DID YOU READ

The Artists of Flatstock: Brian Ewing

The Artists of Flatstock: Brian Ewing (photo)

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Walking through the convention center or the streets of Austin this week, it’s hard to ignore the tape-spackled, staple-ridden posters, sounding their visual siren calls, trying to reel you in amidst the crowds and visual noise. As the world goes digital it’s interesting to note how much tangible objects stand out. You can’t hand someone a JPEG. You can’t fold it up and put it in your pocket. And while much physical guerilla marketing has been supplanted by Facebook invites and Twitter hashtags, there is, as of yet, no Facebook invite that stays at the top of your inbox long enough to remind you how much you danced at a TV On The Radio show. You don’t print out emailed fliers and hang them on your walls of your apartment to silently call up an experience, or a lyric, or a defining period in your life. When you pluck an image from an artist’s online gallery to use it as your desktop background, it’s somehow not as satisfying as pulling something off a telephone pole or the wall of a rock show. Which is probably why, even as we discard our old CDs once and for all, enough professional poster artists are making thoughtful, handmade artifacts to fill the hall of the 29th annual Flatstock convention, which launched yesterday afternoon in the southernmost wing of the Austin Convention Center.

Flatstock is an official SXSW-sanctioned event, and plays host to a collection of the most prolific and imaginative designers, illustrators and screenprinters in the rock and roll universe. Walk through the halls and you’ll find stacks of French white paper festooned with hot girls, hot rods, unicorns, detailed animal etchings, gorgeous landscapes, finely rendered, hand-drawn fonts, and perfectly executed portraits of famous and semi-famous people. You’ll find humor. And irony. And sensitivity. And sadness. And you’ll sense the influence of the music behind it all.

Over the next few days, we will troll the Flatstock halls, highlighting some of the artists who have made this form of music promotion a true artform. First up, Brian Ewing, a New York native and an impeccable illustrator with a knack for fan-based portraiture, pop art color palettes, and skulls.

How long have you been making rock posters?
For about 10 years. I started making them in ’98 — just black and white fliers for friends’ bands. I started taking poster-making seriously when I moved to LA, and hooked up with the Troubador. I was the resident poster artist there, and kind of cut my teeth doing posters that way.

Is there a certain genre or type of band you like to work for?
It can pretty much be any band – I’ll work for whoever wants to hire me. But we all have dream projects we want to do. If I had a choice, the artists I would represent would be all over the map. Not just rock posters or punk posters. I would make a poster for Justin Timberlake or Kanye West, because they don’t have posters, and it would kind of be cool to see posters done for them. And you know, Metallica. Stuff that appealed to me when I was 13 that is still around.

How would you define your artistic style for someone who isn’t familiar with your work?
It’s clean with an American comic book style, and has subject matter that appeals to 13 year-old kids, and 28-year old women. I just draw what I want to, and I’m lucky that my taste in art is similar to my taste in music, and that I can put a little but of myself into what I make for these bands.

So your thirteen year-old self really likes skulls and naked ladies?

Yup. It’s juvenile.

What’s your favorite new music find?
Theophilius London. Imagine a little bit of Kid Cudi, Jay-Z, and some really good production. And The Last Shadow Puppets. Imagine British pop, like Oasis or Blur, mixed with 60’s Motown production, kind of like Phil Spector, or in modern day, Ric Okasek or Brian Wilson. It’s a lot of fun. I also really like the Off’ album – it’s Keith Morris of the Circle Jerks and a couple other guys doing what they do best. Punk rock music. It’s just a lot of guys who really know how to play their instruments.

What are you looking forward to seeing most at SXSW?
I haven’t really looked to be honest. I just got to see J. Mascis play. I have done posters for him in the past, but I’ve never gotten to see him play, so I was glad I got to fulfill that. I really would like to see the Bad Brains again. And knowing that I missed Radiohead and Jack White, really bums me out. But instead of finding the most popular band, I’m just going gamble and see what I can get into. I just don’t want to be nose-to-butt in the club.

How has your experience with Flatstock been?
People have been making posters to promote music events for quite a long time, but it wasn’t until a couple years ago that someone actually made an event out of it. It’s like a comic book convention, but with posters and artists. People collect posters, and it’s nice to get to meet collectors for the first time, and for them to get to meet us. It’s also a great way to legitimize us as artists. It’s great that it’s a SXSW event. It’s an opportunity for us to get more work, and to meet our clients (the musicians) and for them to put a face to our names.

