From the South towards the Setting Sun, Shadowgraphs seamlessly transport their sonic signals in ‘Another Time’

Like Krispy Cream and Pepsi Cola, Shadowgraphs formed just east of the Appalachian Mountains amongst the Longleaf Pines of North Carolina. Founded in 2014 by Wils Glade and Bryan Olsen, the two wrote, recorded, and released two full length albums by summer 2017.

While listening to these first records, it became clear that the two had shared a focused vision since the beginning. Their music is almost reminiscent of a Robert Beatty album cover, an alluring landscape where layers upon layers of warm and rich textures are waiting to be discovered beneath the surface.

Last year the duo released their third LP titled ‘Another Time’ and headed west on a 3,000 mile journey to Oregon. I caught up with founding member Wils Glade to talk about it all.

“Channel the past, become one with the present, and wink at the future.”

– Frenchpressley

 

SHADOWGRAPHS

returntozero

‘Return to Zero’ (2015) 

Can you give me a little history on the formation of Shadowgraphs leading up to this release?

Bryan and I had a mutual friend named Blake who was moving to San Diego and before he left he was like “yall need to meet! you guys are like the same people and into the same things”. I remember when Bryan and I first started hanging out, we were excited that out of everyone we had met we were into the same type music.

For this first record you guys recorded and mixed everything in Bryan’s home studio. Was this a first for you both?

Yeah, it was real trial and error back then. I had never used tape/analog gear, but knew about mixing techniques from my previous band, and Bryan had never really spent too much time mixing, he was more about recording. So it was great for the both of us to learn from each other.

Would you say you guys were more interested in recording techniques at the time over playing the songs out live?

Yeah, actually Bryan was like “I’m too old for playing out” (this was 5 years ago lol) so it was just a recording project at first, but then people kept talking about wanting to see us live, so we eventually slipped into that by adding two members and then officially starting the band.

venemousblossoms

‘Venomous Blossoms’ (2017) 

For this record you guys opted to have someone else do the mixing. What led to this change?

Well on RTZ, we recorded and mixed it ourselfs, but then paid a pretty penny to have it mastered somewhere fancy. The overall change in audio wasn’t that big of a difference from where we had it, other than making it louder, so we thought that the change in audio would be a greater difference in the mixing process. So we decided to give that a try.

How do you see that “extra ear” in the mixing process playing a role in the overall sound that you guys are trying to capture with your recordings?

It was probably the best thing we could have ever done. We were really excited with what Drew had done with the record and it kept us from getting into endless hours of mixing debates. He was really fast and we learned a lot from his process by just observing his workflow in the room with him.

The record release show for this album was the first time I had the pleasure of experiencing your live set. What was the process like for taking this songs from the studio and fleshing them out for a live show?

I think about half of the songs were songs we were playing live already, so we felt more confident with those after recording, but for the new ones there were a lot more things to consider. Like since there were a good amount of keys on the record, I started introducing keys to our live set. Then Bryan and I would figure out the best guitar parts for us to play live even if the other had initially written that part.

This album marked your first release with the label Golden Brown. Can you tell us a little about how this relationship came to be?

Yeah, we were actually about to put out VB by ourselves with a PR company called Parachute form Portland, OR, who had reached out to us. The head guy started pitching out the record and then said that he actually has a good friend with a label who would probably be really into the record and could put it out with a bigger PR budget and vinyl. That’s when we met Thom & Brooke Sunderland of Golden Brown Records.

timetime

‘Another Time’ (2018)

It appears a lot has changed for you guys since the last record. Most notably, you uprooted from Charlotte, NC and made the trek to Portland, OR. What factors influenced and or inspired you to make the move?

Bryan and I had been looking for a new city to move to when we realized we wanted to start playing shows in a city more often without having to worry about playing to the same people every time. When we were on tour for a month, we fell in love with Portland.

Any magical happenings on the journey west?

We met a drummer with beautiful hair who might be Fonzi from Happy Days and he has been the mot magical thing in the band since sliced bread.

I’ve never been to Portland but I imagine it being quite a different place than Charlotte. Growing up in Charlotte I witnessed some amazing shows but I always struggled to find root in the music and art scene. Any thoughts on this?

Charlotte has an amazing music scene, but Portland is more dedicated to their art and music scene, so you run into a lot more opportunity.

Was Charlotte ever limiting in anyways for the project? 

I think Charlotte was perfect for the project, but we didn’t want to play too much in town to the point where people got sick of seeing us live, so we felt like we needed to move to a bigger city.

Before relocating you had the two musicians that played live with the band for a few years correct? Was there ever talk of everyone making the move? 

Oh yeah, but Ethan, our bass player, has an awesome job at Muzac and plays in a couple other bands in town, so it didn’t make sense for him to move out if we weren’t making a decent amount of money off of the band. Shaun, Bryan’s older brother, stayed at first, but recently moved out to Portland to join us again.

Did you have people in mind to fill those spots before moving to Portland?

Only a bass player at first, which was Bryan’s younger brother, and went on tour with us last summer.

How have the west coast shows been so far? Do you feel you music is received any differently?

We feel like people are more into the type of music we play. Charlotte always had a great response, but surrounding cities were always iffy.

Let’s talk a little about the songs on the new record. How much material had you written before the move compared to new ideas that took shape in Oregon?

We finished the record before the move, but Bryan did lyrics for four of the songs after he moved out to Portland alone. Actually, the song “Neighbors” went through a complete transformation in Portland right before we mixed.

Has the writing process changed in anyway?

