With a distinctive style that blends a vintage aesthetic with the atavistic nostalgia of today’s indie scene, London-based artist Jeremy Bruneel is canonizing the musical talent that both springs from and travels through the Forest City.
An alum of Sheridan College’s Illustration program, Jeremy’s work has been featured in publications like the Globe and Mail, Reader’s Digest, and Rolling Stone. Now, when he’s not slinging records at Grooves Records (another London landmark), Jeremy is shining a spotlight on London’s independent music community with an ongoing poster series showcasing hot-ticket shows at Call The Office. The growing collection includes more than 30 posters and portraits for local talent like Whoop-Szo and Heart Attack Kids, as well as established acts like The Sadies and Tuns.
A small selection of paintings by Jeremy Bruneel:
Indie Underground recently caught up with Jeremy between projects and shifts behind the counter at Grooves to chat about his work and the London scene. Dive into our Q&A to discover the source of Jeremy’s creative inspiration, learn more about his collaboration with Call the Office, get his expert tips for getting involved in the London music scene, see who he’d like to paint in the future and much more:
Steph: Before we jump in, can you tell us about yourself? How did you first get involved in the London music scene?
Jeremy: I have been working at home as an illustrator for about 15 years, doing work for dozens of magazines like Exclaim! and even Rolling Stone. I decided I needed to get out of the house, so I started working at Grooves a couple of days a week to avoid becoming a hermit… plus, I was obsessed with records. Working at Grooves exposed me to London’s local music scene. One day I decided to do an illustration of local punk legends 63 Monroe. I liked how it turned out, so I decided to contact Steven R. Stunning himself to show him the artwork. He seemed to really like it, so I had the idea of drawing more local acts from past and present. With people like What Wave Dave and co-worker Blair Whatmore, I was able to get connected to local bands like Single Mothers, Whoop-Szo, Say Domino, and I Smell Blood, among others.
Steph: Lately, you’ve been working on a series of concert posters for Call the Office as part of an upcoming gallery show. Can you talk about the genesis of this project? Do you have any details you can share about the gallery show?
Jeremy: After doing those images, I did an illustration of The Sadies for the cover a local weekly magazine. I guess Tony Lima was impressed by it and made a CTO poster out of the image – that led to me meeting The Sadies the night of the show, which was amazing. So when my favourite band the Melvins came to town back in 2015, I jumped at the chance to do a poster for that event. Tony arranged for me to meet with Buzz and Dale. We talked for about 45 minutes about art, family, food, golf, [and more], and that propelled me to do poster after poster from bands like Gob, Constantines, Daniel Romano, Supersuckers, Heart Attack Kids, and Tuns, to name a few. Two years later, I am finishing up my 30th poster for CTO, and I have no plans on stopping as long as it is fun for Tony and myself.
No definitive plans for the gallery show yet – right now I am enjoying the process of creating posters the events, meeting with the bands, and selling the posters at the shows and online all over globe. Perhaps one day I will have a huge show with all the works and bands playing the opening night.
Steph: A lot of the work you’ve done for the Call The Office poster series showcases up-and-coming, independent musicians (vs. established acts like The Sadies). How do you decide which musicians to feature? Do you have total control? Can or do musicians and/or promoters approach you?
Jeremy: I usually just need to be interested in the show. When local bands like Red Arms, Heart Attack Kids, or Whoop-Szo are headlining a show there, I’ll get asked by the band to do something… which I would have done anyway – they are friends and their music is incredible. I usually have creative control, maybe 95% of the time. Some bands specifically want me to do a portrait-based poster, which is cool.
Steph: How have the musicians you’ve painted, and the local artistic community, responded to your poster series?
Jeremy: They all seem to love it. Sometimes they get emotional or moved that someone would spend so much time on a poster of their band, which is great – it makes me want to keep painting. One of the best reactions was from Chris Murphy of Sloan. His new band Tuns was in town, and when I showed him the art and got a great reaction, he tried to sell every poster I had brought that night – I didn’t have to do anything. He is such a nice person. The local artistic community has responded positively as well. Doing events like the Punk Rock Flea Market and contributing to the Forest City Gallery year-end show with a music-related image were both wonderful and very validating experiences.
Steph: Call the Office is an institution in the London local music scene, and so is Grooves Records (where you work), so I imagine you have a pretty solid inside line on up-and-coming acts here in London. Do you have any advice for people who might be new to the London music scene, or who simply want to support and promote the community, but who might not have any musical talent (such as myself)? Any tips for getting to know up and coming indie alternative acts? Are there any places people can visit or things they can do to contribute?
Jeremy: I would say go to as many shows as possible. CTO has several great shows a week, and they also host an independent showcase midweek. You can see great bands like Nervousmen and Dyer at no cover. Also, CTO does a great job of putting local acts on bigger bills. Same goes for London Music Hall; Brandon Eedy is an exceptional s promoter, booking huge acts as well as locals for London Music Hall and Rum Runners.
Out Of Sound throw amazing house shows too. There are lots of other venues as well, including 765 Old East, EVAC, and the Black Shire. Speed City, the Village Idiot, and Grooves display show adverts and all sell material from local casts. And of course, social media is also a good place to start. Also, listening to CHRW helps too.
Steph: Your work has been featured in publications like Rolling Stone, Reader’s Digest, the Globe and Mail, and the National Post. How does it feel to featured in publications like Indie Underground? Do you feel any sense of responsibility to represent Canadian music or the London scene?
Jeremy: Feels great. When working with magazines, you are basically given an article to conceptualize and illustrate, so there is no real opportunity to showcase a local band unless the article is about them, which does happen quite a bit.
Steph: Stylistically, your work for CTO seems almost Dali-esque to me. Certainly, there’s an element of the surreal. Are there any artists, classical or otherwise, who have influenced your artistic style? What kind of art do you have hanging up at home?
Jeremy: I am primarily influenced by vintage imagery. Could be old pulp magazine covers, sci-fi novels, retro toys, old botanical illustrations, or old advertisements I remember seeing as a kid. I try to be influenced by several things, so I am not copying a style. Dali was an influence in grade and high school for sure. At home, I have artwork painted by some friends including Sweet Dave, Matt James, Dylan Sixx, Jenna Faye Powell, and Joe Morse. I also have a print from John Dwyer from Thee Oh Sees, a concert poster from Swans, and Dinosaur Jr, plus some of my daughter’s art.
Photo: A portrait of Skip James by Tim Kerr (an artist who has influenced Jeremy’s work). A Sadies painting by Jeremy. And a piece (love/lust) from Dylan (thirteenidlehandz) – a good friend of Jeremy.
Steph: If you could paint any band or musician, who would it be? Or have you already painted them?
Jeremy: I would paint Poison Ivy from the Cramps, or PJ Harvey, maybe Nick Cave, or even the entire cast of the Rocky Horror Picture Show.
Steph: Out of all the portraits you’ve painted for the CTO series, do you have a favourite?
Jeremy: Maybe The Sadies, Daniel Romano, or Sweet Dave, to name a few. I think I have painted my friend Justis Krar, who has been in TV Freaks, Sideman, Ancient Shapes, five times – he is amazing to paint. It’s fun painting your friends. I once painted a piece where the bands Wasted Potential, Midnight Towers, and Sideman, plus Tony and Matty from CTO were all in the composition…that was a great time.
Steph: If you were in a band and painting a portrait of yourself, what kind of band would you be in? What instrument do you think you’d play?
Wow…maybe a Hall and Oates type of thing. I would be Oates…less pressure.
Steph: Last question – how can people go about purchasing your artwork?
Connect with Jeremy Bruneel:
Stop by Grooves Records: