical genres?

JTRD:  That’s what I’ve experienced so far, yeah.  Most of the Figment community seems to be much more heavily rock-oriented.  The artists in other genres that are successful, like Zandergriff Miggs for example, seem to be the exception because they’re so unique.  And I like that, I think that’s a great challenge to have to meet, because it drives people to be more creative, to hone their talents and find out what works and what doesn’t.  I’ll be the first to admit, I’m still figuring that out.  I’m pretty new to the site, so given my relatively slow rate of putting albums out, it may be some time before I do, but it gives me something to work toward, and I appreciate that.

FN:  All of your bands have extensive back stories and a strong visual image.  What advice do you have to share with your fellow Figment players regarding the best way to go about creating a band on Figment?

JTRD:  Create, create, create.  I’m a very detail-oriented person when it comes to things that I have a passion for, so I try to go for as much realism as possible, and that generally leads me to come up with all sorts of additional ways to make a band seem like something you’d encounter in the real world.  That means back stories, a solid idea of who’s who, what each member’s musical tastes are and how that influences the band, what images reflect those influences and how they can come together to reflect the overall style of the group, what’s going to be identified with the band visually as opposed to the album and vice versa and, finally, song titles that fit both the musical style and the theme of the album if there is one.  In essence, it takes me a lot of planning to put a band together and just as much to put together an album.  If you go into detail and think everything out ahead of time instead of just grabbing an image and slapping your band’s name on top of it, you’re going to have a quality product.

FN:  Your album covers are really well done.  What tools do you use to create them?

JTRD:  Thank you!  I just use Photoshop, to tell you the truth.  What I think really goes into them to make them pop is the amount of work I put into them.  I have to start out with a specific idea of what it is I want before I begin, and I’ll find pictures or images online to get started with.  Some of them will be used, most of them won’t, at least not for the purpose I originally intended.  But once I get to a satisfactory point, I’ll put everything together.  It also helpes to have a good collection of fonts and a working knowledge of the effects in your image editor.  Just experimenting will sometimes lead me to what I’m looking for or something even better.

FN:  One of your most successful bands is Fitchburg Subdivision, who recently placed 3rd in our 2010 Figment Album Cover Design Contest and had a long run at #1 on our Hot Albums Chart.  Yet you yourself have said in comments on the blog that you were surprised by their success.  Why?
JTRD:  The cover itself was actually designed as one of those random picture / random Wikipedia article / random quotes things that floats around Facebook every once in a while.  To be entirely honest, I didn’t really put too much work into it.  Then when I realized it looked better than probably any album cover I’d ever designed before, I decided I should use it on Figment.  The track listing was what got more attention from me than the cover design, but somehow it all fit together.  What surprised me was that an album cover that just got thrown together on a whim late one night ended up becoming my best-selling album so far and skyrocketed to #1 before I even knew it!

FN:  Do you think there was something you did on the Fitchburg Subdivision that you might carry over to some of your other bands or do you think it was merely one element (album cover, song titles, back story) that led to their success?

JTRD:  I’m not sure.  I think the style of the photo I used on The Virtue Of Fools was probably the biggest selling point, but finding a picture like that again is going to be somewhat difficult, even if I take it myself.  The band’s logo got some praise from William Schaff in the album cover design contest, and I feel that was a compelling part of it as well, so I might see what I can do to play on that success.

FN:  Do you actively try to build and maintain a fan base for each of your bands on Figment?

JTRD:  I do a little promotion among my friends outside of Figment, but as for the site itself, I’ve just sort of put out what I do and let people find their way to my bands.  Part of that just has to do with the fact that I have less time than I’d like available to dedicate to such a hobby, but it’s also because I want to grow fan bases naturally instead of advertising myself, at least for now.  It gives me a better understanding of what’s working on the basis of what people actually like and enjoy as opposed to what’s selling through self-promotion.

FN:  What does it take for you to fan a band?  Buy/listen to their album?

