The secret is out -- on Nocturnal Show Print, that is. The fledgling poster company, whose work has touted performances by The Reigning Sound, The Bloodthirsty Lovers, Lucero, and Cory Branan, is on the rise. The company's owners and sole employees, 25-year-old Michael Carpenter and 21-year-old Sasha Barr, recently took the show on the road, attending Flatstock conventions at SXSW in Austin, Texas, last spring and at the Bumbershoot Festival in Seattle, Washington, over Labor Day weekend.
"All these people we were already working for, like Lucero and Cory Branan, were playing SXSW, so we packed up the car and went," Barr explains. "It was like a vacation, but it was also very business-oriented," he says, noting that his company landed one of its biggest jobs -- screen-printing posters and CD/DVD packaging for the Bonnaroo Music Festival -- while in Austin.
"We've gotten to meet all these other artists at Flatstock," Carpenter notes, citing a chance meeting with famed poster designer Derek Hess. ("I was scrambling to get the booth open, and this guy walked up and started talking to me. He said his name was Derek, but I didn't realize it was that Derek," Carpenter says.) That meeting led to work for such groups as Small Brown Bike and Hope's Fall, bands that the Nocturnal crew had never heard of. "It all goes back to being 15 years old and hanging out with friends who had bands," Carpenter says. "I was into art, so I was always drawing fliers for their shows."
The two met at the University of Memphis; Carpenter was enrolled in the design program and Barr was studying traditional printmaking. "We got along really well, so we decided to see what we could do together," Barr explains. Carpenter adds, "We were coming from opposite directions. He's more loose-minded and focused on the actual printing, while I'm more technical, and I had access to the computers [at the U of M]. We had different clients and different friends, but we fit really well together."
In late 2001, the duo printed their first project, a poster for a Lucero show on New Year's Eve. "It went on from there," Carpenter says modestly, nodding to such bands as Loggia and Snowglobe and local venue Young Avenue Deli, which hired Nocturnal Show Print to create posters for national acts like indie stalwarts Guided By Voices, breaking blues artist Robert Randolph, and comedian David Cross.
They've also printed a CD package for Ben Harper ("Hand-cut, hand-folded, and hand-assembled, with full-color printing front and back," Carpenter remembers. "It took us about 30 hours to finish 500 of 'em"); a series of snowboard designs for Ride snowboards; two CD packages for Lucero; and posters for Tha Movement and Precious Cargo's Hip Hop Overload. "We've just finished doing some stuff for Beth Gibbons of Portishead," Barr says. "I was really stoked to get a job offer from someone I've listened to since I was 14 years old."
So how do they hold down their day jobs? Carpenter, a designer at Red Deluxe, a local ad agency, and Barr, a full-time student at the U of M who also pulls down a waiter position at the Glass Onion, both laugh. "We don't really make much money on the posters," Carpenter says. "It's hard, because a lot of our clients are our friends, and we don't want to price ourselves out of a job. We're working on this 40 hours a week now, in addition to our regular jobs." Hopefully, he explains, Nocturnal Show Print will eventually turn a serious profit. "That's the goal," he says. "Anybody would wanna own their own business. That's the American way."
"Each and every poster is a work of art," Carpenter continues. "There's more to it than just monetary value; these posters will stand the test of time. A paper flier is gonna come down, but these posters are taken down by people who want to hang them in their houses. They become collector's items."
"As long as we can keep doing something different, we're happy," Barr concludes. "One of the best parts of this job is creating a print for someone whose music I enjoy. It's a good feeling to know someone's music and be able to interpret it in a two-dimensional way."
Read more about the company at NocturnalShowPrint.com or visit GigPosters.com for more info. Carpenter and Barr's work will also be featured in Print magazine's Regional Design issue, out this December.
Jack White, the more visible half of The White Stripes, spent the better part of last week at Easley-McCain Recording Studios in Midtown. The guitarist, who is reportedly working on a solo album, holed up in the studio's control room with country great Loretta Lynn, mixing down tracks that the two had recorded at Lynn's Nashville home in September. Stuart Sikes engineered the session. Just last month, Easley-McCain received a gold record celebrating sales for the White Stripes' third album, White Blood Cells, which was recorded at the studio in January 2001, with Sikes engineering.