I’d say, on this record, it was a little more streamlined since we were recording digital, but it was a lot more piecemealed since Bryan and I weren’t always in the studio together.

The title of the new record is ‘Another Time’. Can you talk a little about any major themes or concepts behind the title and the songs contained within?

The title just has to do with our big move and recording/writing this whole record in piece meal and different locations.

Any music, events, paintings, foods, textures, etc. that you can recall having a conscious influence on the new record?

There are too many to cover. We love all types of music and art and constantly find ourselves in different phases.

How have you guys been with all the wild fires taking place? Have these events shaped your writing in anyway?

Its pretty crazy during “the fire season.” It looks and feels like you’re on a planet in Star Wars when it happens, so I’m sure it will influence a couple new songs in the future…

lastly, a few questions regarding the recording process…

Did Bryan’s home studio make the trip?

For the most part, mainly his outboard gear and mics along with some of my own mics and outboard gear. Another Time was primarily recorded in Charlotte, NC. All of the drums and some other instruments were tracked in Bryan’s old studio, parts in my house, and then most of Bryan’s vocal takes out in Portland, OR. This time around we didn’t record to tape, so we had more flexibility with utilizing more tracks for things like multiple synths and vocal harmonies. We love tape and the process of tape, but since we hand done an LP on a 2″ 24 track for the last release, we wanted to still use analog gear but not limit ourselves to ideation. The recording process was a lot faster, and we spent a lot more time tracking vocals and harmonies. But because there were about twice as many tracks on each song, when we mixed in Athens with Drew Vandenberg, the process was a little longer.

What was the process like for this new record? (recording / mixing / mastering)

Another Time was primarily recorded in Charlotte, NC. All of the drums and some other instruments were tracked in Bryan’s old studio, parts in my house, and then most of Bryan’s vocal takes out in Portland, OR. This time around we didn’t record to tape, so we had more flexibility with utilizing more tracks for things like multiple synths and vocal harmonies. We love tape and the process of tape, but since we had done an LP on a 2” 24 track for the last release, we wanted to still use analog gear but not limit ourselves to ideation. The recording process was a lot faster, and we spent a lot more time tracking vocals and harmonies. But because there were about twice as many tracks on each song, when we mixed in Athens with Drew Vandenberg, the process was a little longer.

You guys are keen on using some vintage and unique gear to get nail down that oh so sweet sound. Can you tell us a little about your current studio setup and some of your favorite gear used to make this record?

We used the U67 a bunch running it into a Langevin pre which sounds super creamy and big. We also loved using this old dbx sub harmonic synthesizer on the kick drum to add more “umpf”. And we also added in some sub bass synth, below the bassline, to a couple tracks which we hadn’t done before.

While it’s probably never been easier to record at home, most bands I know still flesh out songs before taking them into the studio for for someone else to record them. How does having your own studio, with the potential to record at any time change / shape your writing process?

It’s awesome and really great, the only downside is you don’t really have any deadline, other then when you are going to mix in the studio, so you can kinda go a little nuts and it can be hard to decide when something is done.

Do you guys ever feel overwhelmed with choices / too many options when being on both ends of the recording process?

Definitely, especially when you are recording in a comfortable environment with no time limit.

Do you see yourselves forever doing the recordings?

I don’t know. I think we’ll still keep doing them, at least for demos, but are always down to switch it up and have talked about working with someone to record and mix for a record. We want to try out everything.

Tell us all the secrets behind the album art  !?!

Haha, well the devils are us and we are ready to take over the world.

You guys have a very tuned in sound that is only made more realized by your overall focused aesthetic. From your wardrobe selection to your social media postings, can you talk a little about the influences and thoughts that inform this uniformed vision?

We enjoy bands that kind of escape from their day to day life and put on more of a show when it comes to live sets. Like Allah Las, Of Montreal, Temples, etc.. So we are all for having our music be apart of an art aesthetic that carries into our social media postings and clothes.

Can we expect a full U.S. tour at any point?

Possibly next Fall, but we will see how this spring turns out!

What is the verdict on that recent Nicolas Cage movie?

Dude, it’s soooo good. The aesthetic of the movie, not Nicolas Cage. But then again Nicolas Cage is kind of a piece of art…

shadowyo

Bryan Olsen (Left) & Wils Glade (Right Reading Book)

Check out the latest music video by Shadowgraphs and follow them further by softly clicking on the links below

Bandcamp

Instagram

 

 

Amsterdam Based Artist Mirjam Debets Walks Us Through Her Wild and Colorful Visual World

Dansgroepje_1

IF: Can you start off by telling us a little about your background and how you first became interested in the world of VJing?

MD: I studied 2D animation at the HKU (Utrecht University of the Arts), where we mostly worked on making short films. I liked it, but I kind of struggled with the format of a narrative short film. I never really knew how to express my ideas in 2 minutes, or my concepts ended up being too big or too abstract. So the second half of my studies I started looking for a way of creating visual arts that felt less rational and more intuitive to me. That lead me to combining animation with music, because simply listening to a song has always created an infinite flow of visuals in my mind. That same time I went to an EDM festival in the Netherlands, where I got a bit of an idea of what most VJing was like. Then It felt like I just had to try it!

IF: How would you describe VJing for someone that perhaps has never heard the term? (Maybe imagine trying to explain your art to your 45 year-old Uncle who works at the Post Office)

MD: I’ve had to explain this quite a bit to my actual uncles and aunts, but I think I told them something like ‘working at concerts and using small clips of video and trigger and mix them to the music that is playing, which the audience can see on the screens’. I’m often a bit cautious with saying the visuals are there to complement or amplify the music, as I think in the ideal world those two strengthen each other equally.

