Feature Interview: Kyle Rutchland Of Living Album Art

Living Album Art does exactly what the name suggests: taking various album covers out of their once static frames and bringing them to kinetic life in one way or another. The brainchild of this project is American-based artist, Kyle Rutchland, who after playing in a handful of musical projects over the past few years, has now taken his deep love of alternative and heavy music and dived head first into the world of graphic design and digital art to create something new. 

After being introduced to Kyle’s work by our good friends over at The New Fury in America, I was impressed by his ideas and his work and so we got in touch with the man in question for an interview about his work. And he was more than happy to oblige. Have a read of our chat together below: 

So Kyle, what first inspired you to start doing Living Album Art and how long have you been at it?

Well, I’ve always enjoyed album covers on CDs since I was a kid. I used to buy CDs from artists that I never heard of because their album art intrigued me. My favourite part about physical albums is getting lost in the artwork while listening to the music. I’ve always felt that they go hand in hand. And I believe I launched the official Instagram account for Living Album Art in February of 2017.

What’s your history with art and with music? As you mainly cover a lot of alternative and heavy artists I’ve noticed.

I’ve grown up listening to rock artists from pop-punk to hard rock to metal. I’ve played bass in a few bands before fronting my own, Havoc Faction. My most successful band was Green Light Theory, a pop punk band that was around from 2013 to 2016. This is my first time getting into digital art, though.

How many covers have you brought to life since doing this and how long does it usually take to make a finished piece and get it out there?

I’ve animated about 70 album covers so far. And it usually takes me around 20 minutes or so.

Wow. So which album was the first one you gave this Living Album Art treatment to? Was it hard to get it right?

I believe that my first one ever was ‘Deja Entendu’ by Brand New. It came out pretty well and it got a good reaction, but I kind of want to redo it now that I’ve gotten so much better.

Oh, okay. So what would you specifically re-do about that Brand New album cover that you first did?

Well, it was before the app had added a bunch of new features so I all the first one had was some lighting and texture effects, but now I can add so much more to it and add some moving effects.

Through doing this work, have you found new bands and new records you like through their cover art, as you said with liking CD covers when you were younger?

Oh definitely! Through the bands that have reached out to commission me to do their albums. For example, this band from Alaska called Distance Defined has become one of my favourite bands. There’s another band called Glow who is so melodic and catchy and has something really special about them. I’ve been so stoked to work with these independent bands and help them grow in any way I can!

That’s sick. So how did you teach yourself about these apps? Did you research online tutorials or did you go in blind and work it out from scratch?

Well, I have basic photoshop and final cut skills so that helped give me an idea of how these apps work but mostly it’s just been trial and error as well as asking other artists in the community how they used a certain effect on a photo or image they animated.

Bit of a crash-course in it then! Is there anyone else that you’ve found does what you do or something similar to your work?

There’s some other artists who use the same apps as I do but they use it for either their own artwork or comic book art or movie posters or movie photos and stuff like that –  I’m the only one I’ve seen who’s bringing album artwork to life. That’s why when bands see if they reach out to me immediately because they can’t find it anywhere else.

That’s cool that you’ve found your own unique path here. On the apps, what programs and software do you use to create these living cover artworks? Do you have a set template used for this work or do you like to mix it up?

I primarily use Werble and Plotagraph depending on the textures and style of the artwork.

What are any challenges that you’ve encountered since starting this? Is it tricky to first work out which elements of an album cover need to be accentuated for an LAA piece?

I’d say that the only challenges I face are the limitations of the apps. I’ll have new ideas for bringing an artwork to life but then I have to figure out how to improvise certain effects.

Have many big bands shared your work or drawn attention to it yet? If not, do you think that once one or two get around, you’ll see Living Album Art will get a huge boost in followers?

Bleed The Dream and Assuming We Survive, are a couple of bigger bands that have shared or reposted work I did for them. My following has been growing recently when I do popular albums that people tag their friends in.

Of course – cover the big bands and you’ll more than likely drawn in bigger numbers. So, do you make any money from this work or are you hoping that maybe paid commissions will start to come in from this? 

I’ve been lucky enough to make a business out of Living Album Art. I get commissioned by independent bands and even as well as some labels. I’m trying to make it more steady and consistent though.

Speaking of, have you thought about creating your own original artworks or designs in this format for bands to use as their actual covers or for their releases? Like album booklets or covers? Or getting a Living Album Art piece used on their socials, like how on Facebook a profile picture can be a GIF or how one’s cover photo can be a video?

Yes, I’d definitely like to eventually work my way up towards the direction of creating original artwork for bands.

Will you look at creating longer, more varied pieces in the future; ones that are even less static and feature more elements and movements? Do you think that will be the case as your skill set grows and as you learn more about this?

Well, I do offer full song streaming videos for YouTube, but as far as fullscale animated videos that move like flash videos, that’s a whole other level!

Re: animated/flash videos, well, do you think that you could get there soon enough?

Soon? Probably not, it takes a lot of learning and experience to get good at that. I have a couple friends who specialize in it so if I need anything done like that I go to them, and that’s also how I know how much time and energy goes into that. If this takes off and I can quit one of my jobs – I’m a barista in the mornings and a server in the afternoons – then I’d have more time to use for that [laughs].

Finally, what are some of your favourite records that you’re really keen to work on and bring to life?

Well, I’ve done a few of my all-time favourite records, like Senses Fail’s ‘Let It Enfold You’, Funeral For A Friend’s ‘Casually Dressed And Deep In Conversation’, and Underoath’s ‘They’re Only Chasing Safety’, to name a few. But I’m highly looking forward to working on my upcoming Fightstar and Hopesfall collections because they’ve put out some of my favourite records with my favourite album art.

Awesome! But what about those Hopesfall and Fightstar records draw you into them and want to animate them? (The cover for ‘Grand Unification’ is just fucking gorgeous I find).

I think what draws me in most is their ability to take me to another place. I think that’s what draws me to artwork in general. I love how ‘Grand Unification’ just brings me into what’s happening in that world and as disastrous as it is, it also just looks so beautiful. With my work, I only want to enhance that feeling. By bringing it to life, I believe it brings us another step closer to being immersed in this world that the artwork has created for us.

Be sure to keep up to date with Kyle’s & his Living Album Art work here, here and over here

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