Living as a Mod in the 21st Century

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Drive down Parka Avenue and take a left on Essex Lane for all your Mod Art needs

Deny it all you want but art has always been closely associated with Mod culture. Many of the original Mods from the sixties eventually went on to work in creative fields. Graphic design, fashion, film, music, photography, ad agencies are all domains that naturally fit Mod sensibilities.

I've always been a big fan of the visual arts. My loft is full of original paintings and limited edition lithographs. So much so that wall space is starting to be scarce. I always prefer to support emerging artists than deal with art galleries. Having direct contact with an artist gives your art more meaning and an added personal touch.

Enter Jeff and Erica from Essex Lane. Jeff and Erica have teamed up to offer us a wide selection of colourful hand drawn prints that will enchant both Mods and music lovers alike. Reminiscent of the psychedelic concert poster of the late sixties, they have masterfully incorporated lyrics and song titles in their work. If you're looking for a unique piece of art that has a definite 60s vibe, then look no further! They are also open to do some custom work for their clients. You can reach them through the Essex Lane Facebook page or their Etsy page .

I was very pleased when they accepted to answer a few questions for the benefit of the Parka Avenue readers.

Your art is undeniably inspired by the sixties. Why is that era so important to you?

Jeff: The 60s were a great era. Creatively and culturally there were so many barriers being broken down. You can see it in the fashion, the music, the lifestyles of that time. People were doing things, whether it was art or playing music, or whatever, because they really cared about what they were producing. I feel today, people tend to do things more because of money or fame, rather than a real need for a creative outlet.

Erica: The 60s were a giant explosion on the pop culture timeline. There were so many changes happening socially and politically. I grew up in a small town about 30 minutes south of Detroit learning about American history and in my mind, the 60s were about political activism (such as Vietnam and racial equality), personal freedom and a cultural and creative revolution. People were struggling and rallying together for collective causes. So as someone who grew up 20 years after that time, I've always been attracted to the passion and the power of people working together that defines that era. Plus, if you look back, it was really the beginning of the world getting smaller. With television and radio becoming so mainstream in everyday life in the 60s, creativity became a bigger part of everyday life. The average person could listen to the radio all day and see what was happening in other places of the world. I kind of see that as the beginning of the more technological, globally connected world we live in now.

Small Faces - Itchycoo Park

Many of your pieces have a Mod theme. What is it about Mod culture that attracts you?

Jeff: I've always loved Mod culture, but I've become even more connected with it since moving from where I grew up in Essex, England over here to America. I had kind of taken it for granted. My Dad used to take us to the same pie and mash as the one in Quadrophenia. One of my first gigs was in the same pub that the Small Faces played and rehearsed in when they were starting out. Graham Bond lived a few roads away from my house. That music is so entwined in my life. And like a lot of those Mod musicians, I've always been inspired by and attracted to the same American music that they were: Blues, Soul, R&B, Jazz, Motown, Stax, Chess, etc. There aren't too many Mods in Nashville, so I find myself now seeing it more as a part of my heritage. I've always loved the quote "clean living under difficult circumstances". The whole reason I ended up in America was through playing bass in bands. Last year when I decided to stop touring and I wasn't sure what I was going to do next, that quote sorted me out. When it was hard times figuring out finances, how cutthroat the music industry can be or living in a different country. I've really applied it to everyday life: look smart and do your best. That's what I'm trying to do.

Erica: Obviously, growing up so far away from Mod culture, both in distance and time, I've had a lot to learn! And I have loved all of it. Jeff has shown me so much music, fashion and things that I had never been exposed to. I try to be a sponge for culture so I'm really intrigued by all of it. 

The Who - My Generation

All of your illustrations are hand drawn. What brought you to work that way? 