IF: It seems that VJing is most often associated with DJing, particularly in the EDM world. What are your thoughts regarding this seemingly inevitable connection?

MD: I guess that makes sense, as the biggest VJ scene is probably still in EDM, but I think it’s starting to get bigger in other genres as well.

IF: Are you interested in working with DJ’s at all? Do you feel there is a strong difference between working with a DJ versus a band? (Particularly regarding the crowd and how they view / interact with with the visuals)

MD: I’d love to work with DJ’s! I think working with my band was actually quite similar to working with a DJ, as the focus wasn’t so much on the performance of the musicians. When working with a band there’s usually someone very charismatic up on the stage, or the dynamic between the musicians to look at. With a DJ you can create much more than just a ‘visual backdrop’, because you’ll have a lot more of the audience’s attention.

 

IF: Do you feel that live visuals ever cater to or even evoke the idea of drug use at a show?

MD: Hahahahaha well… when we did our first show with Synth Niklas a lot of people told us afterwards that it felt like a total trip without being on drugs. So maybe yeah? But I think often when people say something looks ‘trippy’, they’re really just saying the aesthetic or theme seems a bit abstract or associative. Personally I don’t necessarily need drugs to appreciate this, but I’m not opposing that some people do sometimes.

 Lizard.png

IF: Can you tell us a little about living in Amsterdam and how it has shaped you as a person and influenced your art?

MD: I’ve lived in amsterdam for about 5 years now, but since I was a teenager I’ve been going to concerts here and exploring bits of the city. I guess the best thing about Amsterdam is how it’s the biggest mix of cultures and people you’ll find anywhere in the Netherlands. There’s obviously a variety of art, music, food and events available, but sometimes just walking down my street and noticing a very well designed poster or someone dressing really eccentric is even more inspiring.

 

IF: Anyone that has worked in video, especially in animation, knows that the process can take time. What is your workflow like? Do you ever find it difficult to get your ideas across sometimes in the animated realm?

MD: Because I was schooled in making animated short films, I think I’ll always have a bit of a narrative or arc in the back of my mind, but I’m trying not to hold on to that too much. I really enjoy working on something when I don’t have a very specific outcome in mind, and just see where it goes along the way, sometimes lead by the material I’m using, a bit of music or a specific technique. I think that worked out pretty well so far, and allows me to keep a very playful feeling towards the things I animate. The biggest compliment I’ve ever had is still my mom saying she could really see the joy I had in creating my work, by looking at the final product 🙂

 

IF: Much of your work consists of white and or neon lines against a black background. Are you drawing things by hand on black paper and animating them afterwards?

MD: I do draw everything on paper, but I invert it Photoshop afterwards, so it’s actually just black lines on white paper. The animation is a combination of both: usually I’ll do the specific (character) movement on paper, but the more general motion is done digital.

 

IF: How do you choose the colors you are using in your work?

MD: That happens quite intuitively. I personally love very bright colors and strong contrasts, but lately I’ve been trying to study how to get a little more balance in tones and shades. Apart from that I always prefer totally ‘unrealistic’ colors when it comes to designing something.

 

IF: Are programs such as Illustrator or After Effects a big part of your work flow?

MD: Basically my workflow is something like this: animating a loop on paper, scanning it and editing it in Photoshop, and adding additional movement, effects and color correction in After Effects.

 

IF: The objects in your animations are very free flowing and often appear to resemble different aspects of Nature? If this a conscious theme you try to work with?

MD: I think my work is often just a big mix of (maybe seemingly) random things that I am currently interested in or that fascinate me. But animals and nature are definitely a big part of that. When I was 4 or 5 years old my uncle gave me a subscription to the kids magazine of the WWF and most of my drawing as a kid was just copying the photos of Frans Lanting, so I guess that love for nature goes way back haha. I think often adding animal traits to human characters or the other way around feels like a way to make the character’s expression a little more abstract and in that way maybe a little less intimidating.

kwallen

 

IF: What kind of software and hardware are you using for live performances?

MD: For VJing I use Resolume and my MSI notebook, and whatever projector is available at the venue. For the shows with Synth Niklas there was actually a lot more hardware involved: we had smaller screens on the stage as well, so two more projectors and because some of the visuals were triggered by midi also a massive amount of cables, midi interfaces, contact mics, etc. It’s always quite a challenge to get it all working before the show!

 

IF: Last year you connected with a band and did a run of shows with them doing live visuals. How did you hook up with this band and what was the experience like?

MD: So when I decided I wanted to do a collaboration with musicians for my graduation, I actually just put a little music video with a message on facebook. I went for coffee with a few of the people that replied, but with Niek (from Synth Niklas) I noticed right away that we had very similar ambitions. We both wanted to kind of step away from the things that we learned in college (he graduated as a Jazz/Pop music drummer from the HKU) and create something that really put both our fields in a new perspective.

 

IF: You’ve mentioned that you enjoy experimenting. Do you leave much room for experimentation when it comes to a live performance?

MD: I think a lot of stuff that we do with my band is quite experimental, performance wise. We try to do a lot of aspects of our show in slightly different from the way people are used to, like playing around with the setup of the band vs. audience, projecting visuals in multiple directions, using more extreme lighting and making the visuals super synchronized to the music. For me this means I get to experiment with for instance video mapping, midi syncing and creating concepts that really fit the space or location where we perform.

 

IF: Is accompanying a band on the road something you see yourself doing more often?

MD: Absolutely!

