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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New Nasty

Whips, Chains and Hand Sanitizer

Turn On The Full Season Of Neurotica At IFC's Comedy Crib

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Jenny Jaffe has a lot going on: She’s writing for Disney’s upcoming Big Hero 6: The Series, developing comedy projects with pals at Devastator Press, and she’s straddling the line between S&M and OCD as the creator and star of the sexyish new series Neurotica, which has just made its debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib. Jenny gave us some extremely intimate insight into what makes Neurotica (safely) sizzle…

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

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. 

IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. You’re great. We should get coffee sometime. I’m not just saying that. I know other people just say that sometimes but I really feel like we’re going to be friends, you know? Here, what’s your number, I’ll call you so you can have my number! 

IFC: What’s your comedy origin story?

Jenny: Since I was a kid I’ve dealt with severe OCD and anxiety. Comedy has always been one of the ways I’ve dealt with that. I honestly just want to help make people feel happy for a few minutes at a time. 

IFC: What was the genesis of Neurotica?

Jenny: I’m pretty sure it was a title-first situation. I was coming up with ideas to pitch to a production company a million years ago (this isn’t hyperbole; I am VERY old) and just wrote down “Neurotica”; then it just sort of appeared fully formed. “Neurotica? Oh it’s an over-the-top romantic comedy about a Dominatrix with OCD, of course.” And that just happened to hit the buttons of everything I’m fascinated by. 

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IFC: How would you describe Ivy?

Jenny: Ivy is everything I love in a comedy character – she’s tenacious, she’s confident, she’s sweet, she’s a big wonderful weirdo. 

IFC: How would Ivy’s clientele describe her?

Jenny:  Open-minded, caring, excellent aim. 

IFC: Why don’t more small towns have local dungeons?

Jenny: How do you know they don’t? 

IFC: What are the pros and cons of joining a chain mega dungeon?

Jenny: You can use any of their locations but you’ll always forget you have a membership and in a year you’ll be like “jeez why won’t they let me just cancel?” 

IFC: Mouths are gross! Why is that?

Jenny: If you had never seen a mouth before and I was like “it’s a wet flesh cave with sharp parts that lives in your face”, it would sound like Cronenberg-ian body horror. All body parts are horrifying. I’m kind of rooting for the singularity, I’d feel way better if I was just a consciousness in a cloud. 

See the whole season of Neurotica right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

The-Craft

The ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

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Photo Credit: Everett Digital, Columbia Pictures

We know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would anyone want to reanimate the decade that gave us Haddaway, Los Del Rio, and Smash Mouth, not to mention Crystal Pepsi?”

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Thoughts like those are normal. After all, we tend to remember lasting psychological trauma more vividly than fleeting joy. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover that the ’90s gave us so much to fondly revisit. Consider the four pillars of true ’90s culture.

Boy Bands

We all pretended to hate them, but watch us come alive at a karaoke bar when “I Want It That Way” comes on. Arguably more influential than Brit Pop and Grunge put together, because hello – Justin Timberlake. He’s a legitimate cultural gem.

Man-Child Movies

Adam Sandler is just behind The Simpsons in terms of his influence on humor. Somehow his man-child schtick didn’t get old until the aughts, and his success in that arena ushered in a wave of other man-child movies from fellow ’90s comedians. RIP Chris Farley (and WTF Rob Schneider).

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Teen Angst

In horror, dramas, comedies, and everything in between: Troubled teens! Getting into trouble! Who couldn’t relate to their First World problems, plaid flannels, and lose grasp of the internet?

Mainstream Nihilism

From the Coen Bros to Fincher to Tarantino, filmmakers on the verge of explosive popularity seemed interested in one thing: mind f*cking their audiences by putting characters in situations (and plot lines) beyond anyone’s control.

Feeling better about that walk down memory lane? Good. Enjoy the revival.

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And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.

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Get Physical

DVDs are the new Vinyl

Portlandia Season 7 Now Available On Disc.

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In this crazy digital age, sometimes all we really want is to reach out and touch something. Maybe that’s why so many of us are still gung-ho about owning stuff on DVD. It’s tangible. It’s real. It’s tech from a bygone era that still feels relevant, yet also kitschy and retro. It’s basically vinyl for people born after 1990.

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Inevitably we all have that friend whose love of the disc is so absolutely repellent that he makes the technology less appealing. “The resolution, man. The colors. You can’t get latitude like that on a download.” Go to hell, Tim.

Yes, Tim sucks, and you don’t want to be like Tim, but maybe he’s onto something and DVD is still the future. Here are some benefits that go beyond touch.

It’s Decor and Decorum

With DVDs and a handsome bookshelf you can show off your great taste in film and television without showing off your search history. Good for first dates, dinner parties, family reunions, etc.

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Forget Public Wifi

Warm up that optical drive. No more awkwardly streaming episodes on shady free wifi!

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Inter-not

Internet service goes down. It happens all the time. It could happen right now. Then what? Without a DVD on hand you’ll be forced to make eye contact with your friends and family. Or worse – conversation.

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Self Defense

You can’t throw a download like a ninja star. Think about it.

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If you’d like to experience the benefits DVD ownership yourself, Portlandia Season 7 is now available on DVD and Blue-Ray.