[q&a + photos] The story behind Velah's elaborate "Skeleton House" 7-inch

This past Friday night in Allston, powerhouse rock quartet VELAH released a 7-inch for two of their new tracks, "Skeleton House" and "Rose Wave," and it was clear before the band even hit the stage at Great Scott that this was no regular ol' record packaging. Eloborately designed and created by guitarist/vocalist Jen Johnson as part of her freelance design company Cultivated, the Fluxus package box includes a pop-up house, a metal key, some chalk, a badge, sticker, and messages on burnt paper, alchemical symbols printed on a felt cloth and, oh yeah, the vinyl disk. They are limited to just 100 copies, and all created by hand.

We caught up with the band this week to ask how this all came about; it's definitely one of the coolest 7-inch packaging designs we've seen in a long while. [order it via the Velah bandcamp]

So, where did the idea for the song come from?
The initial inspiration for Skeleton House came from Jen, brought about by two events: one was an old friend who said he'd had a dream in which she was setting houses on fire, and the second happened later in the week when she was walking home at night from another friend's house and came across a a burned out house that had been stripped down to it's bones. Then that initial idea evolved into the version on the record via the whole band's input.

Does the content of "Rose Wave" have anything to do with the narrative that you've established in this package?
If "Skeleton House" is the door and keyhole, "Rose Wave" is the hallway. We like to say that you can get to the Skeleton House by riding a Rose Wave.

Is the cloth meant to help with "exorcising demons" and does it have a more tangible usage aside from decoration?
If desired, you can use the cloth as a way to cast a circle and be transported to the Skeleton House. Or, if you're really adventurous, you can cut it out and use it as a slip mat for the 7-inch.

What's the purpose of the chalk?
The chalk is there to make the circle larger. We can see you putting the cloth with symbols in the center and expanding it by inscribing more symbols on the floor around it with the chalk.

The key itself is quite ornate, and you intend it to be our gateway to the "Skeleton House" in our dreams. Are all of the keys similarly fashioned, or did you seek out different keys for each of the 7-inches?
The keys are all alike, but the instructions are different, making each person's method of accessing the "Skeleton House," and each 7" package, unique.

How did you develop the packaging concept? Was it in tandem with the development of the song, or did it come after?
From the beginning of Velah, we wanted to find some special and unique ways of putting our music out into the world. We look at it as a way to add another dimension to the music, or more to the point, the ideas/emotions that go into the songs. It gives those ideas a real-world depth to see them represented in other ways instead of just a song.

Especially with "Skeleton House," we were able to create a physical space, creating the house itself for the digital download card. We feel that this approach lends weight, depth, and some history to the sonic elements as well as the lyrics. Our goal is for it to feel like a real place or actual event that we were able to distill that into notes and melody, and translate it to a different medium, as opposed to it being just a line in a song. This specific concept came about after we had written the songs -- once the concept came about, it was just a matter of deciding on the design of the components.

Is the "Skeleton House" a universal gathering place for all of our subconsciouses or for just the eye of the beholder?
Everyone's "Skeleton House" is going to be different because it has to do with the sum of your life experience, and it's always evolving.

Nick Johnston is the summer music intern at the Boston Phoenix. We're keeping him a few extra weeks into September.  

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