Untitled1 

IF: In what other outlets could you see your skill set and artwork being utilized?

MD: After getting away from short films at the last years at the HKU, I’ve been feeling curious to try it again. But in a really different way than I used to. I’ve been trying some sculpting as well, and really want to get into painting and other kinds of fine arts. I get bored using or working for the same medium quite fast, so hopping back and forth between different kinds of visual arts and combining them keeps me excited to make things.

 

IF: How do you find balance between making visuals that fit the vibe of the music while still expressing your style?

MD: I think I’ve been really lucky so far, for only having worked with people or doing animation jobs where people just wanted me to use my own style. But I guess that’s quite a luxury and I’ll probably have to work on assignments that are a lot more confined in the future. I do actually enjoy the puzzle of making something that’s really my own thing within the rules of an assignment too though, so I’m not too worried about that.

 

IF: How might some of your animations change or take form when being transferred over to use for a live setting?

MD: First of all, practically all the visuals I make for VJing are perfectly looping of course. Because I mix and layer them while VJing they often look best with high contrasts and I try to make the movements a little more extreme than usual, so it works well on a beat.

 

IF: While visuals can oftentimes be a huge part of a bands or djs performance, the person behind the art isn’t always getting the credit for it. Can you talk a little about how you feel being behind the scenes most the time. (Perhaps touching on the idea of watching people see your art but not knowing who the artist is behind it, unlike the band that is visible on stage.)

MD: When I’m performing with Synth Niklas I’m actually on the stage myself, so I guess I have more or less the same connection to the audience as the musicians. The other VJ gigs I’ve done were more from behind the scenes indeed, but it hasn’t really bothered me so far. I guess there’s always a lot of people ‘invisibly’ working really hard to make a show happen, so I think it’s a little bit part of the job… It’s really fun to be on the stage though, also because it can create a really cool dynamic between the musicians or DJ and the VJ, where I think those two often seem a little bit disconnected.

 

IF: Do you ever find this frustrating?

MD: Not really, but everyone of course deserves credit for their work one way or another! I guess if visual artists are bothered by this they could try to work with an musician/DJ who really sees the value of the visual side of music, or are interested in exploring this. I’m sure they exist! 🙂


Draaimeisje.gif

IF: What are you up to when your not working on visuals?

MD: Lately I’ve just  been enjoying living in Amsterdam a lot: cycling around the city, going out in new places, nosing around in thrift stores and art supply stores. I love ‘playing’ outside, chilling in parks, spotting birds and people. Apart from that I’m trying to learn portuguese and I’m on a serious quest to make the best possible cappuccino at home.

 

IF: Any specific visual art and or music that has inspired your work recently?

MD: Watching BBC’s Oceans 2 for sure -David Attenborough’s voice is so therapeutic it drags me through the boring dutch winters each year- and I’ve been listening to a lot of Latin american and african (inspired) music: e.g. El Buho, Chancha Via Circuito, Tribeqa, Sidestepper and Afriquoi.

 

IF: If you could do live visuals for any band who would it be?

MD: Definitely Glass Animals, although their artwork, music videos and even stage design are already so awesome I wouldn’t dare to. Making visuals for Nicola Cruz would also be a total dream!

 

IF: What if you could have any band play a live improv set to your visuals?

MD: I think dutch band Jungle By Night would be really cool! They make super eclectic jazz/afrobeat, and I think their music and my visuals go together quite well. They also play a show at night in Artis, the Amsterdam zoo, each year… I’d love to join that one haha!

 

IF: What are some bands from Amsterdam we should be listening to?

MD: Actually some of my friends have been doing really cool stuff. My friend Jade Welling, who plays violin, is working on an album with singer Elsa Beckman, making beautiful dreamy, folk songs. And my highschool friends, the boys from Leoparte (ska/worldbeat) just released their new EP. Someone recently made me listen to My Baby, which I really liked, and last summer I saw Gallowstreet for the first time (on a festival in Slovakia actually) which was really awesome!

 

IF: What about film / visuals / fashion / anything and everything worth checking out?!?

MD: I guess a lot of people who are interested in visuals probably already know them, but the girls from BBBlaster (Dalkhafine & Loup Blaster) make the coolest visuals and I’ve been super inspired by them ever since I first saw their work. I really like the music videos of animation director Tomek Ducki and I recently discovered australian tattoo artist Alexis Hepburn which now makes me want to spend all my (nonexistent) savings on getting inked.

 

 IF: Do you have any big projects lined up for the future?

MD: We’re going to do a few more shows with Synth Niklas, in a kind of new setting: doing a 3 or 4 day residency at a venue or location and doing a show on the last day. Apart from that I’m hoping to travel to Brazil (hence I’ve been learning portuguese) somewhere by the end of the year with aforementioned friend/musician Jade, to do an artist residency program (and a lot of surfing) and create something awesome there!

Connect with Mirjam
Interview by Frenchpressley
published 4/19/2018

Artist Spotlight – Nicholas Bohac

IF: Tell us about how you originally connected with Son Step. How did the collaboration unfold?

NB: Son Step actually contacted me. I just looked back at my records to see if I could figure out how that all started, and I see that Joel actually sent me a text message last fall. At the time, I didn’t know who he was, but I have a public number that I keep online, just for this purpose. He sent over a few texts basically telling me about his band, how they liked my work, they were prepping an album and wanted to know if I worked with bands. And I do. Back when I was growing up and still living in Omaha, I played in a punk band. That was a really fruitful time for music in Omaha and the Midwest, no matter what type of music you were making. We were super active, went on tours and released more than a few records. At one point, my buddy Kevin & I actually started a small label that had these grand aspirations. Being involved in music at that time got me interested in all of the other stuff that goes into music – packaging, merch, trying to make the funds to tour. So before I ever moved out to San Francisco, I had designed more than a few album covers, silkscreened a few thousand t-shirts and all of that other stuff.

