Billy Mather – Art in the Brighton Music Scene

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We’ve all been there… You become conscious of your surroundings for the first time in god knows how many hours and realize you’ve definitely taken advantage of one too many drink offers in a bar somewhere in Brighton. Dimly self-aware and currently micturating, you glance up and realise that dancing around you are lines and colours, grins and eyes and shapes that hint at what demons might occupy and enjoy the gradually ubiquitous blurring and slurring of your senses. A vague thought bubbles up about the artist behind it, but you’re too drunk and too determined to waste what’s left of your work-fried brain to think about it too much. So I’ve decided to write you this.

Instruments from Sofar Sounds Brighton

Billy Mather is an illustrator who lives in Brighton. Influenced primarily by the darker side of our music scene here, he seems to have a gift for channeling his thoughts into darkly comic expressions, scattering themselves across the seaside of sin from gig posters to toilet doors and pianos. He’s got plenty of other work too so check it all out on his site, link’s at the bottom.

Billy told me that he’s never forgotten a piece of advice given to him by one of his illustration tutors on the BA in Southampton. In art, there is a difference between being accurate and being believable. What comes out of this guy’s mind motivated by that phrase is some of the most distinctive art in the city, somehow managing to retain an incredibly strong sense of the artist’s character; even as the lines and colours begin to intertwine in your head and become part of your thought process. Just like editorial illustration accompanies words on a page, so his work complements and influences your internal monologue as you’re exposed to it.

Click to enlarge

For a Brighton local, the sense of familiarity that emanates from even the most twisted smile and reptilian eye in the center of his most contorted face feels commonplace and natural without ever needing to veer toward a convention. The faces in Billy’s work dance at the edge of recognition, demonically dancing on the ledge between chaotic artistic interpretation and comfortable verisimilitude, which is a long way of saying you really need to check this guy out and give him more work.

Unlike those last two paragraphs, the artwork never smacks of too much thought or trying too hard. It stands out in its naked honesty; it’s inclination to bend further towards expression than conformity. His work across the toilets of the Blind Tiger Club stretch out, allowed a luxurious amount of space yet still reaching further, expanding and moving as you look. Other pieces to watch out for around Brighton decorate Sticky Mike’s Frog bar and Northern Lights.

Please forgive the following phrase, (I promise I’m not just being lazy) but you really can’t sum his work up in words. That’s why this art exists. It expresses the feeling of standing in that space, the artist’s thoughts as he listens. Somehow, he translates the committee of voices that characterise an active mind and regiments them with ink and paint, producing expressions of the space or the event that simply couldn’t exist any other way.

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Links:

Billy’s Website

Facebook

Songs from a room: Sofar sounds Brighton

I want to make you aware of Sofar Sounds. The website gives a short, simple description:

“We have created a movement which brings music lovers together in secret living room locations to hear some of the world’s most cutting edge artists. In order to create an intimate and spellbinding atmosphere, we ask that nobody talk during performances.” www.sofarsounds.com

Here’s what it looks like:

 

 

A simple concept, but started in the same spirit that made me want to write this blog. It’s a platform for bringing people and music together in a memorable atmosphere, and by doing so, gives the art a way of recapturing its aura and authenticity. Bringing the quiet respect and reverie that accompanies a poetry reading and applying that to an art form that, at times, appears to be floundering in a miserable state, partly of its own creation.

In the good old days, it was easy to make people pay for music. They simply had to; there wasn’t an option. At first, people were able to sell recorded music in the form of written notation, distributing instructions on how to recreate the sound of the piece in your own home, using nothing more than a simple piano and your own voice. If you wanted to hear music, you had to learn how to play it. Or, you could find a friend who knew how, but you’d have to find someone willing, then sit down together and experience it, most likely with even more people involved. It was a group experience, shared interpretations of a composer’s vision. Otherwise, you’d have to go to a scheduled live performance. Music was impossible without investing either time or money, but most likely both.

Even with the arrival of mechanical reproduction, allowing for most of the 20th Century music industry to happen, the music industry held all the cards. Recording equipment was expensive. If a songwriter wanted to record, they had to find someone with enough money to buy and maintain this equipment, and they’d have to work out an arrangement with them to use their facilities in return for a fee, or a share in the profits of the music. The people who owned the equipment could make as many recordings as they liked, transforming various materials into objects that would recreate a musical performance in people’s homes. Whatever the specifics of the artist/manager/record company relationship, the audiences couldn’t get their mitts on the music of their favourite artist without going through the men who controlled the recording equipment.

Now though, we’re here. Digital reproduction allows any of us to make endless free, perfect copies of any music we own. We can call thousands of songs within a few moments of deciding we’d like to hear something, and all this does something to the power music can have to affect us. With fewer people respecting music as art, and with so many subcultures through the last century co-opted by mainstream companies and used in advertising, songs which may have once poignantly expressed a social injustice or beautiful captured a moment in time are shackled to this week’s special at Burger King or last month’s car insurance deals.

 

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