JTRD:  Hmm… that’s a good question!  I can’t say I’ve ever really thought about it before.  I think, first of all, a band has to have a name that grabs my attention.  That’s actually the first thing I see; the band’s logo doesn’t necessarily attract my eye up front, even though I’m very much a visually-minded person when it comes to covers and such.  Genres also matter to me.  If I wouldn’t listen to it in real life, chances are I won’t buy it on Figment.  There ARE exceptions to that, however, and they’re usually because something about the band and/or album intrigues me; usually the cover or themes found in the music.

FN:  Any other players who you’d like to laud for their work?

JTRD:  TMTYTF has been a great source of support for me on the site.  He’s been a fan from almost the first day I joined up, and he’s helped promote some of my bands through the tours he’s set up.  He’s probably one of the most prolific members of the community, too.  I don’t know how he does it.  I like to joke that I have too much free time on my hands, but… geez, man, take a break!  Haha!  No, seriously, check his stuff out, it’s really enjoyable.

FN:  Have you always created fake bands?  Or is this something you thought would be fun after seeing Figment for the first time?

JTRD:  You know, come to think of it, I’ve been doing this as far back as the age of seven.  I remember my first fake band was with my next-door neighbor.  We called ourselves the Red Hot Rockers.  Not exactly creative, but what do you want from a couple of seven-year-olds?  I also recall one I came up with in high school called no ¿dea, which actually came about as a play on a joke about The Who being on stage and someone asking “who’s playing?”  The obvious response would be “yes,” and it would just devolve into a whole “Who’s On First?” routine from there.  I’ve come up with many other less memorable fake bands between and since then.

FN:  Your album covers tend to have a strong visual identity.  Do you seek out specific types of images to match the band or album content?  Or do you start with an image and create everything around that?

JTRD:  Well, as I said before, I tend to plan everything out ahead of time, so my covers are generally a compromise between the perfect image I have in my mind and what I’m able to piece together with what I can find that comes close.  In relation to the content of the album itself, the cover always has a relation to either the music or the band in terms of lyrical content or just general attitude.

FN:  What is the band and/or album you’ve formed/released that you are the most proud of?

JTRD:  The Virtue Of Fools has had the most success for certain, and I’m very proud of it, but I think if I had to choose which I’m most proud of overall, it would have to be DHG’s first album, “Wanna Play?” They’re the group I’ve put the most work into so far, and even though the fan base is small and the genre isn’t exactly the most popular on the site, I’m satisfied with the result of my effort.  I think it’s likely the most realistic album I’ve created yet in terms of cover, style and content.

FN:  If someone asked you why you play Figment what would you tell them?

JTRD:  When I won third place in the album design contest and I showed my mother the copy of Record Store Days on a recent visit, she had a great summary description of the site: it’s like fantasy football for music lovers.  I love music, I’m a creative person and I enjoy competition.  Figment combines all of those factors into one amazing, very fun game!

The Darkling Heavyweight

July 9th, 2010

timmamba has been a Figment player since almost the beginning.  His band Darkling may have been created in response to our first contest, but it’s the band’s quality and early influence on the Figment fake bands that followed in it’s wake that have made it a mainstay at the top of the Figment Top Bands chart from the moment of it’s inception.

While timmamba’s covers may lack some of the sophistication of other Figment players it’s his ability to create a mood that has made Darkling such a hit in our opinion.  Who else could have taken mundane nature shots and used them to create album covers that are as dark and disturbing as anything created by real black metal bands who trade in anti-Christian and violent imagery?  Who else has the writing chops to create a back story that is both ridiculous and believable all at the same time?  Who else can create song titles like “Kick the Tyr and Light the Pyre”?  No one, that’s who!

So while timmamba may not be one of the most prolific Figment players, an issue some of you on the site seem to have with some of the Top Bands, he has created a band that continues to dominate completely on it’s own terms, and for that reason we are naming him our latest Figment Player Industry Heavyweight.  timmamba will be checking out all of your bands over the coming weeks and rewarding those bands/albums he feels merit the attention, whether it’s simply to provide some constructive criticism or to lavish extra lucre on those that he feels rightly deserve it.

We’d also like to take a moment to thank poppinfresh for being such a great Industry Heavyweight over the past month or so.  We hope you’ll take a moment to thank him as well!