Spreadin’ some wisdom from Jess Rotter of Rotter and Friends

by Team Intern

Rotter and Friends Spring Fun from Rotter and Friends on Vimeo.

Being busy with Rotter and Friends Spring ’09 collection having just launched and all, I luckily got to squeeze in a Q and A session with friend of BUST and uber-illustrator/collaborator, Jess Rotter.

When and how and did Rotter and Friends start?
I had been the artist-in-residence for a British clothing label called Birdie, for over 6 years, which was where my foray into creating musically inspired prints had begun. After Birdie sadly closed its doors in the Winter of ’06, I was eager to figure out a way to spread the word about rare records my friends and I Ioved, via illustration. That was when Rotter and Friends bloomed with their first collection that Spring.

Who are your ‘friends’?
HA! Kermit the Frog and Neil Young? FRIENDS come in many shapes, sizes, and formats. (I’m an only child, so I say that with confidence.) I always feel when the heart hurts or one is feeling defeated, not only will the comfort of a boozy bud help, but the melodies/riff of a jam or drawing can heal the feelings just as much. I recently had a showing of paintings in Los Angeles and a guy came up to me and said he had just gotten laid off, but he had to buy one of the works because it made him smile and feel a warm sense of calm. I got all teary-eyed, because in the end, THAT is what it is all about. Break out that James Taylor song…

Did the thought of classic rock t-shirts come to mind naturally as the focus of R and F?
For sure. The classic rock vibes became more apparent as the collections started churning, where each season formed a solid 4-tune playlist. I got really tired of always seeing the usual nostalgic suspects (Joplin, Hendrix, Airplane), repeatedly rendered in shirts. I wanted people to sport Link Wray’s badass profile, Beefheart’s killer trout mask, and to those who didn’t know what was being portrayed, to ask and discover some magic.

I’m diggin’ your illustrations; I see some have an Art Nouveau feel to them. Is this what inspires your design style? The music? Or?
Thanks so much. There’s definitely some nouveau action present, especially in my older work. Things affect me daily, but I was always really inspired by album art, foreign film (thanks Criterion Collection), Mary Blair murals, my dad’s incredible comic book collection, bearded stoner rock, and the Muppets.

What about your inspiration for your recent collaboration with Gap?
The Gap was so great to work with; they really wanted this collection to be out of their typical aesthetic. The one direction I took the lead on was not to make the prints actually represent an actual band or song, but rather the spirit of the vintage musical party. I had a lot of fun making these, I would say to sum all four pieces up, one should play the song ‘Love is All’ by Roger Glover and The Butterfly Ball.

Sweet! Any future Rotter and Friends collabs coming up soon that we should keep an eye out for?
Scheduled for release in June, Rotter and Friends is teaming up with rare music digital reissue label Anthology Recordings to create a 2-piece capsule collection for American Apparel. The limited edition shirts will be illustrations of two special artists available via Anthology (Betty Davis and Ya Ho Wha 13), which will come with download links for an amazing anthology mix. REALLY excited about this collaboration!

Thanks a bunch, Jess!

Check RotterandFriends.com for their new designs, which includes Bob Dylan’s All The Tired Horses and Captain Beefheart’s Trout Mask!


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Founded in 1993, BUST is the inclusive feminist lifestyle trailblazer offering a unique mix of humor, female-focused entertainment, uncensored personal stories, and candid reporting that tells the truth about women’s lives.

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