When you sit down and start to analyze the marketing plan for the Whigs' new album Enjoy the Company, which dropped in late September on New West Records, the first place to start is "the hotdog."
Hotdog! The Whigs' latest album cover designed by the group's drummer Julian Dorio.
The cover art to the Athens, GA trio's new album (left) is stunningly simple and, depending on how you look at it, rather profound. Part pop art, part clip art, the image features a hot dog in a bun with a symmetrical zigzagging ketchup line above a circular dollop of mustard to create a perfectly food-styled exclamation point.
That's not to take away from the raw, driving, hook-filled rock that predominates the Whigs' new album they recorded with veteran producer John Agnello (Kurt Vile, Cymbals Eats Guitars, Dinosaur Jr.) at Dreamland Studios in Woodstock N.Y.; it's just that the album art, once it registers in your frontal lobe, is distinctive and hard to dislodge.
"I'll admit the first time our team sat down [the album artwork] was a little bit of a laugh off like, 'this can't be serious," says C3 Management's Ryan Matteson, who along with Meghan Allen and Matt Wittington comprise the Whigs' managment team. "But I had this thing where I'd go home and think about it and think 'man, that's memorable….'"
"I've always kind of dabbled in Photoshop," explains the Whigs drummer Julian Dorio who created the image. He's speaking on the phone en route to one of the band's 30-plus tour dates between now and mid-December ("I think we're in Alabama…." he says). Before the band came up with Enjoy the Company for their fourth album's title, the group batted around the name "Hot Dog," which Dorio says in the South also has an exclamatory meaning as in "Hotdog!" Though it didn't make the cut, he kept the frankfurter concept in the back of his mind as a album cover concept. And despite reservations about the "silliness" of his resultant prototype, the drummer cautiously emailed the design to singer and guitarist Parker Gispert to get his take.
"I called Parker and said, 'you're going to hate me, but I just made this thing. If you don't ever want to look at this again just say the word, because it is pretty weird,'" Dorio recalled. Parker was in an airport when he received the jpeg just as the stars for the encased ground meat product aligned. "He went to grab food real quick while waiting for my email and when he came back he had a hot dog in his lap. So he was eating a hot dog while he opened the thing up and -- it's a hot dog! He was dying and got a real kick out of it."
In addition to exclusive pre-order packages the band is offering on its website -- which includes various combinations of the album in different formats, t-shirts, trucker hats, hot dog stickers -- the band's social media campaign is taking full advantage of the weiner.
Is That A Salami Hot Dog? A fan's "ideal hot dog" submission for the band's hotdog social media contest.
"One of the things we came up with to engage the fanbase and make sure they're excited was a photo contest playing off the hot dog image from the album," says Matteson. "So if people tag a photo and upload an image of whatever their ideal hot dog would be they can win tickets." Though he didn't give an exact figures for the campaign's participation, Matteson did say they've sorted through hundreds of submissions sent in with the hashtag #EnjoyTheCompany
"There's one guy who made like 30 hot dogs and put them all in buns and took them and spelled out The Whigs [above]," explains Dorio. "He probably spent three times the price of a ticket -- I don't know who that guy is, but give him some tickets.... Another person put three hot dogs side-by-side vertically and dressed them with condiments -- cheese, bacon, whatever. They look like three people and they were Parker, Julian and Tim and they described why each person was each hot dog."
From left: Tim, Parker, Julian dogs.
Right now, if you happen to be in Austin, TX, check out the big window panels at Waterloo Records where you can see the album's hot dog on one of the music retailer's oversized displays. And if you're hungry, nearby Frank is offering The Whig Dog: "pimentos, cheese, jalapenos and coleslaw -- that's our Southern dog," Dorio says proudly.