Brian Larson, Ed Knight and Chris Everhart are the Silent Giants, a young (all younger than 25) team of baby-faced artists who crawled between the sheets of Metro Times last summer when we rolled out the Poster Issue ("Rip it down," June 25, 2008), for which they designed that issue's cover. They were, um, fresh faces then, in both arts and music, which they attempted to marry with highly stylized show posters and album art. Soon bands and artists were abuzz about the trio, who worked without rest through last summer and fall, turning heads with their clean and clever album art (Ra Ra Riot) and vibrant rock-show posters (Mogwai, the National, Child Bite).
To best gauge their hasty rise, we can look at that past MT issue, where they were asked to name a couple of "dream projects." Modest Mouse and Sigur Ros topped their lists and, as of last month, both of those dreams have come to fruition. In fact, they just recently had to turn down one of indie rock's most notable acts: Death Cab For Cutie. When you can't fit a two-time Grammy-nominated rock star into your schedule, things must be going OK.
"We have to print more than 300 posters for a couple Flight of the Conchords shows, at least 100 for Andrew Bird and we're just about to start Daniel Zott's album art for his double-disc release," Ed Knight laments. "Turning down Death Cab was one of the hardest things we've had to do," Chris Everhart adds, "but there was just no way to get it done the right way and we'll never compromise quality."
Last year, the trio — whose work ranges from silk screening to graphic design to illustration — made a goal of wanting to create posters for at least one major music festival and, this summer, they'll contribute posters to Pitchfork Music Festival and Sasquatch Music Festival with a commissioned piece for Seattle indie-darlings Fleet Foxes.
While the three-piece continues to churn out art for international acts (40 percent of their work is from overseas clients), these affable guys continue to help foster Detroit's arts and music scenes, as seen with their efforts with Alan Scheurman, the Hard Lessons, Prussia and the Silent Years.
Dreams of rebranding companies, designing furniture, producing children's books and crafting playgrounds are still to be realized. In the meantime, their work is being published in books in both Germany and London. Locally, they'll move into a space they've dubbed the Perfume Room in Detroit's Russell Industrial Center later this month.
Last week, the quiet power trio obliged Metro Times with an interview. I drove around the burbs looking for the setting sun while they sat in the back and fielded questions:
Metro Times: Your moniker has always maintained a superhuman comic book vibe. Do you have a secret lair?
Ed Knight: Since we started printing in June of 2008, we used Brian's loft in Pontiac, the A.C. Rich, as a pseudo studio space. The space was very bohemian, very warm with an open-door attitude. Our new home will be in the Russell Industrial Center in Detroit, but the same rules will apply: Open door policy is in full effect.
MT: How do Silent Giants fit in the Detroit art scene? Do you think it's an inclusive one?
Brian Larson: At times, it kind of seems like everyone knows everyone.
Knight: Most of the people we've met are really awesome and supportive of what we do.
Chris Everhart: The Detroit art landscape is always growing and inspiring. I would like to think we fit in just fine. We're nice and passionate people, so what is not to like about that?
MT: In what way do you think Detroit, geographically speaking, has worked its way into the Silent Giants work?
Larson: After spending a year in Chicago, I realized how much I missed living in an area so heavily affected by the economy and the auto industry. The urban decay is beautiful, and I really missed that.
Everhart: I think Detroit had a beautiful past and a lot of that still exists in its character. I feel like the ghost of Detroit has influenced me.
MT: Since you work in tandem with the music industry quite frequently, what are you listening to in the studio?
Larson: Anything from Rescue or any of the bands and projects that Rescue splintered into, along with Cotton Jones and Alice Coltrane.
Knight: We normally listen to whatever artist it is we're working on, but when I throw music on it's mainly Sigur Ros or Beethoven these days.
Everhart: If music isn't on, I feel like I'm on pause. If I just feel like jamming some stuff out, I'll throw on some reggae or the Books.
MT: There's a Cursive song called "Art is Hard." I've been asking artists for their input on this proposition. Thoughts?
Knight: I don't know if I would say it's hard — I think everyone has some sort of creativity in them, most people just forget how to have fun with it.
Larson: "Art is Hard" is actually very relatable to how the music industry is evolving and how, as designers, we're forced to look at things. Bands are releasing music by themselves for the sole purpose of making art and sharing it with people. We're very DIY in spirit and we're able to give artists and musicians something handmade and designed with love — it's more than just "merch."
Everhart: There's a constant struggle of push and pull, balancing the joys of life and the labors of work. Sacrifices need to be made.
MT: Is there a piece of nostalgia or some childhood gem that continues to influence you?
Knight: I've always loved Dr. Seuss books; the way the stories are told and illustrated, it's a phenomenal fantasy world.
Larson: Playing in my dad's workshop — with all of those tools and carpentry and engineering books and electronics — was when I first really let my imagination go wild.
Everhart: I was highly influenced by building blocks and Legos, and I've always been drawn to the aesthetic of vintage things: old bikes, videos, photos and music. I think Disney, Sesame Street and Saturday morning cartoons had a big impact too.
MT: What was the last thing that knocked you off your feet?
Knight: Have you seen the new Department of Eagles video? If not, do so immediately! Or go watch the trailer for Where the Wild Things Are.
Larson: The idea of community constantly knocks me off my feet. People say the economy is weak, but the love for art and music is so strong. Everything seems to be changing gears.
Everhart: I got a puppy.
MT: Do you have a mantra?
Knight: [laughs] Those always come and go, but the main ones that have stuck are: "My man!" "Do work, son!" "Run the show," "Where da cash at?" And the newest is, "I want da gold."