The Brooklyn-based, Minnesota-born artist responsible for the mysterious symbols that make up Bon Iver’s 22, A Million unravels his process in a new interview.

One of the most distinct things about Justin Vernon’s third Bon Iver full-length is the album’s song titles, which are based in numbers and symbols. The mind behind Vernon’s numerology is an artist named Eric Timothy Carlson who collaborated closely with him in his home in Eau Claire, WI to create the album art and other accompanying visuals. In a new interview with Minneapolis museum Walker Art Center, Carlson breaks down how they got from regular old numbers to new, bold graphic interpretations.

Carlson unfolds how each number relates to the music: “The songs were all numbers from the start, multiple numbers at first. So we would listen to each song, talk about the numbers, talk about the song, watch the lyrics take form, makes lists, make drawings. Real references and experiences are collaged in both the music and the artwork. I was able to interview and interrogate each song—digging into weird cores—and by the end of each visit, each song would develop a matrix of new notes and symbols.”

Read more about Carlson’s work with Vernon and check out more images from the art work here. Watch the duo’s latest lyric video “21 M◊◊N WATER” below.

FACT’s editor-in-chief Al Horner recently spent time with Vernon in his hometown Eau Claire, WI. Read about how the folk hero went electronic here.

Read next: Watch Justin Vernon perform a techno set in Berlin



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