That’s how The Senators, a Phoenix band with a folksy Americana sound, made the connection with Gabriel and Isaac Fortoul. The Fortoul Brothers did the album art for the band’s EP Promised Land, inspired by the creatives’ shared love for the desert’s mysterious minimalism.
Frontman Jesse Teer recalls being intrigued a while back by a 4-by-6-inch sketch his wife brought home from work one day. She’d just interviewed the Fortoul Brothers for a local public radio show, where Isaac drew the sketch that would eventually lead to their collaboration with the band.
He’d also seen their murals going up around downtown Phoenix, and was particularly drawn to one at Central Avenue and Roosevelt Street. It’s the simple image of Isaac’s daughter riding a horse, her long hair flowing in the breeze.
For the album, the Fortoul Brothers drew a simple pen and ink drawing. “We’ve been doing more ink drawings on paper, using India ink and calligraphy brushes,” Gabriel says. “It’s a little bit looser style, but it still has the linework, composition, and negative space.”
It’s a far cry from the work they’re doing around Phoenix nowadays – which includes designing art for the light rail, the airport, and a city water plant. But Teer loves it, in part because it mirrors the authenticity and accessibility they strive for as a band.
“With just a few colors, they can really tell a story,” Teer says.
Turns out, the Fortoul Brothers had fielded a few other requests for album art. But they felt a real connection to The Senators’ sound. And they knew Teer's brother had been part of the band, which signaled a shared focus on family.
“We went through their music catalog and it really spoke to us,” Gabriel says. The Fortoul Brothers ended up sharing a series of small drawings inspired by water, one of the central features in their larger body of work.
“We used organic shapes, almost like sounds,” Gabriel says of their album art for The Senators. “We wanted to convey movement and the frequencies that affect water."
Turns out, the location inspired a fresh approach. “We wanted to do something stripped-back to make our music more barren like the desert,” Teer says. “We’re still trying to figure out how the Catskills influenced our sound.”
Soon, they’ll perform a stripped-down set at The Newton, where they’ll also be sharing stories of the band’s musical journey. Several local poets will be doing readings, as well.
Most eyes will be on The Senators. But odds are, someone in the room will be doing a simple sketch, as another story waits to be born.
The Senators are scheduled to perform Saturday, August 17, at The Newton. Tickets are $12 (plus fees) and can be purchased via Changing Hands Bookstore.