Ever feel like knocking on a neighbor's door for a little "get to know you" session? Concert poster designer Dylan McConnell isn't exactly my neighbor, but his work is just down the block. Chances are you've been to a show he's designed a poster for—and if not, you've most definitely walked past one on the street (unless you're an agoraphobic
). All across the city, his concert posters adorn telephone poles—announcing gigs for a host of local venues from Backspace to Holocene, both the Wonder and Crystal Ballrooms and beyond (like the Knitting Factory in New York). A native of Michigan, McConnell came to settle in Portland four years ago, and has been knee-deep in commissions ever since getting a hand up from Blackbird Presents' Chantelle Hylton. The 32-year-old has parlayed those initial posters into a full-time career with a catalog now hundreds of designs strong.
In addition to posters, McConnell builds websites that carry his signature graphics. Ever visited the official site
of music box-esque musician Ethan Rose? Or the site
for the politically aware Portlanders Little Beirut? McConnell wove the code for both. For the visually minded among you, a handful of his posters appear with the interview below.
How long have you been doing concert posters?
I did it a bit in college and since moving here four years ago, increasingly more and more often. Now it seems like I am doing posters every day. The first poster I ever made in Portland was for Tommy of the Wanteds, back when he was a one man band, sweating that shit out every night. Then I think I just started petitioning venues for a while, but that didn't really work. It pretty much was Chantelle who gave me my break (if you will), doing her posters for Blackbird. She is such a sweetheart—we need to kidnap her [back] from the Knitting Factory.
What drew you to concert posters?
Unlike most graphic design you generally do not get to be graphic. Oh, and the bitchez.
Where do you ideas come from?
I wouldn't know—haven't had a good one in years. The absurd ones—probably from residual drug use. There was a time when I decided to see how much profanity and sexual innuendo I could get away with. The funny thing is that if people noticed, they didn't say anything. Now I can't stop putting eyes on things. Could be the drug use, too. Good times.
How long does it take you to do a concert poster?
It varies on the amount of caffeine in my blood and distractions within my visible field. Sometimes I can rock them out, sometimes its like pulling out hair. But you have to keep going, as they tend to pile up. Sometimes its good to let them sit for a while 'til you have a better idea.
You do both websites and posters—do you have a day-job outside of them or are they your bread and butter?
Nope, no day-job. So far I have been able to do this for a couple of years without interruption and thank god—I am not a model employee. But I am a wonderful boss. I give plenty of benefits and time off, whenever needed. But not raises—not yet.
How important is working on music-related things to you?
It's about all I do.
Do you make music yourself?
Yes. As the Snowfields and to a certain degree my trash band Oxykitten. I also run a label with others called Stereotype - it's about five years old I bet There are two more fellows - Philip Golden and Eric Holden (Phillip used to be in a band in this town Mission to Mars). We release music we find wonderful—like Autopilot is for Lovers, who's EP we just put out, and Mike Coykendall, who's music should know if you don't—he is marvelous, and an amazing recording engineer. He just recorded Chores, who are fucking awesome. I would like to sign them tomorrow. Ever notice this town is full of labels? We have released albums by all sorts of folks—Amanda Jo Williams, Ollie Byrd, H is for Hellgate and others.
Secret Asian Trustfund
Photo and posters courtesy of Mr. McConnell.