The band T-shirt is nothing short of iconic—as evidenced by the vintage tees going for hundreds of dollars on eBay—but Rotter & Friends’ ongoing collaboration with the record label Light in the Attic gives the closet mainstay its very own soundtrack. To celebrate Record Store Day (tomorrow) Brooklyn-based artist Jess Rotter drew up a Lee Hazlewood top that’s being released in tandem with the album The LHI Years: Singles, Nudes, & Backsides. “Lee Hazlewood is a huge legend and songwriter and I think that this is definitely going to get a response,” opines Rotter. She should know—for the past few months she’s been “in a big Lee Hazlewood zone—the transition from winter to spring, drinking a lot of wine and listening to Lee Hazlewood. The song “My Autumn’s Done Come,” that’s not on the record but that was just on repeat the whole time when I was working on [the T-shirt].” We spoke with Rotter to find out just what it was about Hazlewood that makes him T-shirt worthy—and how to style an outfit around it.
ELLE: How did this collaboration come about?
Jess Rotter: This is my fourth collaboration with Light in the Attic, and it’s cool for me because they’re a reissue label, so it’s kind of a perfect fit. We’re like sister and brother companies, in a way. I like working with them because they put out a lot of music that I believe in, and it’s also official—it’s kind of nice getting approval directly from the artist or family. This is cool because Lee Hazlewood’s widow gave us the thumbs up. We’re also going to be putting out another T-shirt more towards the summer on a Country Funk project we did.
ELLE: Is it difficult to settle on an image that will serve as the inspiration for your illustration?
JR: I usually get really hard in the zone where I’m just researching images and nonstop listening to the music. It’s kind of a little bit of a trip. But Light in the Attic sent me an archive of never-before-seen photos of Lee, which is really cool to see. They were an inspiration, but I didn’t actually use them. One, which is the album cover, is Lee with a group of women around him wearing glasses and mustaches and they’re topless. It was just so racy and ballsy! That’s where I got the idea that this dude, he’s such a hunk and he’s so confident and he’s constantly got a cigarette in his mouth and always clad with babes around him. That’s why I thought of the babe lettering—I just always picture him sandwiched by women or Nancy Sinatra and Ann-Margret.
ELLE: What’s the ideal outfit to pair with this tee?
JR: High, high-waisted jeans, rolled-up the sleeves, and probably some No. 6 clogs.
ELLE: Have you ever spotted someone out wearing one of your tees?
JR: Yes—and it’s awesome! The first time it happened I was actually uptown and the girl walked out of Bergdorf Goodman. I followed her for three blocks and then I was like, What am I doing?! I’m so tempted [to say something], but I usually just hold it in. Sometimes I’m with a friend and they’ll go, “Do you know she did that?”
ELLE: You’ve got great taste in music. What upcoming releases are you excited about?
JR: I think the Peaking Lights’
is really awesome, I listen to that band a lot. And there’s the Cleaners From Venus reissue on Captured Tracks that’s never been released on vinyl before and I’m drooling over that.
ELLE: Any other exciting projects in your future?
JR: I just did some art work for the Best Coast album—for the back cover and a little poster that comes inside. So that’s cool. And I have a comic book called Paradise that’s going to be published in October—I’ve been drawing with my heart for the past year or two. I want to have it animated and have it be an iPad app, as well. It’s sort of like emotional picture haikus and how we live life trying to find that moment of paradise. It’s narrated by this stoner rock’n’roll dog who definitely has the attitude of Lee Hazelwood; he’s definitely clad with babes with a cigarette never leaving his mouth.