Joel texting me is a pretty common occurrence for me. Bands will see my stuff around the internet and send something over asking if ever do album covers. And I do, because I like music and I like having my work out there like that. Almost every time, the musicians I work with just end up wanting to license a painting or drawing that is already completed. These days, a lot of stuff is just released digitally, but sometimes the groups I work with release stuff on cd, or vinyl. Some do posters. There’s a fairly long history of musicians and visual artists working together, and yeah, I’m stoked to keep doing projects like that. I don’t have the time to play music really anymore and was really never that great to begin with, but it’s cool to stay involved with that stuff.

Aaron, the drummer I played with way back when, he’s in a group that just released their first album with Bridge Nine last week. That dude was and is the real deal, as far as music is involved. I’m content to just work on images that people feel illustrates what they’re talking about in their music.

sonstep

IF: What was your process during the initial creation of the piece that was used as the cover art?  What is the meaning of the piece to you, as its on entity, aside from an album art cover?

NB: So, the painting is titled “Others”. I just went back and looked to see when I made that painting, and I think I finished it around the end of 2013. Like, maybe closer to summer/fall? I keep awful records of this stuff and really need to get better.

Around this time, I was just painting and seeing what happened. I had been out of graduate school for about five or six years. In that time, I had my stuff represented by a few galleries that unfortunately ended up closing. So I was at this point where I had no representation, knew a lot of people, but could experiment a bit more. I started playing with some different processes that I hadn’t used before. The year or so before I had started to tape my canvases a lot more. Like, when I first came out of grad school, my work was almost entirely collage. Torn sheets of paper that were pasted onto a rigid support to build landscapes. A few years out of school I had started to paint a lot more.

This painting has a large aqueduct in the background that was painted in. I taped off the shape of the structure and then used a squeegee to pull paint over this, effectively creating a stencil. Then I pulled the tape up and the structure, made up of texture paint, remained. There’s also a stencil in the sky that references a Dyson sphere, or even maybe a Buckminster Fuller dome. Something that gives structure to the sky and reinforces that there’s something holding the surrounding landscape together. Up on the aqueduct are some figures that you can see, and in the foreground is a colorful structure with two figures looking up at the others on the bridge that connects the two sides of the crumbling aqueduct.

Naming it “Others”, I hoped to imply that the figures in the foreground maybe be weary of what they’re seeing on the bridge. People are weary when they don’t know things about the others around them. They exist in this psychedelic landscape, with a diamond mountain range in the background, implications of technology that’s crumbling. Maybe it’s a post nuclear landscape, maybe it’s somebody’s fantasies in a virtual reality world they’re experiencing in an Oculus Rift.

IF: Tell us a little about your overall process as an artists. What are you thinking about when creating a piece? Are concepts something you plan and attempt to execute going into a new creation?

NB: Here are some questions that you could come back to me in five years, ask, and probably get a brand new answer for. This stuff is always evolving. Like I said, when I was finishing up grad school, I was working mostly in collage. This started with me making prints, silkscreens and others, and then cutting them up and reassembling these into larger landscapes. When I got out of school, I didn’t have access to all of the presses I did before. I moved into a studio in the building I live in. My landlord happened to have some space in the basement. That was 8 years ago and I’m still here right now, sitting at my laptop typing this. It’s not a huge studio, maybe around 130 square feet or so? I have some storage, but more importantly, I have room to paint. Really, the biggest constraint here is 7 foot ceilings, which limits work a bit, but not too much. I have a large 60″x90″ diptych I’m working on this afternoon behind me and a 60″x50″ painting on the wall opposite, so there’s room to work.

Getting out of school and not having access to all the printmaking equipment, I started painting more. At first I painted sheets of paper, cut and tore that up and made collaged paintings that way. Then I started painting more and more into the work, and now eight years later, it’s mostly painting with elements of collage. Maybe I said it earlier, but I do a lot of taping and stenciling directly on the work. The work I make now is a lot more mixed media. Acrylic is the base, but there’s a lot of spray-painting, leafing and other collage that goes into this. In the last year or two I started using a lot more holographic foils and stuff like that.

There’s definitely a process in the studio, but right now it’s a bit scattered. I have eight or nine paintings going right now, ranging in size from a few large wall covering paintings to some more medium sized work. I’d say 2 or 3 of these paintings are actively shelved. Maybe this is the other bad constraint with my studio. I have room for 2-3 things to be out at once. I wish I had room for everything to be up on a wall at once, but someday. I’m working on a few films that I want to use for silkscreens. Those all depict wooded areas where some of the trees are “glitching” out. I’m planning to print some of these on that holographic foil as a variant. One of the large diptychs I’m working on will also depict a glitched out wooded area. I made a painting last summer where I first started referencing this. These paintings are based around the wooded areas I hung out in when I was a kid in Ralston, Nebraska as well as wooded areas across the street from me, in Golden Gate Park. In the last nine months or so, I’ve started referencing screen glitches that you might see on a cracked phone or tablet. The work all has elements that tie it together, but there are different paths being taken.

nightshredders

IF: Your selection of materials is quite unique considering your medium. Tell us how you got into using these particular materials over the years. (Acrylic, Spraypaint, Goldleaf, Holographic film, Collage, etc.)

