Q&A with Guy Burwell

May 15, 2015

Q: What were some of your initial inspirations in creating the tour poster artwork for ESMZ’s 2012 Vancouver poster?
A: My initial inspirations for my poster were rooted in the simple notion of the sheltering sky watching over the practitioners of the music and over the acolytes of nature in a symbolic metaphor to the band and its world and to the concertgoers who would feel in union with the emotions and atmospheres of the live experience.

Q: What were you trying to convey in your ESMZ poster?
A: Relating to the above, the simple representation of the poster depicts the sheltering sky, the sun and the moon and the stars, unraveling themselves in ribbons, to encompass all that they need to encompass to provide the worldly backdrop for our concert, our event, our ongoing experience.

Q: Describe your creative process for interpreting and transforming music into a poster art?
A: My process begins with a session of playing the relevant music and not listening so much for lyrical cues from the songs, but for the flavor of how these songs might affect a person in the casual experience with the sounds of the band and its music as a whole, as much as I can. I try to keep my initial thoughts in mind. I think that music that is new to me, the first impressions can be the most vital, the most impacting. Later, as a relationship grows with a band and its music, then perhaps deeper meaning might be conveyed but that sort of development comes with any prolonged, deeper interaction with a force of creative material.

Q: Were you a fan of ESMZ before you were asked to create the poster art?
A: I was aware of ESMZ before I really paid attention to the music with this project in mind, but I hadn’t spent any time listening to what the larger body of work encompassed musically. Relating it to similar sounds that are certainly close to my heart as a music fan, I could draw upon similar themes as an introduction to begin. The country and folk flavors of My Morning Jacket, the spare rootsy stylings of Gerald Collier and Rusty Willoughby provided other similar doors. The grand intimacy of The Kingsbury Max still another. Even storytellers like Jeff Buckley and Dexter Romweber, though musically different than ESMZ, still lend their hand in the form of intimate tellings and earthborn poetic concerns.

Q: How did you get into creating poster art for musicians?
A: The simple answer is music and beer. Once I discovered the world of the nighttime rock concert at small clubs in St. Louis, where we saw the earliest shows by Uncle Tupelo, The Flaming Lips from nearby Oklahoma City and The Afghan Whigs from Cincinnati, the earliest efforts from The Supersuckers, Urge Overkill, Guided By Voices and many others, it was only a matter of time that my personal art and those musical experiences bonded in some form or another. Eventually, I started making rough hewn flyers for some of those earliest gigs, and they paid my bar tab and provided entrance to the shows. Many of those earliest nights paved the way for long-lasting esoteric relationships with many bands as they would grow and shrink in their influence and exposure. Some of those old rock heroes who seemed so lofty and distant — even as we swilled beer together after shows in dank basement bars — have become friends of many years, even if our relationships don’t really involve the business of making poster prints. Every now an again, an old face will pop up to say “hello” or an old familiar name will be signed at the bottom of an email asking about doing a project and that’s always nice.

Q: Do you have any additonal thoughts or comments?
A: The musical poster still has a great part to play in the full experience of a night’s show. With the internet making things smaller and more deliverable but less tangible, the poster can be a thing that a fan can hold and admire and that carries its own weight as a representation of a grand night of music. Posters are big and bold and full of imagination to further spur the mind toward considering imagery within a song that might have been passed over or missed by the casual listener. A poster is (in my case) handmade and comes directly from my mind as a concept, from my pen as art, and from my back and hands as hand printed artwork painstakingly laid down one single color, one single print at a time, each touched and touched again before being signed and sent away to find a new owner who will have enjoyed the sounds of the night, the experience with the performers and who will touch the artwork themselves as they carry it and bring it into their home to become part of their daily life. Metal, modern folk, bluegrass or jazz, garage rock or the noisiest punk … it serves the same purpose to all of the fans it encounters, and thanks to bands like ESMZ who put real value on having prints made by artists like myself and providing them to their fans — those connections are maintained. For that I thank you.

For more information about Guy Burwell, visit www.guyburwell.com.

Click here to purchase ESMZ tour posters.


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