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.
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.