NB: Some of this was probably covered above, but I’ll clarify a bit more. Again, some of this grew out of necessity. I got out of school where I had access to lithography presses, really nice digital printers, exposure units that were much better than what I can do at home…so at first I just started painting on paper and using that. Paint felt really flexible to me at that time, especially acrylic. Materiality started to creep into what I was thinking about when I painted. Despite the fog that envelops this city, San Francisco is very vibrant. This really started to excite me. When I was buying paint, I’d see some of the other paints available outside of the cadmiums and the cobalt. Interference colors hit me first. These paints have a quality where if you paint them over a darker color, they shift on you. So I picked some of that up. I picked up some of the texture pastes and some of the stuff that has sand and stuff in it. I live five blocks off of Ocean Beach, so I started going down there and collecting sand, sifting it in my backyard and then mixing that in with paint to build texture. I’d paint some of this on paper, tear that up and reassemble it into bigger paintings.

When I stopped collaging so much, the interference colors stayed. But then I just started to build from there. One of the papers I use, Yupo, it’s a synthetic paper that blends a plastic and cotton together. It’s super slick on the surface, so when you paint on it, the paint will end up pooling a bit and drying weird. Early on when I was working with that, I started to play around with spray paint. And when you use spraypaint on that paper when it’s already wet, it really starts to get interesting. I was playing with this in probably 2009 or 2010 and getting super excited by the possibilities with this.

SFMoMA had had an Anselm Kiefer show a few years earlier, maybe 2009, and walking through that and seeing some of his work up close just kind of cemented this idea I’d already started to embrace that there aren’t limits with any of this stuff. Sometimes a painting is just acrylic on canvas. But sometimes you need to accent something, and maybe gold leaf will do just that. Or there’s a forest, and it makes sense to use bark from the eucalyptus trees across the street to make the trees. At this point, I want to use whatever gets the idea across best.

IF: When creating collages, where do you typically search for material?

NB: All over. The internet is big for this. Old books. Weird corners of the internet where you find weird pictures. Reddit is pretty huge for this, there are some weird subreddits where people post old photos they find. Weird photoshops. Whatever you want.

The materials that I’m cutting out and using in the work are mostly made by me. I use some stuff from old books and magazines, but fore the most part, I’m making stuff in my studio to cut up and use for collaged elements.

IF: A good bit of your work seems to be based around landscapes, particularly mountains – Are these based on your surroundings?

NB: Kind of? I think, technically, San Francisco sits on a mountain range, just a low level mountain range. I don’t have to walk that far to see the mountains just north of us in Marin, and same for the east bay. I grew up in Ralston Nebraska, which is a suburb. It’s a fairly flat place.

But when I was a kid, we would go to the Rocky Mountains. I still remember the first time we went there, I was maybe 9 or so? But it just blew me away. Like, I’d been up to Mount Rushmore, and that was cool, but the Rocky’s blew me away. I read a lot about mountains when I was a kid. And when I got older, I got really interested in how things work and science. Growing up I was smart enough to be in the top science classes, but I was never going to be a scientist. But I wanted to incorporate some of that into my work.

In grad school I read a lot of work on ecology and the environment. My wife & I moved to San Francisco for me to go to school, and I got interested in this new place. I’d lived in Nebraska most of my life. So I read about the history. I started reading about why San Francisco looks the way it does. Again, Ralston and Omaha are mostly flat. They sit right at the edge of the last major glacial period, so there are some wrinkles in the landscape, but not much. Reading about that lead me into thinking about how mountains get made. Subduction zones and all of that.

That interests kind of pervades and sticks. A lot of the vacations we take, we go to places where mountains do some weird stuff. Hawaii and Iceland, up around Yosemite. We’re going back to Hawaii in a few months. I’m sure I’ll come home and make more mountain paintings.

nb2

IF: Tell us about Caught In The Fall.

NB: In high school, almost everybody I hung around with were in bands. Even my girlfriend at the time was in a band. I wasn’t playing in a band, but I had a bass guitar and knew a little. I could play along with people, but man, I sucked at writing music. Mostly, my contribution to all of my friends making music was that I could help them silkscreen shirts. Or I could design something for them. I could make a painting for their album cover. We were just kids, not much else.

Then I got out of high school and started going to college at a smaller private university in a suburb adjacent to Omaha. A few of my friends from high school and a buddy of ours from out of town had been playing music for a few months at that point. Just playing around and doing Misfits and AFI coves, stuff like that. Kevin was singing for them, and he was basically living at my parents place with me at the time and said “We’re looking for a bass player”. Again, I wasn’t that great, but for what they were playing, I didn’t need to be. Luke lived out of town about 30 minutes in this little summer community called Cedar Creek, right on a lake. His parents even had a pontoon boat. So we would go out to Cedar Creek and play covers for a few hours. We had a big show at his place on Halloween and everybody had a blast, so we kept doing it. At this point we were writing some original stuff.

This was 2001, so it wasn’t a given that you could just record stuff. But Saddle Creek had taken off and gotten huge with artists like Bright Eyes and the Faint, so there were a ton of people we knew interested in recording who had four or eight track recorders. So we recorded a few songs and decided to do a few dates close to Omaha. We’d go up to Sioux Falls, South Dakota and hook up with some people up there in the punk scene. Those people would encourage us to go out and do more shows and record more stuff.

We got super lucky at the time and got to do something that not everyone gets to. We were never huge, but we released a few albums and got to see our names in stuff like HeartAttack, which was super rad for us.

