Don’t judge a book by its cover is an expression as lost to our era as the cassette tape player. Packaging and marketing is everything.
The Queens of the Stone Age have been releasing albums since 1997 and with their fifth full length studio release, Era Vulgaris, it’s fair to assume that they know a thing or two about the importance of an album’s title, track listing and image.
After a live in-studio interview at MusiquePlus and now relaxing in the MusiLounge, head honcho, frontman Josh Homme and guitarist Troy Van Leeuwen talk about the importance of band names, album titles and album cover art, that is before their ADD set in and conquered all.
Era Vulargis is a stimulating album title and has a comical album cover to match. Why use humour?
Josh: We take our music seriously but we’re not saying we’re the coolest guys since sliced bread. It took guts to put such an oddly retarded image on the cover! The art work helps lighten the load. Era Vulgaris sounds very serious. It’s not meant to be overly serious.
It means the common era, the era we have in common. But The Era We Have In Common would be a very sh—y album title. Era Vulgaris sounds way better!
“Era vulgaris” is actually a latin term for “common era” but sounds more like “vulgar era”.
Troy: Yeah, but that’s not really what we’re saying. The “common era” is something that we have right now that we dig.
Josh: Hey, a vulgar era sounds cool to me! Sounds like a loose brigade of people having a good time and that sounds like rock ‘n roll to me.
You know, this ain’t Bible studies! But isn’t that a good title? Something that has a lot of opportunity and creates discussion?
I feel proud because we didn’t know it was going to make so much discussion.
What’s the latest Maroon 5 record called?
Josh: I don’t know either! (Laughs) What’s the cover look like?
Josh: Yeah. I don’t know either! (Laughs) It’s good to stick in someone’s memory.
What is the matchbook character’s role below the track listing on the back of the album with its A to D options?
A) I’m on fire
B) I’m on strike
C) Blow me, I’m hot.
D) Your perfect match.
Josh: We couldn’t decide. You can choose what Matchbook is saying. Sometimes you don’t need to make a decision. I think that’s very indicative of our era. When someone gives you a choice between A or B, sometimes you need to choose C. Like see you later, I’m not making a decision. We could have put all of the above, but I hate that one because no one ever gets everything. Why even offer? Do you want everything?
Josh: Nope! Sorry! Can’t do it. Not possible!
Alright. You have an odd album title and an odd band name. Why the stone age and why queens of this era?
Josh: For the same reasons as Era Vulgaris, it elicits a reaction. I like the work it does all on its own without hearing any of our music.
It gives you feeling. For some people it sounds quirky and cool while others say, “Queens? What the hell?” I like all that work in between those two reference points.
Plus, we knew no one would have it. If there was another Queens of the Stone Age, we’d be in trouble.
Is a band name and album title all about originality?
Josh: And the element of surprise, pushing buttons in a positive way and trying to make art. That is the job. Our obligation is to be as original and engaging as possible.
Seems like that’s the minimum. Go out as far on the limb as you can. Safety ain’t for music. That’s for helmet making.
Troy: And right now, someone’s making a helmet.
Thank you Troy. Can you tell us why your video for Era Vulgaris’ second single, “3’s and 7’s”, was made to look like a 70s movie trailer?
Josh: Videos should be like apples dipped in caramel; tasty and able to be consumed quickly. Some videos have a storyline and that’s great, if it works. To expect it, is expecting too much. But I’ll take a good song with some eye candy, something interesting and I like it when girls kick boys’ butts!
Why the 70s and not the 80s?
Josh: If we set it in the 80s it would be about angular haircuts, weird sweaters.
Troy: Sixteen Candles, John Hughes.
Josh: And leg warmers! I don’t know if the 80s are as sexy as hot pants!
What’s the last video that grabbed your attention?
Josh: The last Britney video. But I love that “Slave 4 U” video.
Josh: And I saw an Unkle video recently! They always make good videos. So jealous!
Josh: And don’t be fooled by those people on the television that tell you it doesn’t get cold in California.
You can get a permanent nipple erection if you’re not careful. And that’s a fact, a science fact.
Ok. I wouldn’t have pegged you to be pop fans. Britney or Christina?
Troy: Oh! I know that Spears would kick the sh– out of Christina!
Josh: No, no! I’ve got to say that I think Christina Aguilera would. And she’d be able to sing her way out of there!
Troy: Maybe she could sing her way out. But Britney’s got that thing, since she shaved her head. I think she’s.
Josh: Drug crazy? Christina Aguilera is a firecracker. She’s a tough cookie. She’s like chain metal underwear. So until the two shall meet, in the mud, to the death.
In the mud. Ok. They both have a generic sound. What about you? How hard is it for you guys to stay original?
Josh: Not that hard. The answer to that question isn’t difficult, it’s the delivery of the answer.
How do you not sound like other people? See what’s going on out there and don’t do that.
Fundamentally it’s not that hard. It’s the delivery that’s hard. But we’ve been going down that road for a long time.
It’s important for us to sound like ourselves. We aren’t aping nobody.
Troy: (Mimics the call of a wild chimpanzee) Should I take my sunglasses off now?
Yes Troy, the sun is down and it’s dark now.
Josh: (Sings) I wear my sunglasses at night so I can, so I can.
Troy: (Bellows) Hello my baby, hello my darlin’, hello my ragtime gal.
Aaannd we’re done.