Q&A: WBYK

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Published:  June 28, 2012
Desktop
Q&A: WBYK

Go to any inner-city café, and chances are you will spot a music poster on the wall by WBYK – the collaboration between Sonny Day and Biddy Maroney. We speak to them about their knack for creating the perfect band poster, and ask photographer John Deer to capture a selection of their recent designs.

Your illustrations end up on a lot of things, but you’re particularly known for your band posters. How did this come about?
The two of us only began working together when we started making posters for [record label/ events agency] Popfrenzy. That was just for fun – Sonny was screen-printing posters after hours, as merchandise to sell at the shows. Our relationship with Popfrenzy started because Sonny was chatting to [Popfrenzy founder] Chris Wu at an exhibition about how awesome screen-printed posters are. The screen-prints were really all we were interested in back then; café posters, which we do so many of now, were an afterthought. Slowly we were approached to work on more print projects, for more music clients, then CD covers, identities… and it was suddenly a full-time job.

Could you talk a bit about the briefing, concept and design periods for music posters? How do you get approached? Are the briefs quite strict?
Jobs are as varied as each band, tour promoter or whoever’s hiring us. We generally get an email from a band or manager, who has seen our work before. We have a lot of freedom with posters, that’s why we love them so much. There’s a sense of spontaneity about a poster for a night, or a tour of live performances. It can be a chance for the band to let loose, and we often get completely open briefs. The main focus is obviously to let people know the show is on, and for them to buy tickets, so creating something attention-grabbing and appropriate to the music is key.

What’s your research period like (especially when it’s a band you’re not familiar with)? How much does the actual music of the band inspire the poster’s design?
We don’t have time for any research other than listening to the music. That’s another of the best things about it: there’s no need to ever go looking for ‘inspiration’ – it’s right there. We’ve been familiar with most of the bands we’ve made posters for (and huge fans of many as well). Working for the Laneway Festival, or Popfrenzy for example, feels quite natural, as these are the shows we’d be going to anyway.

As creative as these posters are, there are often commercial/practical elements that need to be included – dates, websites, sponsors’ logos etc. How do you work with these? Any pet peeves?
We started doing this music design work because we love the screen-prints you can get at shows – they don’t need to have all the ticketing details, logos etc that go on a café poster. But now that we mostly make café posters, there are a bunch of mandatories we need to work with. We recently had an exhibition and initially we were going to remove all of the type from our posters and just display illustrations. But they just didn’t work – we had to redo them all, because the illustrations are part of an overall design.

We wouldn’t call it a ‘peeve’ but adding a packshot of the album is maybe the weirdest bit. Excessive text can be worked with, but an album cover that’s crazily different to the imagery you’ve created can be jarring.

Your posters are so varied, but definitely have a WBYK look. How do you balance the brief and best represention of the band, while still remaining true to your design aesthetic and style?
The posters are varied because the music is. We’ve been lucky to work for bands we love, and feel our style is appropriate for, and then have been approached by other bands that have liked what we’ve done. Each job is our own take on the artists’ music and, while we do consciously avoid making the posters too similar, there’s a lot of Sonny and Biddy in each design, because at the end of the day we’re also fans and excited to be part of the event in some way.

Photography by John Deer – photography.cleverdeer.com.

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