For the forthcoming Berwanger album, Exorcism Rock — the second for the band, and first for label Doghouse Records — frontman Josh Berwanger has more in mind than just 11 tracks of exceedingly catchy rock ‘n’ roll. As if four different vinyl variants weren’t enough, there’s going to be an action figure variant.
Yes, indeed. An action figure tied to a new album isn’t new, obviously — Major Lazer and Less Than Jake have both released vinyl toys to tie in with records — but this might be the first to be blister-carded to the front of an LP. It’s such a crazy and cool idea, we reached out to Berwanger, as well as the man making it, Aaron of indie toymaker, Retroband. Not only did we get to hear about the new collaboration, but we have the exclusive first look at the Exorcism Rock toy.
MV: Why are you doing the figure you chose?
Josh Berwanger: Aaron and I were tossing around a bunch of different ideas before the artwork was done. But the main point of the figure was it has to be part of the cover art, not just some random figure on a cover that doesn’t coincide with the art.
MV: How involved were you in the design process?
JB: Once the cover art was set, Aaron and I talked about what we could do concept-wise that would fit the cover art, as well as musical themes and lyrics throughout the album. Aaron came up with the idea and then we just talked together on how it should look and the colors used for it.
MV: Did you get this idea from the likes of Less Than Jake and what they do with Paper + Plastick, or do you just follow a billion custom toy makers on Instagram?
JB: I am a collector of so many things: laserdiscs, VHS, vinyl, musical equipment, movie prints, and of course, toys. I love cool packaging and different ways designers and artists look to do something different — especially when it comes to the packaging of records. The idea just came from combining my love for toys and music into one.
However, Aaron’s work is more than a toy, each figure he sculpts and paints by hand and is its own piece of art. I often hear people say they buy vinyl so they can hold it and be able to see and feel the art while they listen to the music. Well, now they can play with it, as well, it if they choose to.
MV: What made you think of Retroband for this project?
BW: I reached out to Aaron about 3 years ago when I had the idea and we became friends from there. I respect everything about him. He is an amazing artist, he does what he loves and works his ass off at it. We are also both dads, so we will often talk about being the weird parents at school events and how to cope with it.
MV: When does the toy pre-order launch and where can people snag it?
BW: Pre-orders are up now for the vinyl, cd and digital at our merch site. The “figure-edition” will go up on Halloween at noon, also on our merch site. It will be limited to one per person. We will be teasing more pictures of the final product as it gets closer to the release on our social media accounts. We will also have a vinyl package that comes with a DVD I’m putting together of a compilation of some of my favorite horror scenes from movies.
MV: How did you end up working with Josh?
Aaron Retroband: He approached me one day telling me how much of a fan he was of my work. Little did I know, he was actually in the band The Anniversary, a band I admired and was a fan of. I was pretty stoked that he was into my work.
MV: Were you familiar with his music before you took on this project?
AR: Absolutely: not only from The Anniversary, but also his solo work.
MV: How closely have you worked together on this?
AR: This has been going on for years almost! It was all planned out — just need[ed] time on my end to execute. I’m happy it’s finally coming together.
MV: Have you done an album tie-in before?
AR: Not at all. This will be my first. Really looking forward to it.
MV: Are you a vinyl fan — records, not toys?
AR: Most definitely. I collect records to listen and cut on.
MV: From start to finish, how long does it take to do a figure?
AR: Sculpting is one to two weeks, depending on how big and technical it is. The production process — which involves molding and casting — that can take one day to one month, depending on the run size. Since all pieces are painted by hand, it can take a good amount of time. Usually a two week turnaround.
MV: What’s been your favorite project thus far?
AR: My original 12″ creation/character MEATS and my current line with Adult Swim.
You can find information and purchase Retroband toys at their website.