Industry Insiders: Brandy Flower, Art Artillerist
Los Angeles underground artist Brandy Flower of Hit+Run Crew, on touring the world’s parties to bring art to the people, the death of the Xanax-munching, skinny jean-clad hipster, keeping up with the latest conspiracies and why his grandma thinks he’s boring.
What exactly do you do? I never learned any silkscreen technique, so for my 30th birthday, I bought a small starter kit and set it up in my kitchen. As a hobby, I started printing in my apartment and throwing small parties silk-screening on old clothes people would bring over. After I printed at a friend’s backyard party in summer 2005, my college friend Mike Crivello realized that people loved checking out the screen-printing process, and he wanted to start a clothing line that used live printing as promotion. In November 2005, two months before Sony decided to move all creative services to New York, Mike and I started HIT+RUN with an event at the Blue Nile Cafe in Long Beach. Close to 200 events later, we have traveled all over the United States, to Europe and Japan, and have never had to solicit anyone to have HIT+RUN at their party.
HIT+RUN usually seems to be the center of the action at most parties. Why do you think that is? It’s a phenomenon. Not only does HIT+RUN provide a service of printing T-shirts, but we also double as entertainment that people can watch for hours. Most people are unaware of the actual silkscreen process and find the public display informative and insightful. A lot of times, participants will have to wait in line for over an hour for their chance to get an original HIT+RUN shirt. For someone to have the individual opportunity of creating a shirt design exact to their vision is both rewarding and empowering. You know, people ask: “Hey nice shirt, where’d you get it?” And the answer? “I made it!”
At parties, you typically print up to six one-of-a-kind designs of the customers’ choosing by some of the city’s most radical artists. Who have you been most stoked to collaborate with in your work? I love to collaborate and encourage group participation at all times. I’ve been fortunate to meet a group of amazingly talented people in LA, and we’ve printed past the boundaries of its cliques and scenes. Building community and inspiring like-minded individuals to get involved is something Crew encourages. There are just as many talented unknown personalities in this town, than the overexposed cliché egomaniacs and sycophants that tend to get all of the attention — true visionaries like B+ who took photos of every West Coast hip hopper there was, and now he makes movies. Visual artists like Restitution Press, The Seventh Letter, and Mear who unapologetically transformed this town into their own public gallery. Frohawk Two-Feathers always seemed like the new Basquiat … I think we were underestimating him. Madlib and Saul Williams are icons of our time. MFG is rad, so is frosty.
ArtDontSleep continues to bring L.A. the most amazing events ever witnessed — don’t sleep! Let’s see … Kofie, Retna … Chaz Bojorquez, Augor, and Kime Buzzelli have been quietly laying down their craft and will be heralded as purveyors of the West Coast street art movement of the early 21st century.
What are some of the best parties you’ve been involved with in LA? It’s really hard to choose a favorite event because each HIT+RUN is a totally different. We always have new exclusive screens/art, so no two parties or T-shirts are ever the same. Often we are hired by companies to help hype their products, but events outside our usual zone of influence are most rewarding. Charity and youth groups are fun to collaborate with, but it’s probably April 2008’s LA VS. WAR that was one of the most socially impactful events we’ve been a part of. For four days, we printed shirts for free in downtown LA at one of the largest political & peace exhibitions I’ve ever witnessed. Distributing truthful information and conscious anti-establishment messages to a repressed public is the most commendable act that any contemporary artist can do.
Who would you say is your crowd? Have you seen your fans change at all through two years as you get bigger and better known? When we first started HIT+RUN, no one knew what we were doing at a club with all that screen-printing equipment. Nowadays screen-printing is a common fixture at events all over the world. It’s great to see people come to a HIT+RUN wearing a shirt from a previous party. Crew has grown drastically, and in just under three years we’ve made over 30,000 one-of-a-kind T-shirts. Supporters of the arts and people that wear T-shirts are our crowd. I could not describe them as one demographic; Crew is male, female, adults, kids, artists, celebrities, fashionistas, conservatives, corporate clients, conspiracists, art lovers, and party animals. Crew is hard, you know who you are.
You throw so many great ragers in LA. What do you think makes a truly great party different from just a good party? Everyone forgets how important a great DJ is to a party. It’s invaluable to have great music — not just a superstar big-name that everyone just wants to see, but not hear. Free drinks are cool. If Polite In Public or HIT+RUN is at your party, it’s looking really good. If Kutmah is DJing, you are golden.
Any other local DJs you work with or love? We really love to champion all Crew as often as possible, like DJs Gaslamp Killer, Flying Lotus, J-Rocc, and the dublab collective, who all supply inspiration. Their mutual respect and camaraderie is proof of a healthy and expanding Los Angeles artist community. I saw The Gaslamp Killer DJ a small club a few years ago and instantly knew he was different than other DJs. He has the charisma and energy of a rock performer and his fans fucking love him. I gots no rhythm, but Kutmah is the best dance-floor DJ I have ever witnessed. I’ve seen a zillion DJs, but no one with as much soul or ability to read a crowd better.
What do you do with time off from HIT+RUN? One of my side projects is Mark of the Beast. A few years ago, I began designing culture-jammed corporate logo spoofs and started having art shows around the collection. After the initial show was illegally shut down by the police, I self-published a book in 2006 documenting the work and show up to that point. Since then, I’ve had six additional site-specific showings of MOTB that included murals, stickers, photos, live screen-printing, and most recently a spin-off called Bank of the Beast that comments on the convoluted banking history of the U.S. and the Federal Reserve. Attempting to spread truth in a world of disinformation is the most important task of all people today. Social satire is a necessary component in our world and a good way to bridge gaps of opposing beliefs.
So when you’re not working the crowds yourself, where do you like to hang out in the city? HIT+RUN appears at four to eight events per month, so that schedule keeps me pretty busy dealing with clients, coordinating art, and producing events. In my downtime, I try to keep up on new music, art, world events, and enjoy watching documentaries on politics, philosophy, and various conspiracies. I live on the sleepy west side, and recently stopped drinking alcohol, but my grandma thinks that is boring.
Ha ha. No comment. Any LA secret spots you wanna reveal? We just moved into our first studio space in downtown LA near the offices of Little Radio. The owners of Little Radio plan on developing the area and expanding its space into a culture zone complete with music venue, bar, restaurant, and art gallery. Low End Theory, a weekly club in nearby Boyle Heights, hosts the most eclectic mix of underground DJs & musicians you can witness. Oh yeah, big ups to Will, Kev, and Elvin on their recent trips for LET New York and Japan.
And we can never help but want a little gossip…fuck or fight anyone interesting lately? All summer long we printed at these “uber-cool” pool parties at the Standard Hotel Downtown. We’d jokingly refer to them as our monthly “Hipster Toss” where we throw the “casualties of cool” off the rooftop. I don’t understand hipsters, not their oddball fashion or mindless dance music and retro-isms. We made silk-screens that unapologetically blasted the biggest douche bags of the scene, and I’m proud to report their era as officially over. Time to put the day-glo sunglasses, skinny jeans, small hat, American Apparel deep V-neck tee, shiny tights, Xanax, and cocaine away, k? You look fucking retarded.
And what comes next? We are currently talking with investors about expanding HIT+RUN to the East Coast and are setting up a Crew in New York City. We appeared at over 100 events in 2008 and hope to double that in 2009. We are taking our first trip to London this month and hope to continue our global presence and enlarge the Crew.
And what are you doing tonight? We did an event last night and have five events planned in the next two weeks, so tonight I’m chilling at home doing laundry, watching conspiracy videos, and trying to figure out my Halloween costume…
Photo: Hugo Toland