Q&A with Matt Leunig

July 22, 2016

Q: How many Edward Sharpe tour posters have you created?
A:They have appeared on a couple festival posters I have done, but I have only done one Edward Sharpe poster for the band, The Fillmore San Francisco – 2010.

Q: Can you talk a little about the inspiration behind the 2010 San Francisco poster and the meaning behind it all?
A: I actually initially had another design before this one. The art was completed, and in the end, it was canned because the promoter was not feeling it, which is rare at that stage. It was a similar trippy piece featuring a woman with multiple faces holding a scorpion in her hand. The scorpion was a key design element that I couldn’t get out of my head for some reason. A lot of my initial concepts had a very rustic feel to them, featuring the band as a traveling desert caravan or with a sole Western troubadour wandering through the plains. After the first design got canned, I focused on the scorpion idea and tried to harken back to some of those iconic 60s posters with their bold colors and eye-popping graphics.

Q: Describe your creative process for interpreting and transforming music into a poster art?
A: Most of the time before a gig, I try to go deep and just devour their entire musical catalogue. It’s rare that I will know nothing about a band I am working with, but I always try to get inspiration from lyrics, imagery associated with the band, music videos, etc. Where they are playing – the city and the venue – is a great place to pull inspiration from, both visually and historically. From there, I will try to create 3-4 concepts and send them out to the band. Sometimes it’s hard to come up with anything good, but other times my mind goes off and you end up with 12 ideas that you force yourself to try and whittle down.

Q: Were you a fan of ESMZ before you were asked to create the poster art?
A: I was a fan of ESMZ before the gig. I had that first album on repeat a lot when it first came out and remember actively pursuing the gig. I have fallen off a bit following them recently but still enjoy listening to them in the studio. They have influenced a ton of bands that followed them who are kind of unsuccessfully mimicking their music and vibe.

Q: Have you ever seen ESMZ in concert? Describe your experience(s).
A: I have seen ESMZ a couple times in concert, the last unfortunately being the Fillmore show in 2010. I enjoy how loose their shows felt … very playful and had a spur-of-the-moment vibe. They had the entire audience sit on the ground at one point for a couple songs, which I thought was amazing and disgusting at the same time. Not sure if you have been to the Fillmore in San Francisco but imagine the floor of a movie theater in Times Square, but worse.

Q: How did you get into creating poster art for musicians?
A: I’ve always loved concert posters since seeing the old 60s Wes Wilson and Krew Fillmore prints in high school and did a lot event posters and artwork for friends bands in college. After graduating, I moved to San Francisco – to the Haight – trying to chase the old vibe but things had moved on since then. The beauty of attempting to break into concert posters in San Francisco at the time … the venues and bands had a long history of doing them and knew what I was talking about. Gigposters are everywhere now but people forget most clubs didn’t even know what they were even 5 years ago.

I began working with most of the venues and promoters in the Bay Area. Many times losing money on early gigs when having to sell prints at the bands merch tables. Some times you print too many. Some times the art sucks. Some times the band sucks and people leave early. Eventually bands started asking me to do gigs outside of the Bay Area and I had started collecting enough repeat bands in my rolodex that I was able to do this full time. I lucked out a lot due to my location and realize that I probably wouldn’t have been able to break into this in a smaller town. It’s comes down to a lot of luck and hard work. I’ve been doing this for 10 years and feel very blessed. Things seem easier now though. There are “gigposter” classes being taught in art schools and screenprinting as an art has taken off more than ever. Bands realize now that merch is an important part of touring and the “collector” market has brought a new energy and fervor to everything.

Q: Additional comments or favorite Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros story?
A: I haven’t done a poster for the band in a while but have seen a ton of beautiful ESMZ posters since then. The relationship between art and music is very timeless and important and when teamed together, good music usually leads to good art and hopefully, in cases, vice versa…

For more information about Matt Leunig, visit www.scrapedknee.com.

Click here to purchase ESMZ tour posters.

Matt Leunig

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