tyson schenk is another graphic designer friend from converse. tyson is wildly talented and makes rad monthly playlists with equally rad album art under the moniker, keep your face radical. since i'm working on incorporating more music into cultureisland, tyson created a playlist specially for his interview titled "polar sunburn." the mix features up-beat indie meets tropical sounds, making it the perfect contrast to this never ending winter. i love how his artistry translates into both the audio and visual worlds. hope you dig his words, images and sounds just as much as i do.
cultureisland: tell us more about you.
tyson schenk: i grew up in idaho falls. it's a town of about 60,000. so pretty low key. it sits somewhere around the middle of salt lake city and yellowstone national park. i spent most of my time skateboarding, snowboarding, drawing and learning to play instruments. i'm mormon, so when i was 19 i chose to serve a two year mission and was sent to mexico city. being so young and living in a foreign country really exposed me to other ways of life, which i'm extremely grateful for. while in mexico i became heavily influenced by latin american culture, especially typography. i came home and decided to study design. i got a minor in illustration and a bachelors of fine art with an emphasis in graphic design from byu-idaho. i began experimenting with apparel design/t-shirts during my last year, which later led to a job at abercrombie and fitch. i worked for their brand ruehl no. 925 for three and a half years. after it closed i moved to new york city and started working for american eagle outfitters. after a year or so of that, i ended up designing apparel for converse. i still work for converse, but remotely, back in idaho.
cultureisland: how did keep your face radical come about?
tyson schenk: in college i got really into the indie music scene and music blogging. i played in several bands during college and music has always been a massive part of my life. the first blog i started writing for was called "oh no oh my." the guys that ran it were two friends from canada. they were into a lot of the same music i liked. i reached out to them to give them a few music suggestions and they asked if i wanted to be a part of it. the blog got taken down because they were posting full album leaks. we later started another blog called "former child star." again it didn't last long. music blogs back then were a dime a dozen. one thing i learned doing these blogs was that i love to share music with people. looking for new music will always be a hobby of mine, and sharing it with others is equally important. back in college, some friends and i had started a mix-share called "ssemtc" (super secret elite mix tape club). if you were in the club you would make a physical mix (cd) every couple of months, with custom art. then you'd send it around. it was great because every month you would get 8-10 custom created mixes. some were pretty elaborate with letter-pressed or silkscreened art. the idea of creating mixes always got me super stoked. but the club kinda died and i wanted to keep the mixes going. so i started doing my own mixes, adding custom artwork every month. back then i called them blogmail mixes and i would just send them over email, trying to avoid all the legal issues with posting music online. i did my first blogmail mix in january 2008 and i've been doing one every month since then. it wasn't until january 2012 that i stopped calling the mixes blogmail and started using the name keep your face radical. the term "blogmail" always felt vague. i had started getting a big following and really felt the need to rebrand everything with kyfr to give it more of a voice. the name came from a band called radical face that i used to listen to in 2006. at the end of the emails i would write something like, "ENjo! the mix, hopefully it keeps your face radical." music makes me happy in so many ways and i have always felt like it can keep your face feeling radical and alive.
cultureisland: what is your process for creating the mixes?
tyson schenk: the process has more or less remained the same since i started. during the month i start the hunt for new music. i use rss feeds to stay on top of my favorite music blogs. i use feedly for all that. i create a playlist in itunes and begin adding songs that fit the kyfr vibe. throughout the month i am constantly listening, adding and editing tracks until near the end of the month i have a solid mix that i'm happy with. sometimes earlier, but usually at the end of the month i will design some covers and then work on track order etc, getting the mix ready for upload. another thing i’ve been doing for a while is creating ridiculous, ironic music genres to describe the songs. i'm sure a lot of people never notice them, but i have a lot of followers that love reading all the insane music genres. it seemed like 5-6 years ago there was all this nonsense of trying to describe up and coming indie bands with nonsensical genres. for example: chill wave, beach wave, lo-fi, slow core, and post psych-pop. it was always super crazy hearing all these music blogs trying to one up everyone with some new made up genre one of them had coined. i take that a step further and really get weird with it. for example: post-halloween, post-macarena, windmill hippie psych pop, post partum indie, clam bake retro pop, space sunburn, jet ski rock, hipster telephone on hold pop, unicorn fangs, weirdo friendo electro, i could go on. it's a fun little bonus for the followers that look for it, and i actually think it describes some of the songs super well. that clam bake retro pop genre is from a tennis song, and yeah, that pretty much describes tennis.
cultureisland: tell us more about this mix and your album art.
tyson schenk: knowing that this mix was going to focus on tropical/beach songs to help us get through the rest of winter, a friend suggested the title polar sunburn. after that, the concept just became juxtaposing images of summer and winter. i collected a bunch of images and then filtered them to make them fell old. i love to do hand-done collages but ultimately decided to do everything digitally. it was easier to work with the unexpected cropping of the images. the bold stripes help tell a clean story and I kept the type small so it wouldn't distract from the images.
cultureisland: how does your background as a graphic designer influence this project?
tyson schenk: i think since college i realized that the "art scene" is where i always felt most inspired. all my hobbies have heavy connections to the arts. i make a living off being an artist and i can't help but immerse myself in it from every angle. i am grateful that i have a career that allows me the freedom to be creative and express my ideas through visual media.
cultureisland: where do you find inspiration?
tyson schenk: my answer for this has changed in the last year and 1/2 after leaving Bbrooklyn and moving back to idaho. inspiration was around every corner in nyc. i could stop at a gallery on my way home from work, see someone doodling something in the subway or hear a concert happening in prospect park from my apartment window. nyc, and especially brooklyn, will always have a soft spot in my heart. but now that i live in rural idaho i get inspired by different things, mostly nature. i snowboard 1-2 times a week during the winter and some of my best ideas for t-shirt designs or mix art come from sitting on the chair lift admiring nature. being on a mountain exposed to the elements is very alien if you think about it. we choose to be out of our element and exposed. i find it strangely therapeutic. besides nature i try and travel a lot. i have been spending lots of time in san francisco and northern california and am constantly amazed by that area of the country.
cultureisland: what are your favorite places to hang out, eat, shop and see art where you live?
tyson schenk: i'll answer this in 3 parts. nyc: places - prospect park, lower east side, redhook, coney island brooklyn flea and the high line area. and the subway for the best people watching in the world. eats - lucky's burgers, blue ribbon sushi, pineapple fried Rice at pong sri. fried shrimp at balaboosta in nolita. tacombie's esquites and tacos. dough donuts. brussle sprouts at thistle hill in park slope. and ample hill’s ice cream. i could go on and on about this. art - Seeing friends do gallery shows was always a highlight (tipi thieves) and probably my favorite art related thing i did was seeing the frieze art show on randalls island. that, and just stumbling into places around the city. in sf/northern california: mission street, the entire coastline but hurst castle, mendocino, and monterey have stood out. eats - tacolicious anything. burma superstar tea leaf salad and pork curry with potatoes. and the lamb kebab at kokkari. and the burger and brussel sprouts at tempest bar in the tenderloin area. idaho: places - palisades area, grand targhee resort, jackson hole, bear lake and the teton mountains. eats - snake bite, republic, and morenita's. art - thrift stores and vintage signage. idaho fashion. to be honest, most of the art i see in idaho is pretty bad.
* check out more keep your face radical album art here and contact tyson (firstname.lastname@example.org) if you want to sign up for his monthly mailing list *