At one point things just kind of got stressful. There were four of us and out of the four, our drummer Aaron was easily the most talented. That shows, too. Again, he’s now in Bent Life who just released their first LP with Bridge Nine. I go and see them whenever they’re in the Bay Area, which is unfortunately not enough, and man, they just attract so many people. Back when we were touring, we were playing in basements for 50-100 kids on a good night.
It was because of that band that I got to see a hell of a lot of America. We had a good time when we were doing it.

IF: At least two of your artworks feature a Nintendo in them. Tell us a little bit about this.

NB: The first time I went over and saw my cousin David’s Nintendo, my life changed. I think it was 1987 and I was like, six. It floored me. He had a few games already, but we just played Mario because honestly, that was enough. I was born in 1981 and I think it shows. My childhood was spent with cartoons whose sole purpose was to sell me toys, so something like Nintendo was geared right at me.

As an adult, I still play video games, but maybe not as much as before. Mostly I stick to handhelds so I don’t take the TV over. I was there for the simple graphics of the 8 bit and 16 bit, then the conversion to 3D that came with the original Playstation and the Nintendo 64. I still have all of these old consoles in my apartment. So I work them in from time to time into these still life clusters. These systems are gateways, as far as I’m concerned. One of the paintings has a Nintendo 64 with a gold “Ocarina of Time” cartridge in the slot and is titled “Adventure Time” because, to me, putting that cart in the console when I was 16 meant I was going off to some crazy place to have some crazy adventure. These worlds informed the way I see the world. They kind of blur things, a bit. The static and noise that could arise from bad contacts on a cartridge. Screen tearing the starts to show up in more complicated 3D worlds. These types of effects are starting to come back in vogue. You have games now directly references the old effects and hang-ups of the previous technology. Some of those things show up in my paintings.

I’m working on a still life right now that, coincidently, will have a console in it. I’m debating between the Japanese Famicom disk system or maybe that weird Super Nintendo Playstation that showed up last year. That thing is super interesting to me. All of the weird vaporware and, I suppose, vapor-hardware of that time.

nb zelda

IF: Have you always wanted to pursue a career in art?

NB: This will be short, but yes. I don’t think I ever wanted to do anything else and I lucked out in that nobody ever pushed me to do anything else. My parents always encouraged me to draw and that’s a big part of what I did growing up. I never grew up.

IF: What role do you believe album art plays in the grand scheme of things, specifically in its goal to help portray and potentially sell an artist?

NB: “Don’t judge a book by it’s cover”. Okie dokie, sure. But we all do this, right? Same with art; sometimes a really phenomenal album can transcend bad artwork. But it can take a lot of the artwork is just plain awful. When you’re a less mature group without a ton of backing, I think it’s always going to help having something that catches people’s eyes. It’s possible this might be more important than ever with digital stores and streaming. Our viewing and consumption habits have changed. If you’re on iTunes, or Google Play, and an album just has a plain cover and you don’t recognize the artist, you’re probably going to keep flipping. But if you come across something that stops you, catches your eye and you don’t recognize the musician, you might still give it a shot. It helps to have an arresting image that gets someone to take note.

If you’re Kendrick Lamar, you have a name behind yourself and you can drop an EP of scratch tracks that just has your name on the cover. But if you’re a smaller group, it’s probably going to be beneficial to find some sort of imagery that you think captures you. Maybe it’s something that just mirrors your vibe or maybe something that references the lyrics. Some bands do this really well. Look at Radiohead’s relationship with Stanley Donwood. Sometimes musicians and artists can become intertwined like that, and that just continues to add to the overall package.

IF: Do you anticipate doing more album art in the future?

NB: Always. I’m always down for doing stuff like this. A band out of LA, Mute Swans, just released their first EP last month with one of my paintings on the cover. I love to meet new people and hear what they’re doing. Occasionally somebody contacts me and things don’t line up, but for the most part, this is something I don’t see myself closing the door on. I’d work with authors or other creatives, too. I don’t see a real downside to any of this.

IF: What kind of music are you listening to while you create, or simply what music has been inspiring to you lately?

NB: I listen to a lot of stuff, and most of that is mood dependent. Some days in the studio, I might listen to a book on tape. I have a TV mounted the wall above my desk, so some days I just put the news on and focus more on the work. A year or two ago I listened to Podcasts all of the time, and then something happened and I lost interest in a lot of those. I have a few shows that I still listen to every week, but that’s really mood dependent.

Maybe I won’t list any particular albums, but here some musicians I listen to, both in and out of the studio? I always like to listen to My Blood Valentine, especially “Loveless”. This album has been inspiring me for a couple decades at this point. I’m a huge Nirvana fan and still listen to them a lot. Jenny Lewis had an album a couple years ago, “The Voyager” that inspired a lot of my work at the time and continues to. When I was in Omaha a few months ago I heard a Guess Who song on the radio that prompted me to listen to them a lot more recently. I like pop albums that are really, really tight, stuff like Taylor Swift’s “1989”. That album exists just to make you say “Yeah, this is really good”. It’s focus tested pop and there’s something really fascinating about that. Radiohead has been big in my studio for years. Tame Impala can set a mood when I get in the studio and don’t know what I want in the background. There’s an EP from Grave Babies that I like to listen to a lot. Really, it can range all over the place.

IF: The last sentence of your artist statement is “Everything comes from nothing, and nothing comes from everything.”  What does this sentence mean to you?

NB: Once more, I’ll say that I’m not a scientist, so stick with me. This is more of a reference to the Big Bang. In the last year or so I have been pretty terrible with updating my website. I think there are only three or four paintings up there for this year and I’ve finished a lot more, probably 20-30. This is part of an old statement that I’m not using so much anymore. I think I actually got this particular phrasing from something I was reading on the Big Bang, but this would have been a few years ago.

