An SVA Alumnus Making Deluxe Albums in ‘the Age of Invisible Music’
July 09, 2019 by Greg Herbowy
Cover art for HAAN's By the Grace of Blood and Guts, a 2018 Aqualamb release
<p "="">Two men pose for a photograph in front of a bookcase.
Eric Palmerlee (left) and Johnathan Swafford, co-founders of the Aqualamb record label. Photo by Keith Marlowe.

“We’re in the age of invisible music,” says Johnathan Swafford (MFA 2005 Design). “I grew up being really influenced by album cover art—you would stare at it and listen to the music. Even when it was CDs, you’d look at those cool booklets.”
Aqualamb, co-founded five years ago by Swafford and Eric Palmerlee, two moonlighting creative directors and part-time musicians, is among a number of small record labels today that are dedicated to music fans who still prize the physical. Every release can be fairly described as deluxe, with CD and colored vinyl formats and 100-plus-page companion books produced in collaboration with noted designers, editors and illustrators.

<p "="">A photograph of the front and back cover and two select spreads of an art book.

Views of the companion book for Nathaniel Shannon and the Vanishing Twin’s Trespasses, a 2016 Aqualamb release.

Though the bulk of their 22 records to date are on the heavier, noisier end of the rock spectrum, Swafford says that the label’s roster is best described as “quirky and art-driven,” encompassing folk, garage and prog sounds. One of the bands, Nathaniel Shannon and the Vanishing Twin, features SVA graduate Nathaniel Shannon (BFA 2010 Photography) and SVA staff member Peter Ross. Ross is also a member of Godmaker, who are also on the label.

Aqualamb releases can be found in select record stores in New York City and online at

A version of this article appears in the spring 2019 Visual Arts Journal.

A photograph of the front and back cover and two select spreads of an art book.

Front and back covers and sample spreads from the companion book for The Space Merchants′ Kiss the Dirt, a 2018 Aqualamb release.