The Guys behind the Graphics: Interviews with Bands’ Gig Poster Artists

It’s time the unsung heroes behind the beautiful art posted on your venues’ street corner got some recognition. These are the people crafting the exquisite visual complements to bands’ tunes: the Gig Poster Artists. We interviewed Ben Wilson and Brian Manley to shed some light on this part of the music biz.

Ben Wilson
Worked with the Shins, Fleet Foxes,  and Iron & Wine
Check his work out at

1. Where do your roots as an artist begin?
Very young… I remember my older brother teaching me how to draw battle scenes with flying saucers and tanks. I was kind of hooked ever since. I also won a little art contest in my elementary school. That gave me some early confidence and encouragement to stick with it.

2. How did you make the transition into making album art?
I honestly haven’t done a ton of album art. But when I have, it is basically a result of a band seeing my art or concert posters somewhere and then they contact me. Album art is always a blast. I really enjoy attempting to create a visual representation of something audio. That is why I’m so attracted to concert posters as well. I feel like I’m a bit of a music nerd, so I think I just gravitate towards that industry.
3. What influenced your personal style of art?
My biggest influences in recent years has mainly been music and visual artists of every discipline. Built To Spill, Animal Collective, The Helio Sequence, The Decemberists, Menomena… to name a few, are groups that tend to really inspire me artistically. Scott Hanson, Matthew Barney, Hayao Miyazaki, Bill Carman, Tyler Stout, Erin Ruiz, James Jean, David Mack, Greg Simkins, Kozyndan,… I can go on forever about visual artists that inspire me. I’m also highly influenced by everyday life and what goes on around me and my family. When I was younger comic books and movies were by far my biggest influences. Though I still enjoy both, inspirational experiences with those mediums have been few and far between in my adult life.
4. You’ve done work from many amazing acts–how has that been working with them?
It is kind of rare for me to work directly with a band. It ranges form promoters, venues, managers, event planners, to the bands cousin. However, when I do work directly with the bands it is always great. Rogue Wave was one of my favorite bands to work with. They were just good, easy going people. They were also the first band I ever worked with, so it is special in that way as well.
5. Have you found that your personal music preferences affect the type of bands you end up working with?
Absolutely, it is rare that I work with bands that I’m not a huge fan of. That is how some of my first gigs started. I simply contacted bands that I loved. I also contacted venues that hosted bands that I love.
6. What’s on your iTunes most played list these days?

Bibio, Grizzly Bear, Helvetia, Ramona Falls, and In The Shadow Of The Mountain have been in heavy rotation lately.

Brian Manley
Worked with Silversun Pickups, Manchester Orchestra, and Band of Horses
check his workout at
1. Where do your roots as an artist begin?
It’s weird for me because I didn’t grown up drawing a ton or taking any art classes. I was more into the music side of things playing drums and doing percussion stuff in school. In fact i never took an art class in high school. The art thing for me really came about because my dad brought home Adobe Photoshop when I was in high school and I would just play with that. I think I messed around with it enough to really understand it so in college I would do posters and flyers every now and again. I never thought of it as a career…just a fun way to put friend’s faces on silly photos.

2. How did you make the transition into making album art?
It’s really through music that I am doing design at all. My friend Chad from the Militia Group (record label) had seen something I had designed for my personal blog and sort of asked me if i wanted to apply for the graphic designer job at the label. It was the first time i ever thought of what I was good at was designing. I didn’t apply for the job, but it was at that moment I began studying and learning more of the technical side of design. With Chad running the label, he put me in touch with lots of bands and artists and eventually I would get asked to do some random t-shirt or poster art for bands. then it would turn into layouts after we had developed a relationship.  As with anything in the small music community  – word of mouth spread and I kept getting more and more work.

3. What influenced your personal style of art?
I think my biggest influence for art was all of the great CD layouts I grew up with. I grew up in a really small town, so when I would either make the trip to the ‘big city’ for a show or go to record store, or I would mail order some CDs – I would just study and pore over every detail of the art. I loved the stuff Hot Water Music was putting out because it was like fine art but for the punk world. Early me stuff (get up kids, the promise ring, jimmy eat world, mineral)  was great because coming of the hardcore scene it was just refreshing to see layouts that were thought proving and not all tough-guy.  I still spend time looking through my record collection to get inspiration and ideas for projects.

4. You’ve done work from many amazing acts–how has that been working with them?
So far so good. No real drama yet.
I love working with bands because I know their struggle to make it on the road and their desire to look good.  I had friends in bands growing up that every t-shirt sale was the chance to buy a burger on the road or put a couple gallons of gas in their van. My hope is that through my design/art I can help them keep living the dream of playing music for a living.   And in most cases I like the band I’m working with’s music so I really enjoy being a part of the process of their art coming to life.

5. Have you found that your personal music preferences affect the type of bands you end up working with?
That’s a funny question. I’m a big metal and hardcore fan and I have yet to do a metal band’s layout. (which totally bums me out)  I think I work with the bands that i do because of relationships I build with them not their sound so much. I do a lot of photography and have found myself lately doing a lot of photo-centric things for bands. So In that case – it’s not like I’m drawing out hot pink keyboards or skulls dripping with blood to be trendy and cool and to match a sound. Though recently I designed a t-shirt for Manchester Orchestra, kind of on a joke, but kind of hoping they would use it. It was the band name spelled out in a black metal logo style. It looked pretty brutal and silly. They all thought it was funny but not their vibe. Maybe I can convince them they at least need a button or sticker of it!

6. What’s on your iTunes most played list these days?
My musical tastes change based on the job I’m working on or the season or the mood I’m in. We’ve had nothing but rain here in Atlanta over the past 2 weeks so my playlist is fairly chill and “rainy day” music.
Baroness – Red Album
Chuck Ragan – Gold Country
Sunny Day Real Estate – everything
Isis – Wavering Radiant
Japandroids – Post-nothing
Every Time I Die – New Junk Aesthetic
Elliott – False Cathedrals
Mono – Hymn To The Immortal Wind