By Cyn Collins
The last time the Suburbs released a studio album, in 1986, Kii Arens made his stage debut, opening for them at the Saints North Roller Rink in Maplewood. Now he’s responsible for the design of their new disc.
The cover of “Si Sauvage” – French for “So Wild” – features two Marie Antoinette-be-wigged models clad only in complementary Suburbs T-shirts and panties. Arens said he was inspired by acts from the Suburbs’ heyday: “The ’80s decadence, [that was] so fun to be part of. The over-the-top stuff, pomposity, sexuality – the world suddenly deciding Adam Ant had talent.”
Formerly of glam-rock provocateurs Flipp and now an artist based in Los Angeles, Arens admires the Suburbs’ well-dressed look and sees them along the lines of such acts as Duran Duran or the New Romantics movement personified by Ant, whose “Stand and Deliver” video was a particular inspiration.
“They paid attention to what they looked like on stage,” he said. “I wanted to make an album cover over the top and push the buttons. We seem to be becoming a little more conservative. I don’t think that belongs in the realm of rock ’n’ roll.”
Arens works regularly with the models: Irina Voronina, a 2001 Playboy centerfold from Moscow, and Leigh Yaeger, an artist from L.A. Their campy yet suggestive pose recalls old covers of Roxy Music albums, which were a favorite of Suburbs frontman Chan Poling.
“I’m glad the band allowed themselves to use this more daring cover,” said Arens, who also shot more traditional portraits of the Suburbs. “There was talk about cropping the panties but Chan said, ‘No way! The panties are staying in.’ Good for him!”
Arens is currently directing a video for Queens of the Stone Age’s “The Vampyre of Time and Memory.”
Kii Arens with Dolly Parton during a photo shoot he did for her 2008 album "Backwoods Barbie."