Regular visitors to the blog and our social feeds will know by now that Frànçois & The Atlas Mountains are a huge favourite with us here at Seafront. And while we’ve featured Frànçois and his collective of musicians multiple times before, this is the first chance we get to do so (excitedly) at the same time as the release of a brand new full length record.
Solide Mirage, released on Domino Records today (3rd of March) is the 4th F&AM album and their first since 2014’s Piano Ombre. In 2015 however we were treated to an EP: L’Homme Tranquille, but with that already two years ago, it’s a warm welcome back to Frànçois Marry and his Atlas Mountains ensemble who on Solide Mirage are:
Amaury Ranger // Jean Thevenin // David Nzeyimana
One of the things which caught our attention in the build up to the album’s release was the apparent redesign of the band’s name. Largely appearing similar on the covers of previous releases, this new look was ambitious and seemingly without rule and made us wonder the type of album we were in store for.
As time passed, it was revealed that this new branding was down to a collaboration between Frànçois and Velvetyne Type Foundry, and in particular Jérémy Landes. Through the task of giving the band’s name a fresh look, the typeface, also called Solide Mirage, was born.
What’s even more exciting is that through their discussions, both Frànçois and Jérémy decided to make the font free and open source for fans and just about anyone else to use.
To find out more about the Type Foundry and the creative process behind the appealing design work that took place during the vision of Solide Mirage, we spoke to Jérémy Landes, co-founder of Velvetyne and the collaborator in helping bring the album to life.
Seafront: Tell us about Velvetyne, what you do and your aims.
Jérémy Landes: At Velvetyne we release open-source fonts since early 2010, we are celebrating our 7th birthday. Our first main goal is to make graphic designers aware of the questions of font licenses and about the libre movement. Our second one is to make the libre movement know about the typographic world. We basically want these two worlds to meet each other. To achieve this goal, we create stunning typeface designs and we release them under open-source license. Our third goal is to have fun and to learn together.
We are influenced a lot by the pop culture and especially by music. Our name, Velvetyne, even come from a Lenny Kravitz song (Velveteen). We try to imagine our fonts as pop culture products and we want them to dissolve themselves into the pop culture, to touch a larger audience.
SF: Does the creation of fresh and unique fonts come quite easily, or can it be a long process from start to finish?
JL: The creation process of fonts can be really disturbing. Sometimes you can come with a new idea and achieve it in two days, but some other times it takes months or even years to find the perfect balance of a particular design. In any case, you can divide the work on a particular typeface in two big phases: the creation itself and the production. Most of the time, the production process is a lot longer than the creation itself. So, even if you achieve to have a crystal clear idea of a new design, you’ll still have at least several weeks of production to give it a proper shape.
SF: Typography in music isn’t something which many artists always prioritise, especially against such elements as the album’s cover art. What role and level of importance do you think a typeface plays in how an album is received?
For an album release, typeface design is part of the graphic design process. Album covers are graphic design materials that sometimes feature type, illustration, photography, altogether or alone. Some great album covers don’t include any text! Thus, typography can have no role in the promotion of an album. I have to say that even the Solide Mirage cover itself doesn’t include any typeface itself! But the cover isn’t the unique media where you’ll find type. The album booklet, gig posters, and video-clips are a few formats I can think about having a great role in the album promotion and where type can prevail.
For the Solide Mirage project, we thought the type and the album as two cultural products nourishing each other. We built them together, at the same time, and both the album and the type would be released to the public at the same time and seen, listened and used by a lot of different people. Some Velvetyne followers will discover the work of F&AM with this typeface, and some F&AM listeners will discover our work with this album. This is a unique approach, and I don’t think that it would be good idea to proceed like that for each album being released!
SF: Were you able to listen to any of the new music during the creation of the font? If so, did this inspire you with any inspiration for what you were creating?
Yes, indeed, even if I began to work on the typeface several months before the release of the album, I had the chance to listen to the first drafts of the album and several versions along the way to the final album which will be released on Friday. This was necessary input to know what to draw, even if a lot of the ideas in the design of the font come from long talks with F&AM leader, Frànçois Marry.
I keep a quite precise memory of the first time I listened at the album draft. It had a rougher and rockier temperament compared to the previous F&AM works. If the final version of the album and the typeface are a bit more polished than their first drafts, I think that we kept this wilder spirit in our creations, under a thin layer of varnish.
Solide Mirage was created by me, Jérémy Landes, owner of Studio Triple and co-founder of Velvetyne. I was helped by my intern at this time, Walid Bouchouchi, whom I have to thanks for some great ideas we kept in the Solide Mirage final design, such as the strange b d p and q.
SF: A number of characters jump between upper and lowercase, some show an expressive and free form use of line. Others such as the A, O and V have been replaced by zig-zag shapes, similar to the album’s artwork by Tatiana Defraine. As a designer of fonts, how is it to be able to create something as striking as the Solide Mirage font. Do you see it as a chance to almost rebel against the ‘usual’ fonts seen in our everyday lives (i.e. those in advertisements, etc.)?
