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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Bro and Tell

BFFs And Night Court For Sports

Bromance and Comeuppance On Two New Comedy Crib Series

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“Silicon Valley meets Girls meets black male educators with lots of unrealized potential.”

That’s how Carl Foreman Jr. and Anthony Gaskins categorize their new series Frank and Lamar which joins Joe Schiappa’s Sport Court in the latest wave of new series available now on IFC’s Comedy Crib. To better acquaint you with the newbies, we went right to the creators for their candid POVs. And they did not disappoint. Here are snippets of their interviews:

Frank and Lamar


IFC: How would you describe Frank and Lamar to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?
Carl: Best bros from college live and work together teaching at a fancy Manhattan private school, valiantly trying to transition into a more mature phase of personal and professional life while clinging to their boyish ways.

IFC: And to a friend of a friend you met in a bar?
Carl: The same way, slightly less coherent.

Anthony: I’d probably speak about it with much louder volume, due to the bar which would probably be playing the new Kendrick Lamar album. I might also include additional jokes about Carl, or unrelated political tangents.

Carl: He really delights in randomly slandering me for no reason. I get him back though. Our rapport on the page, screen, and in real life, comes out of a lot of that back and forth.

IFC: In what way is Frank and Lamar a poignant series for this moment in time?
Carl: It tells a story I feel most people aren’t familiar with, having young black males teach in a very affluent white world, while never making it expressly about that either. Then in tackling their personal lives, we see these three-dimensional guys navigate a pivotal moment in time from a perspective I feel mainstream audiences tend not to see portrayed.

Anthony: I feel like Frank and Lamar continues to push the envelope within the genre by presenting interesting and non stereotypical content about people of color. The fact that this show brought together so many talented creative people, from the cast and crew to the producers, who believe in the project, makes the work that much more intentional and truthful. I also think it’s pretty incredible that we got to employ many of our friends!

Sport Court

Sport Court gavel

IFC: How would you describe Sport Court to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?
Joe: SPORT COURT follows Judge David Linda, a circuit court judge assigned to handle an ad hoc courtroom put together to prosecute rowdy fan behavior in the basement of the Hartford Ultradome. Think an updated Night Court.

IFC: How would you describe Sport Court to drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?
Joe: Remember when you put those firecrackers down that guy’s pants at the baseball game? It’s about a judge who works in a court in the stadium that puts you in jail right then and there. I know, you actually did spend the night in jail, but imagine you went to court right that second and didn’t have to get your brother to take off work from GameStop to take you to your hearing.

IFC: Is there a method to your madness when coming up with sports fan faux pas?
Joe: I just think of the worst things that would ruin a sporting event for everyone. Peeing in the slushy machine in open view of a crowd seemed like a good one.

IFC: Honestly now, how many of the fan transgressions are things you’ve done or thought about doing?
Joe: I’ve thought about ripping out a whole row of chairs at a theater or stadium, so I would have my own private space. I like to think of that really whenever I have to sit crammed next to lots of people. Imagine the leg room!

Check out the full seasons of Frank and Lamar and Sport Court now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

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Millennial Wisdom

Charles Speaks For Us All

Get to know Charles, the social media whiz of Brockmire.

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He may be an unlikely radio producer Brockmire, but Charles is #1 when it comes to delivering quips that tie a nice little bow on the absurdity of any given situation.

Charles also perfectly captures the jaded outlook of Millennials. Or at least Millennials as mythologized by marketers and news idiots. You know who you are.

Played superbly by Tyrel Jackson Williams, Charles’s quippy nuggets target just about any subject matter, from entry-level jobs in social media (“I plan on getting some experience here, then moving to New York to finally start my life.”) to the ramifications of fictional celebrity hookups (“Drake and Taylor Swift are dating! Albums y’all!”). But where he really nails the whole Millennial POV thing is when he comments on America’s second favorite past-time after type II diabetes: baseball.

Here are a few pearls.

On Baseball’s Lasting Cultural Relevance

“Baseball’s one of those old-timey things you don’t need anymore. Like cursive. Or email.”

On The Dramatic Value Of Double-Headers

“The only thing dumber than playing two boring-ass baseball games in one day is putting a two-hour delay between the boring-ass games.”

On Sartorial Tradition

“Is dressing badly just a thing for baseball, because that would explain his jacket.”

On Baseball, In A Nutshell

“Baseball is a f-cked up sport, and I want you to know it.”

Learn more about Charles in the behind-the-scenes video below.

And if you were born before the late ’80s and want to know what the kids think about Baseball, watch Brockmire Wednesdays at 10P on IFC.

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Crown Jules

Amanda Peet FTW on Brockmire

Amanda Peet brings it on Brockmire Wednesday at 10P on IFC.

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GIFS via Giphy

On Brockmire, Jules is the unexpected yin to Jim Brockmire’s yang. Which is saying a lot, because Brockmire’s yang is way out there. Played by Amanda Peet, Jules is hard-drinking, truth-spewing, baseball-loving…everything Brockmire is, and perhaps what he never expected to encounter in another human.

“We’re the same level of functional alcoholic.”

But Jules takes that commonality and transforms it into something special: a new beginning. A new beginning for failing minor league baseball team “The Frackers”, who suddenly about-face into a winning streak; and a new beginning for Brockmire, whose life gets a jumpstart when Jules lures him back to baseball. As for herself, her unexpected connection with Brockmire gives her own life a surprising and much needed goose.

“You’re a Goddamn Disaster and you’re starting To look good to me.”

This palpable dynamic adds depth and complexity to the narrative and pushes the series far beyond expected comedy. See for yourself in this behind-the-scenes video (and brace yourself for a unforgettable description of Brockmire’s genitals)…

Want more about Amanda Peet? She’s all over the place, and has even penned a recent self-reflective piece in the New York Times.

And of course you can watch the Jim-Jules relationship hysterically unfold in new episodes of Brockmire, every Wednesday at 10PM on IFC.

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