When you are conceptualizing a poster for a band, where does the inspiration come from?

It’s pretty much 90 percent from the lyrics in the music, and the interpretation I get. When I’m working for a band I think about their fans more than I think about the band. The fans know more about the band than the band itself. If you’ve won over the fans, you’ve done your job.

There are fliers and posters all over South By Southwest. Do you print pieces for posting, or are your limited edition pieces used only as merchandise?
No matter what, limited edition or no, I always post my work. You allocate a small part of the edition for advertising, you give the band their copies, the venue their copies, and you make your money with the remainder. When I did work for the Troubador, I would take it upon myself to go hang the posters up at record stores. Whether it was an offset print, or a screenprint, I would hang it up. And within a couple hours, inevitably fans would tear them all down to keep them. Once I give a poster to the band or the venue or the promoter, it’s out of my hands. I may not even be in the same city they’re in the night of the show. Bands want posters for advertising, but they also want them just to have it as a way to remember the night.

What differentiates people who just make ads DIY for themselves from the poster makers who are displaying here at the convention?
Some of those people are in bands. It’s not because DIY is the next cool thing, it’s that you don’t have a choice. You just want the stuff made, so you make it yourself. Or you’re so enamored with the whole concept of poster art, that you go for it. My posters are usually made by hand. The majority of poster artists print themselves, or they hire a real expert to do the printing for them. It’s an intensive process and there is a lot to learn. I am completely self-taught, and it’s taken me many years to hone my craft. Screenprinting has been around for thousands of years, but thanks to Warhol, it’s been validated as an artform in itself. The funny thing about rock posters is that they haven’t changed over the years. Even though album covers have gone from 12 inches to 7 inches to JPEGS, the format of posters and the technology used to make them hasn’t changed at all.

What differentiates you from the other poster artists in this room?

We’re all different. We all have different styles. If we were all hired to make a poster for the same band, we would all come up with different things. And that’s what makes every one of us unique, not just me.

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Hard Out

Comedy From The Closet

Janice and Jeffrey Available Now On IFC's Comedy Crib

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She’s been referred to as “the love child of Amy Sedaris and Tracy Ullman,” and he’s a self-described “Italian who knows how to cook a great spaghetti alla carbonara.” They’re Mollie Merkel and Matteo Lane, prolific indie comedians who blended their robust creative juices to bring us the new Comedy Crib series Janice and Jeffrey. Mollie and Matteo took time to answer our probing questions about their series and themselves. Here’s a taste.

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IFC: How would you describe Janice and Jeffrey to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Mollie & Matteo: Janice and Jeffrey is about a married couple experiencing intimacy issues but who don’t have a clue it’s because they are gay. Their oblivion makes them even more endearing.  Their total lack of awareness provides for a buffet of comedy.

IFC: What’s your origin story? How did you two people meet and how long have you been working together?

Mollie: We met at a dive bar in Wrigley Field Chicago. It was a show called Entertaining Julie… It was a cool variety scene with lots of talented people. I was doing Janice one night and Matteo was doing an impression of Liza Minnelli. We sort of just fell in love with each other’s… ACT! Matteo made the first move and told me how much he loved Janice and I drove home feeling like I just met someone really special.

IFC: How would Janice describe Jeffrey?

Mollie: “He can paint, cook homemade Bolognese, and sing Opera. Not to mention he has a great body. He makes me feel empowered and free. He doesn’t suffocate me with attention so our love has room to breath.”

IFC: How would Jeffrey describe Janice?

Matteo: “Like a Ford. Built to last.”

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

Mollie & Matteo: Our current political world is mirroring and reflecting this belief that homosexuality is wrong. So what better time for satire. Everyone is so pro gay and equal rights, which is of course what we want, too. But no one is looking at middle America and people actually in the closet. No one is saying, hey this is really painful and tragic, and sitting with that. Having compassion but providing the desperate relief of laughter…This seemed like the healthiest, best way to “fight” the gay rights “fight”.

IFC: Hummus is hilarious. Why is it so funny?

Mollie: It just seems like something people take really seriously, which is funny to me. I started to see it in a lot of lesbians’ refrigerators at a time. It’s like observing a lesbian in a comfortable shoe. It’s a language we speak. Pass the Hummus. Turn on the Indigo Girls would ya?