It was a real pleasure to work on the Solide Mirage project because of this ornamental aspect. But the balance between ornament and legibility was really hard to find and required a lot of time. Even if this typeface is more a titling typeface than a text one, it’s used for all the lyrics in the album booklet and it supports quite a lot of text. To achieve this balance, I imagined a strategy: all the capitals keep quite classical letter forms, allowing for quietness and legibility, whereas the lowercases have more experimental shapes. By mixing the two style together, one can decide how much they want the text to look wild.
Your question about rebelling against the boring usual fonts is interesting. I’m not sure that the boredom one can feel about these fonts is really because of the font designer itself. There are plenty amazing fonts available out there, from the more experimental to the more corporate. It’s the graphic designers responsibility to choose new fonts in their projects and not just the ones their tend to use every day. At Velvetyne, we want to give these designers new weapons they can use to shake themselves and their clients up.
SF: Is more consideration needed when creating a typeface for a music release as opposed to one being used in more everyday ways? If so, what needs to be considered further?
Every design project is different, and this project is the first one I did for a band, it will be hard to give generalities about the music releases. But for this project, I had to beware that everyone involved in the promotion of the album (from the label to the video clip directors) had a good understanding of what is a typeface, what have I done and how to use it. So, I would say that documentation and explanation are really important in this type of projects. I had the chance that everyone seized my Solid Mirage typeface and appropriate themselves. Therefore, I’ll finish by saying that creating a typeface that everyone can understand and like is critical. Making a typeface to be mainstream is not the same thing at all than making a typeface for the graphic designers or for the type designers. As I said before, at Velvetyne we dream that some of our typefaces can be part of the pop culture. For that, they have to be mainstream, accessible to anyone in other words.
SF: Along with Fràncois, you decided to make the font freely available. What’s the aim behind this decision?
The first aim behind the idea of releasing the font was to allow F&AM fans to claim the imaginary universe of the album for themselves. By creating a bridge between F&AM music and my typographic word, we give another key to understand and feel their music.
The second aim behind the decision of releasing the typeface it to allow it to have its own life beside the album and after the album. In five years from now, if Frànçois decides not to use the Solide Mirage font anymore, the font won’t be buried in a digital grave, it will still be available, alive.
Finally, by making this double release, we make people understand that albums and typefaces are cultural products, that they can be equals.
SF: Do you believe that by making the font free to use and highlighting its use within the album artwork ahead of its release, it will create a clear connection with the music of Solide Mirage, and vice versa?
I can’t guess the future, but I can highlight the links between this album, its cover and my typeface. First of all, by choosing to give the name of the album to the typeface, we drew a clear inheritance between the first and the second. Then, this name, Solide Mirage, recalls immediately Tatiana’s work for the cover, a work that inspired the zig-zag O, A and V in the typeface. This builds some sort of trinity between the name, Solide Mirage, Tatiana’s painting and my font.
For now, the typeface is only used for materials around Frànçois and the Atlas Mountains. After the release of their album, people will need some time to use the typeface on a project and for such a project to be widely broadcasted. This means that, if you know F&AM, you’ll have seen the Solide Mirage typeface used a lot by them before seeing it used by anyone else. This will make Solide Mirage, the font, obviously linked to the album in your mind. This could seem petty but it’s true. The first big use of a typeface always leaves a mark in people mind.
SF: Along with the common characters, you also created a number of icons that appear within the album’s booklet. Similar icons have been used in previous F&AM releases to denote the varying musicians and personnel appearing on the record, are these used in a similar method here? If there are symbols not used for this reason, what do you feel their use adds to the album?
These icons were something Frànçois asked for. Actually, there’s a tradition in the way F&AM layout the credits in the album booklets. I embraced this constraint and wanted to make it a key feature of the typeface. I started from the set of ornaments that the band already used and added new ones to create some more dreamy, oneiric and cabbalistic meaning. They are drawn to fit perfectly with the text so you can use them inline, in a paragraph or a title, for instance. As there are the ornamental O, A and V, the frontier between the letter shapes and ornaments becomes finer. Finally, by mixing calm uppercases, crazy lowercases and ornaments, you can fine tune the taste of your text.
SF: The typeface can also be seen on the two music videos and lyric video released so far, as well as on tour / promotional posters and the band’s website, was the decision made to include it here to help to further this connection?
Solide Mirage was made to be a tool for the identity of F&AM, beside the logo I created too. A tool easy to use, that would signify F&AM on all medias. As such, it’s normal that it’s used for the posters, the website… But I didn’t force nobody to use it! For the video-clips, for instance, the directors came to me to ask for the typeface, because they understood it was a key in the new identity of F&AM and because they liked it. Here we come back at what I was saying about the importance of making everybody around Frànçois understand what was this typeface and making them wanting to use it.
The release of the font will come on Monday, giving you plenty of time to familiarise yourself with today’s brand new record. But when the time comes, you’ll be able to get your hands on the Solide Mirage font via the link below.
Check out the videos released so far in support of the new album below and see the font in action.
Seafront would like to say a massive thank you to Jérémy for taking the time out to answer our questions as well as for all of the Solide Mirage promo images seen throughout this article.