Devo is Back with Something for Everyone

August 28, 2010

By Barbara Goldman

Joshua Dalsimer

Devo, the famous American band that topped Billboard charts in the early ’80s  with such hits as “Whip It” is back, or rather we should say has evolved with a new album.  After 20 years, the group’s new album “Something for Everyone” might be right on time for the music industry to come around to their futuristic way of thinking. “We think now might be Devo’s time, or so we’re hoping,” said Mark Mothersbaugh, primary singer and co-leader of the Ohio art-rock band. 

“Something for Everyone,” has an ingenious marketing campaign from Warner Bros. The band got Warner Bros., their former and current label, to hire the ad firm Mother NY,   Print Magazine Agency of the year 2010, to help roll out the new album promotion.  Agency creatives at the helm from the award-winning MOTHER NY, included Exec. Creative Dir. Paul Malmstrom, Creative Director Bill Moulton,  Art Director Gabriel Blido and from MOTHER LA, Exec. Creative Dir.  Jann Eulm and Creative Dir.  Bodie Mann. Both Devo and the agency decided they wanted to have a little fun at the band’s expense and went with an ultra corporate approach that included focus groups and online polls to choose the final tracks. They even had a color study group for the band’s iconic “energy dome.” The Devo dome is now blue and represents their theme “Something for Everyone.” 

It was Art Producer Amita Sehgal who brought in photographer Joshua Dalsimer. Dalsiimer had done a few projects with Mother NY including a campaign for Dell that had the right look and feel needed for the new Devo album artwork. In addition to being a photographer, Dalsimer is also a musician (Mighty Mighty Bosstones) and earlier in his career was signed with a major label. With the record industry spiraling down over the past years, he was eventually dropped from the label, but fortune was with him. He was bought out of the contract and used his that money to get a Hasselblad and some lights. He put a book together, started pounding the pavement and started a new career photographing musicians, as well as doing many other advertising campaigns.

Although the two-day shoot was fun and madcap, Dalsimer faced challenges on every front. Creative Director Moulton had some incredible ideas but a very limited budget.  “I would say the most technically challenging part was creating the composites.  I looked into CGI for this but both the art director and myself are big believers in capturing as much as possible in camera,” says Dalsimer. They only had so much money for model making of the Devo domes.  For the large domes they made a stand-in out of wood and Styrofoam and painted it blue so the light would reflect back realistically. 

The casting for the Devo campaign was done in New York and consisted of motion picture talent, model agencies, as well as people from Craig’s List.  The ideas for the setups came from CD Moulton. He did sketches on paper and then fleshed them out with an illustrator. He knew the types of people he wanted before the illustrations were even made and worked directly off the drawings, much like storyboarding for a movie. The final casting had nine people including babies, two dogs and five band members.

After constructing the large dome, Dalsimer shot some of the babies and a woman crawling into it and then replaced the large stand-in with a smaller model that looked like blue Jello.  He then used the live preview in the camera to line up the actual model with the stand-in. “Because we were replacing a larger object with a smaller one, we had to move the camera down and in.  If we didn’t get this part right, the retouching would have been a disaster and nothing would have looked grounded,” he explains. The rest of the models were actually made to size.  They also spent a long time looking at paints and materials to get the exact feel.  As he cautions, “model making can be a lot of fun but important decisions have to be made early on.”

“Josh’s technical knowledge was the key to creating an image that felt stylized, yet still very natural. Our goal was to make the gel dome feel as in-camera as possible. But to make a real gel mass of that size would be next to impossible.  His inventive solutions and technical skill allowed the subjects and the dome to physically interact and thereby created an image that felt believable and surreal at the same time. While somewhat painstaking, the process was definitely well worth it,” says Moulton of Dalsimer’s expertise.

The images for the new album, released June 15 this year, are for the album art work as well as for promotional billboards and posters. One billboard of a scantily clad woman crawling into the Devo dome was put up in Waco, TX.  New Yorkers and Los Angelenos did not seem to think anything of it, but it certainly got some reaction from the former town of the Branch Davidians. 

As Dalsimer likes to put it, “The one thing this job really illustrated was how similar a photo shoot and a rock concert are. There is all this practice and preparation before each.  Then you have a creative explosion (performance) where everyone acts as one.  Everyone has their role to play, and when we understand our parts, and act as one we can make something incredible.”  Photographer/musician Joshua Dalsimer plays his part exceptionally well.  You can see more of his incredible “Something for Everyone” Devo work, along with other campaigns at his site,