Many people are perfectly content honing a single skill throughout their lives. You might, for instance, be great a cooking. (Or gardening! Or reupholstery! Or badminton!) For these people, doing one thing really, really well is satisfaction enough. There are some, however, who simply refuse to be good at just one thing. These people, apparently put on this earth for the sole purpose of driving others green with envy, steal all of the thunder with their fabulous multi-talents. One such person is our friend David Saracino. In addition to being a totally brilliant illustrator (he’s contributed quite a bit to this own site!), this guy also speaks two languages, grows a mean head of luscious red hair, and plays bass for the Brooklyn-based band, Truest. Seriously, what can he not do?
I’ve always been curious about people who dabble in both the visual and musical world, especially those who do both well. Both artistic realms deal with things that aren’t easily put into words, but do so in completely different sensory ways. Musicians and visual artists often work together to bridge the gap between the two mediums—whether it be for album art, promotional posters, or set design—but it’s fascinating when these two people are actually the same person. Here at D*S, we’re all about melding our favorite things together and two of our favorite things are design and music. David, somebody who is equally skilled at both, was kind enough to share some insight into his process, how he toggles between his two artistic vocations, and what it’s like working for other musicians. Check out more of David’s work and words after the jump! —Max
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Above image: A gig poster designed for Swansong Booking.
Tell us a little bit about your band, Truest, and how music became a part of your life.
Truest is an indie-pop-psychedelic outfit from Brooklyn, NY. Three of its five members (myself included) are from Buffalo, NY, and I used to be an avid listener and concert-goer before they asked me to join. Although I’ve been primarily a drummer for most of my musical career, I play bass and provide backup vocals when we play live. I started playing drums around 1997 when I lived in Tuscany for two years with my family. We lived outside of Siena, and I was extremely influenced by the Sienese Contrada drummers and flag throwers.
Although musicians often want their music to speak for itself, so much of shaping an artist’s public persona and style comes down to visual presentation—album art, clothing, makeup, promotional design (the list goes on). If your band has a specific visual aesthetic, what do you think that is? How do you try to communicate this through the design and art you create for them?
Truest’s visual aesthetic is mostly derived from deep space photos of nebulae, along with a sort of neo-technological design that sometimes gets paired with images of nature; whenever I try to explain it, I usually end up referencing “Tron,” and using the word “trippy.” I love using black, along with bright, neon blue-greens and yellows. Recently I’ve come across some great new fairly realistic-looking photoshop brushes, so I try to include some semblance of a hand-drawn feel, despite working almost exclusively in photoshop. We haven’t taken the makeup route, but instead have a unique light show that accompanies us on stage. We rigged a series of small bulbs into chandelier clusters, and along with a few can lights, a lighting rig, and a laptop, we’re able to produce a pretty enticing strobe show.
How is working for your own band different from working for others? And by the same token, how is working for any musician different than working for, say, a publication or a business?
Doing artwork for Truest can be pretty different than doing it for other bands. This is mostly because sometimes, depending on the project, my bandmates need to weigh in their ideas as well. It’s not really a problem, in fact it usually helps me know sooner what they’re collectively looking for. However when I’m doing work for other bands, whether it’s a poster or album art, they know my work as well as my aesthetic, so they usually let me roam free and do whatever I’d like. Both ways of working have their pros and cons, so it’s nice to mix it up between doing work for Truest and other bands.
When I’m doing work for a publication or a business, it’s usually the same deal, because art directors usually will know how I work and know what to expect, so they usually just help in the concept stage. I almost prefer working exclusively for this kind of client, mostly because of the tight, concrete deadlines they provide. I work best when I have a definite date in mind for when an assignment is due, and sometimes bands are a little lax in that department.
Above images: David’s logo design and cover artwork for his own band, Truest.
When working with other musicians, what sort of considerations do you take when creating their own visuals? Do musicians (and other clients) typically come to you because of your own personal aesthetic, or do you try to shape your own style around the artist’s sound?
I sort of already answered this in the preceding question, but yes, most bands will hire me for their art and design needs because they know what kind of look they’re going to get out of me. Regardless, I try to tailer the style of a specific piece around either what the band sounds like, or if it’s a gig poster, the name of the venue where they’re playing. I know the majority of the bands I do work for at a personal level, so I’m usually pretty familiar with their sound. If I don’t know what they sound like, I will always look them up first hand (or during the process), to make sure I’m not painting a Tron-like environment for a group with more of a twang.
You recently worked with the Brooklyn-based band Great Caesar (a group we just recently featured in our e-mail newsletter). What has the process of working with them been like? How did you go about creating a visual representation for the group’s personality and sound?
Working with Great Caesar is a great example of a group that has a specific sound, know what they want, and are familiar with working professionally with deadlines. One of the members, Mike Farrell, has done gig posters himself in the past, so working with him as the coordinator has been super fun and smooth. They have a very unique sound that pulls from different disciplines, so I try to include a bunch of different elements into their posters. Mike loves when I let my mind wander and come up with bizarre scenarios for their gig posters, and although they might not scream “GREAT CAESAR,” they are definitely memorable visually and that’s why they prefer me.
Above images: David’s work for another Brooklyn-based band, Great Caesar.
Do you think being a visual artist has influenced your musical work? Or vice versa?
Hmmm…that’s a really good question. I think that playing with Truest has definitely influenced my art more, because it stimulates a bunch of visuals in my head. I definitely have conjured up new elements since I’ve started to play with them, and a lot of that comes from the dreamy, psychedelic vibe that I feel whenever I’m listening to our recordings.
What musicians and musical groups do you think have the best visual presentation? Are there any particular artists whose work with music is particularly inspiring to you?
A ton of musicians that have their own visual aesthetic, and it’s usually attributed to having a tremendously talented illustrator / designer work with them closely. It might be trite, but Radiohead’s mouse/bear might be one of the best marketing images I’ve seen a band have. Cake’s mid-century-stock-illustration album covers, Fleet Foxes’ baroque cover, Grizzly Bear’s trendy & hip painted covers are all excellent examples of visuals that pair very well with their style of music. While photography is also a great vessel (M83’s photography come to mind), I much prefer a painted / illustrated method for album covers.
All talk of style and art aside—what sort of music do you listen to yourself? Who are your favorite musicians right now?
Presently I’m listening to a lot of indie / folk / electronic / slower stuff because the majority of the time I’m listening to music is while I’m working, and that (thankfully) takes up the majority of my day. As of late, it’s been The Love Language, M83, Electric President, George Harrison, Ramona Falls, and Pinback.
Above image: another gig poster for Swansong Booking.
Above image: David’s portrait of Satomi from Deerhoof.