See the whole season of Janice and Jeffrey right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

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Die Hard Dads

Inspiration For Die Hard Dads

Die Hard is on IFC all Father's Day Long

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Photo Credit: Everett Collection, GIPHY

Yippee ki-yay, everybody! It’s time to celebrate the those most literal of mother-effers: dads!

And just in case the title of this post left anything to the imagination, IFC is giving dads balls-to-the-wall ’80s treatment with a glorious marathon of action trailblazer Die Hard.

There are so many things we could say about Die Hard. We could talk about how it was comedian Bruce Willis’s first foray into action flicks, or Alan Rickman’s big screen debut. But dads don’t give a sh!t about that stuff.

No, dads just want to fantasize that they could be deathproof quip factory John McClane in their own mundane lives. So while you celebrate the fathers in your life, consider how John McClane would respond to these traditional “dad” moments…

Wedding Toasts

Dads always struggle to find the right words of welcome to extend to new family. John McClane, on the other hand, is the master of inclusivity.
Die Hard wedding

Using Public Restrooms

While nine out of ten dads would rather die than use a disgusting public bathroom, McClane isn’t bothered one bit. So long as he can fit a bloody foot in the sink, he’s G2G.
Die Hard restroom

Awkward Dancing

Because every dad needs a signature move.
Die Hard dance

Writing Thank You Notes

It can be hard for dads to express gratitude. Not only can McClane articulate his thanks, he makes it feel personal.
Die Hard thank you

Valentine’s Day

How would John McClane say “I heart you” in a way that ain’t cliche? The image speaks for itself.
Die Hard valentines

Shopping

The only thing most dads hate more than shopping is fielding eleventh-hour phone calls with additional items for the list. But does McClane throw a typical man-tantrum? Nope. He finds the words to express his feelings like a goddam adult.
Die Hard thank you

Last Minute Errands

John McClane knows when a fight isn’t worth fighting.
Die Hard errands

Sneaking Out Of The Office Early

What is this, high school? Make a real exit, dads.
Die Hard office

Think you or your dad could stand to be more like Bruce? Role model fodder abounds in the Die Hard marathon all Father’s Day long on IFC.

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Founding Farters

Know Your Nerd History

Revenge of the Nerds is on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Everett Collection, GIFs via Giphy

That we live in the heyday of nerds is no hot secret. Scientists are celebrities, musicians are robots and late night hosts can recite every word of the Silmarillion. It’s too easy to think that it’s always been this way. But the truth is we owe much to our nerd forebearers who toiled through the jock-filled ’80s so that we might take over the world.

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Our humble beginnings are perhaps best captured in iconic ’80s romp Revenge of the Nerds. Like the founding fathers of our Country, the titular nerds rose above their circumstances to culturally pave the way for every Colbert and deGrasse Tyson that we know and love today.

To make sure you’re in the know about our very important cultural roots, here’s a quick download of the vengeful nerds without whom our shameful stereotypes might never have evolved.

Lewis Skolnick

The George Washington of nerds whose unflappable optimism – even in the face of humiliating self-awareness – basically gave birth to the Geek Pride movement.

Gilbert Lowe

OK, this guy is wet blanket, but an important wet blanket. Think Aaron Burr to Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton. His glass-mostly-empty attitude is a galvanizing force for Lewis. Who knows if Lewis could have kept up his optimism without Lowe’s Debbie-Downer outlook?

Arnold Poindexter

A music nerd who, after a soft start (inside joke, you’ll get it later), came out of his shell and let his passion lead instead of his anxiety. If you played an instrument (specifically, electric violin), and you were a nerd, this was your patron saint.

Booger

A sex-loving, blunt-smoking, nose-picking guitar hero. If you don’t think he sounds like a classic nerd, you’re absolutely right. And that’s the whole point. Along with Lamar, he simultaneously expanded the definition of nerd and gave pre-existing nerds a twisted sort of cred by association.

Lamar Latrell

Black, gay, and a crazy good breakdancer. In other words, a total groundbreaker. He proved to the world that nerds don’t have a single mold, but are simply outcasts waiting for their moment.

Ogre

Exceedingly stupid, this dumbass was monumental because he (in a sequel) leaves the jocks to become a nerd. Totally unheard of back then. Now all jocks are basically nerds.

Well, there they are. Never forget that we stand on their shoulders.

Revenge of the Nerds is on IFC all month long.

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