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Cab Ride Home - Crash the Gate

Updated: Oct 9, 2023

This is one of my personal favorite pieces I’ve worked on. Back before Danica Roem was a public political figure, she fronted a metal band called Cab Ride Home. And before that, we were just a couple of pals sharing in-jokes about the heavy metal scene when no one else would understand what it was we were talking about. I’ve had a long-running personal and professional relationship with Danica, which I’ll talk more about in future blog posts (which is surely good for my SEO - thanks, Danica!)

So this one goes back quite a few years now. I believe we were discussing the album art maybe around ten years ago (almost immediately after I turned in the art for their second release). But it was around 2015 I got the official prompt. The album was going to be called Crash the Gate, and it was set to be their strongest work yet in terms of writing, crafting, and production. So the artwork had to reflect that - and I set out to do my strongest work up to that point.

I listened to the demos for the album to try to get a vibe for the direction of the artwork and did some preliminary sketching (below). This job was fun because I got to incorporate caricatures of the band members. They were to be driving a speeding car "crashing" a gate. Oh, and they had a mascot that's appeared on their previous releases called "That Guy" - always depicted as passed out with a cigarette in his hand and a bottle of booze nearby. More on him later. So you can see my early sketches of the band and a few passes at different cars, including, of course, a cab.

Once the pencil sketches were approved, I scanned them into Photoshop and inked them digitally, and then pieced them together. From there, I blocked in some shapes and values, and I started to have a clearer picture of what this cover was turning out to be. Now I needed to place them somewhere and include That Guy (the aforementioned mascot), which was a bit tricky because how do I incorporate a passed out fellow in a scene that's meant to evoke movement? Not to mention the car was pretty full at this point. I pondered this and suggested we make That Guy into a hood ornament. Like, he'd be dead, but he'd still be recognizable as the mascot, right? As long as he had the cigarette and a bottle of booze, we were good to go. So I worked him in as a skeleton on the hood.

Now I had to figure out how to draw these gates being crashed. My original vision had the car plowing through straight on and jumping out at the viewer. I ended up drawing it from a more top-down/three-quarters view, so the impact of that idea would be lost. Eventually I thought the car would lool cool on a winding road with a streak of energy trailing them, which lead me to the idea of the gate being more of a portal. Eventually we landed on the idea of a hellscape that they had crashed through. So I started painting that as the background, and quickly realized the blue car and orange background felt too... cheerful for a metal album cover. So I worked in some green to balance it out a bit and give it a bit of an otherworldly feel.

All in all, the process was drawn out over a couple of years. The album's lineup went through some changes and some songs were reworked. About a year later I was asked to include a fifth member (below). The album debuted in 2017, just ahead of Danica's historic Virginia House of Delegates win.

Cab Ride Home - Crash the Gate final artwork
Cab Ride Home - Crash the Gate final artwork

In addition to the album artwork, I actually designed the packaging and disc art as well, which you can see below. After laying it all out digitally in InDesign, I did a test print and folded it into the tri-fold digipak it was being designed as - just for my own point of reference to make sure none of my specs were off and I didn't actually place any elements in upside down or on the wrong page or something. And the spine sat along a thin margin, so I wanted to make sure that was all properly aligned as well.

You can listen to the album (and see the other album artwork I did for them) here.

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