Stingray Sam

Check it out! It's the trailer for Cory McAbee's Stingray Sam, in which I was fortunate enough to briefly participate last month. Stingray Sam premieres at Sundance 2009. Watch the trailer; it looks like a boatload of comedic sci-fi-musical-space-western fun. Also check out Cory's blog and the official Stingray Sam website.


Here are three excellent Onion A.V. Club interviews with some of my favorite dudes: musician, label owner and voice-over artist Mike Patton, rapper Kool Keith (you need only to read his answer to the first question to find out why he's the most entertaining interview in the genre), and comedian Michael Ian Black.


New Web Design

I'm happy to announce the launch of www.kimandteo.com, built and designed by yours truly. Congratulations to the happy couple!

Please contact me if you or anyone you know is in need of a website. Artists - need your portfolio online? Drop me a line!


Presidential Doodles

Obama draws fellow politicians, Sarah Palin doodles like a high school freshman, and LBJ's 'devil cat.' Check out this CNN Video.


New Shirt

Today I added this new shirt for Judge Roy Bean to the Magnetic State portfolio. It's currently available for sale at the band's shows. Click the design view to enlarge!


Great Design in Music Now

So I've browsed an abundance of bands' websites recently. I'm learning new web design techniques and I've also noticed a great deal about how some friends and design clients choose to represent their music, both online and off. I see your shows, your merch, your MySpace pages, your fans and goals. Viewing as both a designer and a musician, I tend to react strongly when I see something that brings a smile to my eyeballs. I thought I'd share some of the best music-related designs I've come across during the last few weeks. It's by no means comprehensive; I've just listed the best out of what I've come across while browsing the work of forty or fifty bands. I could spew forth a torrent of vitriol about all of the heinous design mistakes I've come across, but in most cases, these incoherent logos and timid t-shirt designs ensure that a lot of awful bands go where they belong (nowhere fast) and we should all remain thankful. However, I do not intend this post to be about the most popular band or the hippest genre; it's about successful work. Each entry includes a link to the band's MySpace page or website. If you have a favorite shirt/logo/whatever design, post it or email me and I will put it up!

Some say the album's a dying format but the jury's still out on that one. For now there are still bands who care about a striking album cover that gives a visual voice to the music within. One thing we can agree on is that album covers have shrunk from the size of an LP sleeve to the size of an Ipod screen, so go forth and be bold.

Paint It Black New Lexicon
If eyes had mouths, this would make my eyes' mouths drool. The stunning photograph conveys ethereal stillness and the danger of darkness in a setting that seems to epitomize the suburb. The typography is tasteful and austere. My favorite thing about this cover is that it transcends the genre; I don't think I would guess that this record was hardcore punk.

Also notable:

The Death Set Worldwide
Everything about it screams. They say the devil is in the details and the killer details here are the mouth and the weird tale/phone cord.

Bands have a unique opportunity because in the music industry it's not uncommon to use a new logo for every album or tour. Some bands do it right the first time and stick with it (Nine Inch Nails' symmetrical 'NIN' logo comes to mind), but others take advantage of the opportunity and re-brand themselves every few years.

The Raconteurs 'R' Logo
The Raconteurs used several different versions of this script 'R' logo during their tour for Consolers of the Lonely. The image on the left is a copper lapel pin. The image on the right is the floor of the performance space in this live performance of 'Level.' Pure class.

Also notable: The Faint's logo

Say what you will, but MySpace has offered instant access to bands and their music whether you're on a major label (do those still exist?) or still in the garage. That said, the site has been the laughingstock of the web design community since its inception due to poor design; and yet it's highly customizable, offering bands the opportunity to put their personal stamp on their site provided they have access to someone with the necessary skills. Sometimes it works best when a band embraces the ridiculousness of the social-networking site and chooses a layout that's tongue-in-cheek or over-designed (see Mastodon and Natalie Portman's Shaved Head, respectively). When in doubt, choose simplicity. Just because you can make an animated gif doesn't mean you should. Visit Magnetic State on MySpace.

Every Time I Die
Every Time I Die has clearly hired a talented photographer, the color scheme is catchy, and the imagery is bold and bizarre (the combination rarely fails). The layout provides for user-friendliness and clarity of function.

Some bands have an online presence that's big enough to require more than one site; others want more creative options than what MySpace offers. The band below does both.


Fuck 'music-related,' this is one of my favorite anything-related websites ever. You have to visit in order to experience the ingenious interactive Flash-animated cow's head at the center of the site. Design by Honest.

Ensuring that there are high-quality videos of your band available online means that fans and (more importantly) potential fans will have access to a visual representation of you and your live performance.

Dub Trio 'Bay vs. Leonard' (Fearless TV)
Dub Trio has this video imbedded on their MySpace page. It's got great sound, quality recording, and a mean performance from a talented band with a unique sound. Plus, I just think they're nasty.

So I saved the best category for last. I've always been a sucker for rock and roll t-shirts (a primary obsession during adolescence) and they're one of my favorite design challenges. Frankly, there's not much competition out there, and this area is where bands make the worst mistakes. Most bands' shirts are adorned with boring, dull and criminally small designs. You have to squint to read the band name, and you don't know why you're looking at a bleeding skull with wings or a geometric drawing of a guy in a suit. Everything's fucking 'distressed.' I think most bands have their drummer's brother do it because they hear he can draw and he'll do it for free, and they wind up with a stack of hideous rags stacked on the merch table. Now you've saved money on the free design, but it's backfired; no one wants to buy the shirts you paid a couple hundred bucks having printed up. My goal in designing a shirt for a band is to attract potential fans; I want to make a shirt that customers will want to buy even if they don't know the band (yet). A cool shirt is a cool shirt. I also want to make designs that might get noticed from across the street. When designing, I follow the mantra 'make it bigger,' as Paula Scher likes to say. Anyway, here's my selection for the best t-shirt design I've seen recently.

Grizzly Bear T-Shirt by J. Penry

I had conflicted feelings about this shirt at first, because I was unsure that it reflected Grizzly Bear's music. I'd expect a shirt like this from maybe Melvins or a punk band. But Penry's shirt is weird and demented (both qualities that exist within the band's sound), the drawing rules, and he's taken advantage of the entire canvas of the garment. It's a one-color design but he does it so well, it transcends the limitation. And conflict is good; my feelings of conflict have caused me to continue thinking about the design.


Tricked Out

One of my goals this month was to learn how to customize a MySpace page, as this is a service I want to offer bands and clients. I especially wanted to embed a banner above all the other content, and I just finally nailed it. There is also a full portfolio there now, so check out the new Magnetic State MySpace page! The design is nothing too complex, but I'm pretty sure it counts as 'pimped.' Where's Xzibit when you need him?


Halloween Photos Part One

Rachel and Molly as 'Pot Brownies.'

One of the most inventive Halloween costumes I've ever seen. She dressed her leg as the lamp from A Christmas Story. Complete with functional light bulb!

Blurry half-female Wayne and Garth Number One. Party Time!

Blurry half-female Wayne and Garth Number Two. Excellent!

Halloween Photos Part Two: Blue Sky Law

Halloween Photos Part Three: Judge Roy Bean

My great friends in Judge Roy Bean performed as Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars at Uncle Mike's in New York City on Halloween 2008.