Pedro the Lion fans were in for a treat last week as the band surprise released their latest album Havasu. The record is the second part of a planned series tracing singer and guitarist David Bazan’s early childhood experiences and the past homes he lived in with the first album, Phoenix, released back in 2019. The series will span five albums and ultimately close in Seattle, but the collection marks Bazan’s revival of the Pedro the Lion moniker, as he ditched the name back in 2005 and opted to record under his own.
To create this tapestry of past homes for the album art, Bazan turned to frequent collaborator and designer Jesse LeDoux, starting with Phoenix. The art for both records utilizes photographs taken by Bazan of each of the locations and incorporates different patterns and textures throughout a series of pool-shaped blobs.
We caught up with Jesse over email and asked him about creating the album art for the new string of Pedro the Lion records and their deeply nostalgic feel.
What was the initial concept for the album art, and how did you execute that?
Before starting on Phoenix, Dave came to me saying he wanted to do a five-album arc that loosely followed his life, beginning in Phoenix and following him to Seattle. Essentially designing five albums at once, I developed a system that creates consistency across the records but still allows each one to be unique—through color, Dave’s photographs of each town, and the subtle shift in the shapes on the cover.
Ryan Russell took some great photos of the band recording Phoenix. We used one of them on the interior gatefold, so now he’s locked in to do the subsequent photos, whether he likes it or not! I’m really excited for the other records to come out, so people can begin to see the arc we’ve created.
Not to go all Airheads on you, but just in thinking about Arizona (and the covers as well), I love the swimming pool-esque aesthetic built into the project. What was it about that motif that’s so central to the design, and is there an element of nostalgia baked into it?
Since these albums are a reflection of Dave’s life, nostalgia plays a strong part in the artwork. The photographs used on the cover were taken of places he spent his childhood: backyard swimming pools, the texture of the walls of his childhood home, places he used to play—all of this ties into the color palette.
In Phoenix, it was the deep maroon of the Phoenix landscape contrasted with the light blue of swimming pools found in many backyards. With Havasu, the landscape changes to beige with the deep blue of Lake Havasu. From Havasu, the Bazan family moved West. That shift will inform the palette on the upcoming records.
How long have you been working with David? How would you describe your working relationship?
Dave and I have been working together off and on since 1999. We first worked together when I was an Art Director at Sub Pop Records and laid out their Singles Club single. We became friends from there and were roommates for a short stint. He asked me to do the packaging for Achilles Heel, and we worked together on the semi-annual Christmas singles he did for Suicide Squeeze Records. And I’ve worked on a handful of other singles, merch items, posters, and various other things through the years.
In short, if Dave asks me to do something for him, my answer is always (and will always be) YES. He’s terrific—as a person, collaborator, client, and friend. It doesn’t hurt that I love his music either.
Pedro the Lion’s Havasu is available now on Bandcamp and wherever it is you stream music. As always, don’t just stream it if you like it, buy it.
Art Direction: Jesse LeDoux
Cover Photos: David Bazan
Studio Photos: Ryan Russell