Nicholas Bohac

INTERVIEW W/ KEITH RANKIN – the visionary behind Giant Claw and Orange Milk Records

IF: Tell us a little about your life leading up to the creation of Orange Milk Records. How did it all begin?

KR: I co-run Orange Milk with Seth Graham, we met each other in Dayton Ohio, and I think we were both starting to get into noise and synthesizer music being released on tape around 2008 or 09. I wanted to be involved with that music somehow, and we wanted a place to showcase our own music. Throughout my life I’ve been attracted to different communities or scenes, feeling the urge to be a part of something or to associate with likeminded people, but those communities have always left me feeling alienated after a while. The beginning of Orange Milk was probably at the start of one of those urges.

IF: What is your current role in OMR? What has changed since the beginning?

KR: There’s obviously more work involved now but our roles haven’t changed very much. We switch off shipping duties every year or so, Seth is handling that right now. I do most of the visual art, and we will both talk to artists and split other duties.

IF: How do you find the artist on the label? Is there anything in particular you are looking for?

KR: I do a lot of soundcloud searching, and we get a lot of great demos. There are extremely vague parameters stylistically that we look for, it’s easier to define as an ambition or work ethic that shines through in someones work. It’s exciting to me when experimentation mixes with an inner drive, the effect is almost like someone pushing beyond their limitations, like when a singer goes just above and outside their octave range. That’s usually an interesting place to be musically. We also obviously have our whole life’s worth of experiences that have built up into a continually refined aesthetic which is constantly being transposed over the music we’re considering, like “does this fit my idea of cool?”

IF: In a recent interview you said “A lot of response to the record so far have discarded the conceptual aspects in favor of the purely musical ones, which I think is perfectly fine and justifiable – that musical reality is a deep part of the work and is by far the easiest entry point into it” What are some of these more conceptual aspects you aim to reach in your music and art?

KR: I think there’s a dual stigma with intellectualizing art and also not being conceptual enough, you’re caricaturized in either scenario. But every action anyone takes has an entire history behind it, we just choose to access that history or conceptual backing in different ways. I find making music more enjoyable when I have a conceptual world brewing behind it, and that usually starts as a vague or general philosophy. For example, I’ve been thinking about how much taste and style is determined by the culture and class systems we’re born into and how that changes a lot of ideas about individuality in the arts. That’s obviously a topic with a lot of facets, so I’ll daydream about it while recording or working. Eventually I find that the recording process, or the simple act of relying on a skill set, merges with whatever my mind has been preoccupied with, and the act of creating music starts to refine and clarify those initially cloudy ideas. It’s difficult to explain exactly, but have you ever been in emotional turmoil and then felt better after verbalizing your thoughts to someone? I think making art is like using a non-verbal language to bring a similar clarity.

keith

IF: We first discovered you through Kate NV. We remember seeing the album cover artwork and being pulled in before ever hearing her music. What was your process in creating this particular album artwork?

KR: Kate had wanted some more abstract, Kandinsky-like art for her cover, and we both tried pieces like that that didn’t seem to work. Actually we both liked what the other had done but didn’t like our own attempts. I remember after that sitting down and thinking “I’m gonna try to really translate this music into a visual.” I’m not as skilled with that translation when it comes to visual art, but it worked for that one, in my opinion. There’s a clearness and calmness to Kate’s NV music and also a bittersweet joy that I latched onto.

IF: What role do you believe album artwork plays in the grand scheme of things?

KR: From my experience, people seem more in tune with their visual sense than other senses, like it’s a visual interface we consciously perceive the world through. Hearing might be more in the realm of subconscious detection, there’s always a lot of sound happening that isn’t considered unless it’s disruptive or specific. That’s all to say that when visuals are paired with any of the other senses the impact can’t be underestimated. Covers dictate our perception of the music, more popular artists use their entire persona and style in that way, to express an identity and a worldview, but for many smaller artists the album cover is all there is to set the scene.

IF: You’ve mentioned the importance of growing up with the internet and also the endless rabbit hole that it can lead to. What are some of positive aspects you see in this as well as any fears you may have?

KR: The internet is creating a more global culture, which also means it will eventually erase a lot of localized culture, or at least replace them with hyper specific internet niche cultures. I’m sure that’s good for some bad for others. Personally, the net let me escape or expand the local culture I was born into, and allowed for probably my first really in depth communication with people different from me which I saw as a blessing. I don’t know, it’s a very big subject. I think the increase of accessible data is creating more malleable and expansive identities, but probably a lot of mental dissonance as a byproduct of the rapid shift. Most aspects of globalization could be seen as good or bad depending on the context.

 

IF: What are you doing when you’re not creating music or running a record label? Any special interest or hobbies?

KR: Going to a movie theater helps me relax, so does talking to people I know. Sometimes when I’m taking a break from music or art I’ll get on facebook, twitter, tumblr, instagram, all social media and scroll through my feed endlessly.

IF: How did you come up with the names Giant Claw and Orange Milk?

KR: Giant Claw was something I picked on a whim, I didn’t think I would continue making music under the name but that’s how it worked out. When I think about that name I start to hate it sometimes, but that happens when I think about my real name too. Maybe I’ll change it soon? Orange Milk I can’t even remember, I think I just wanted something liquid related.

IF: The year is 2059, the internet has been forbidden for 30 years and all technological progress has been halted. Where are you?

KR: In a concentration camp I guess?

Keith Rankin