Q&A: Aesthetic Apparatus distills beauty from poor choices

In a decade that will be characterized by staggering unemployment and one of the greatest recessions in recent history, it is refreshing to hear Aesthetic Apparatus’s story.  Forging a partnership based on a shared love of music, art, and design, Dan Ibarra and Michael Byzewski left their jobs at a Madison, Wisconsin, graphic-design firm in 2002 to do things their way.

Their creation — Aesthetic Apparatus — is a Minneapolis-based commercial art and printmaking studio that has designed everything from gallery art to logos for local pizza shops to concert posters for bands such as Cake and The Black Keys. Leaving a successful graphic-design studio to start something for themselves didn’t promise Ibarra and Byzewski immediate success, but it did set the stage for Aesthetic Apparatus to become modern-day purveyors of pop-culture cool.

Ibarra recently took some time to talk about Aesthetic Apparatus’s unique vision.

Black Moth Super Rainbow

Interview: Black Moth Super Rainbow on lyrical masks (on masks)

Black Moth Super Rainbow: Cobra JuicyBlack Moth Super Rainbow: Cobra Juicy (Rad Cult, 10/23/13)

“Hairspray Heart”

Black Moth Super Rainbow: “Hairspray Heart”

If the eccentric, lo-fi style of early Black Moth Super Rainbow releases seemed to destine principal member Tom Fec (AKA Tobacco) to permanent cult status, the last two BMSR albums have been marked by a dramatic shift toward production polish. And even though Fec has gone back to producing himself for latest album Cobra Juicy, the new material delves even further into pop than its 2009, Dave Fridmann-produced predecessor, Eating Us. The new album’s sound may surprise longtime fans who were drawn to Fec’s rough-hewn approach, but Fec himself is surprised that anyone took interest in his work in the first place.

“When I first started out making tapes in high school,” he explains, “I just knew that no one was going to like what I was doing. So I always made shit just for me. I never planned on doing shows; I never planned on doing anything. I was trying to make shit that no one else was making that I wanted to hear. [Third album] Dandelion Gum was the epitome of that, but that’s why the audience came to the table in the first place.”

Donovan Foote: Piano Man

Posters & Packaging: Donovan Foote

Designer and illustrator Donovan Foote was entranced by the practice of drawing as a little kid. This preliminary interest led to his discovery and appreciation for comics and cartoons — an influence that’s readily apparent within his work.

Around the age of 11, Foote took up trumpet. “My dad is a big jazz guy, so I grew up listening to a lot of jazz music,” he says. “Most of my friends were only listening to rock, so I think the exposure to something other than rock ‘n’ roll had a big impact on me.”

Foote went on to play in a seven-piece ska band during high school and college, which revealed a whole realm of underground music. “I really loved all the new and odd music I heard while playing little shows,” Foote says. He eventually went on to pick up bass and currently plays in the Chicago-based band Torch Singer. The band will soon release its debut EP, Living Room, but Foote’s musical endeavors are more or less a side project to his visual work.

Donovan Foote: If You're Frightened of Dying album art
Donovan Foote: If You're Frightened of Dying album art

Weekly Music News Roundup

Dysrhythmia begins recording its new album; Tinariwen announces UK dates with Tunng; Prefuse 73 has a new album and a project with Zach Hill; Lifetime reissues a pair of albums; Pelican signs to Southern Lord. Read about this and more in our weekly roundup.

Weekly Music News Roundup

Announcements are made for new albums from Irepress, Karl Sanders, Black Moth Super Rainbow, and Staff Benda Bilili — a group of paraplegic Congolese street musicians.

Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey releases its new studio album for free; Secret Chiefs 3 announces a concert DVD; Les Claypool announces an outstanding mini festival that will be in a town near you. This and more after the jump.