Jeff: I had finished touring and was looking for other things to do. Erica was shopping on Etsy and I took a look over her shoulder at what she was looking at. So much of it looked so generic and digital. It seemed as though people had copied and pasted things and didn't really put much thought into it. It wasn't stuff we wanted on our walls. We love hand made things, things that happen organically, naturally. It's the same with music. We like things that feel like there was passion, thought and time put into them because people really cared about what they were creating and putting out to the general public. I made a comment that I could make something better than what I was seeing online. So Erica told me: "then do it."

Erica: Ever since I've known Jeff I knew he was artistic, but music had always been such a priority that he'd never really had time or a notion to do anything with it. Since he was working on getting away from being a professional musician, but not sure what to do next, focusing on art, in a medium that we could turn into a business, seemed logical. We came up with the idea to create art we liked and sell it as prints so that it would be affordable. 

Otis Redding - Pain In My Heart

Music is also a central theme. Do you connect with music the same way you do with art?

Jeff: Music is my first love. I've been playing since I was a kid. I've been in bands most of my life. I've been in love with music since I can remember. I will always play music and I will always collect records and 45s. I've also always loved comics and drawing. I spent a year in art college. I enjoy creating art as much as I enjoy being part of the process of creating a song.

Erica: I have always loved music and art pretty passionately. I love being a part of the creative process but I don't like to execute the final product. I prefer to stay behind the scenes and make sure things are running smoothly.

Small Faces - I'm Only Dreaming

This project is a husband and wife affair. How does each of you contribute?

Jeff: We started this whole thing together. I may draw everything, but we both think of the ideas. Some are all Erica's. Some are all mine. Some we come up with together. Once I have it sketched, inked and colored, we scan it and clean it up a little so it's ready to print and then package. As far as marketing, social media and the business side, that's Erica. We've been consistently aiming to get at least one new piece out a week, so between that, commissions and all the other work that goes into this, there's always something going on.

Erica: We really collaborate on every aspect. From the concept of a piece, to the packaging, to the marketing, to the physical printing and framing and hanging it up around town in different shops and cafes. We do the majority of it together or with both of us contributing somehow. There's so many pieces of this, apart from just putting pen to paper (which is 100% Jeff). We are constantly thinking of more we can do, both with the art and our business tactics. 

The Who - Boris The Spider

Any notable artists that have inspired you that we should know about?

Jeff: I draw a lot of inspiration on the Essex Lane stuff from psychedelic artists like Wes Wilson, Andy Warhol, Pete McKee, Rick Griffin and Gary Grimshaw. We both also really love a lot of Art Nouveau work and artists like Henri Privat-Livemont and Aubrey Beardsley.

Small Faces - All Or Nothing

I hear that Jeff is also a musician and that we play the same bass, a 1964 H22 Harmony. Do you want to tell us about your current musical endeavors?

Jeff: Yeah, I love my old Harmony. Ronnie Lane played an H22 and he is one of my favorite bass players. The name Essex Lane is a tribute to Ronnie and our logo is drawn in the shape of that bass. I used to play a bit of guitar but switched to bass when I started touring in America. I also love Duck Dunn (Booker T. & The M.G's / Stax) and George Porter Jr. (The Meters), so I also play an early Fender P Bass. Now that I'm focused on art, I don't play as much anymore but I have recently been working on some songs with another musician here in Nashville. We're working on getting together a little band that's Mod / Freakbeat / Psych inspired. It's still in very early stages so we'll have to wait and see but it's been fun playing so far.

Essex Lane logo

Jeff and Erica have been kind enough to offer one lucky Parka Avenue reader a print of their choice. To win, simply share this post on Facebook or Twitter with the hashtag #ParkaAvenue. In a month, all the names will be entered in my very advanced Selectotron 2000.  Once I have pulled down a lever, pressed on a big red button and all the blinking lights and computerized beeps have stopped, a punch card will slide down a chute and the name of the winner will be revealed. Good luck!

Don't forget to pay Essex Lane a visit at their Etsy shop, on Facebook or follow them on Twitter

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