A photographic account of heavy music in Portland, Maine
Editor’s note: This is the first entry in an (extremely) intermittent series we’re calling “About your Friends and Neighbors.” The series will feature profiles of notable Portlanders within the heavy music community; awesome folks who operate just outside the spotlight.
If you didn’t know already, here’s the deal:
Om is playing Portland. In an intimate space. On a Saturday.
That’s right. Om — the drone metal band that rose from the ashes of the mighty Sleep — is playing Space Gallery this Saturday, Oct. 4, with tour mates Watter (featuring members of Grails and Slint). Tickets are $12 in advance or $15 on the day of the show.
This show holds the potential to be legendary. Last time bassist/vocalist Al Cisneros played a gig within 100 miles of Maine, it was the talk of Portland for days thereafter. Don’t miss out.
But you probably knew all that already — either through word of mouth, or the poster by Portlander Jakob Battick.
Battick, 25, is an artist and musician, perhaps best known for his work in Afraid — a dark, droning, groove-based Portland band he founded in 2011, originally as a solo recording project, which has since evolved into a trio. Afraid –while not metal or heavy, per se — traverses grim territory. Battick said the music draws inspiration from West Coast cults and serial killers of the late-’60s and early-’70s.
Music aside, Battick is also making a name for himself as a designer of show posters, including work for Falls of Rauros, Father Murphy, Awaas and, most recently, Om.
In some ways, Battick was the perfect choice for the Om poster. He’s a longtime fan of Om and, more importantly, shares the band’s apparent obsession with religious iconography.
Ultimately, however, it was luck that brought Battick to the project. Space Gallery sent a list of upcoming shows to its pool of about 30 volunteer designers. Battick was the first of several artists to express interest in the Om show.
“That was me going out on a limb,” he recalled. “I was scared I wouldn’t do a good enough job. I mean, I’ll do a flyer for a local band anytime, but Om was a whole new level for me.
“But I’m really glad I did it. I feel better about my work now.”
Battick has been creating show flyers for the past nine years, since he was a teenager in Bangor. Back in the day, his posters were mostly hand-drawn for his or friends’ bands. Over the years, he evolved into a digital artist, taking images from the Internet and interweaving them into collages. Now, Battick creates elements by hand, photographs them, then arranges them digitally. In the same way that mid-period Beastie Boys created their own sounds to sample, Battick is now creating his own library of stock images to employ within his collages.
Battick works at Bull Moose on Middle Street. He graduated from USM in 2011 with a degree in studio art with a minor in art history. Toward the end of his college career, however, Battick lost interest in making fine art, or “art for art’s sake,” he said.
Creating show flyers, however, stokes the flame.
“The only time I get excited about making art anymore is when it’s in conjunction with music,” he said. “For me, music is very much a visual thing. It always puts pictures in my head, or vibes or feelings. What I love about making posters is how concrete it is; how you can set all those relationships together.”
Battick’s Om poster was an attempt to “fuse their Christian, monolithic emptiness … with a black-light sort of thing.”
It’s a subject that is clearly a part of Battick’s everyday experience. The home he shares with three friends and three black cats on Cumberland Avenue is adorned with Christian art, including a framed print of The Last Supper and a few holographic portraits of Jesus. He is “fascinated with saints, angels, devils and the ‘Old Testament.'”
“I’ve just always been into that kind of stuff,” he said. “I was raised in a totally non-religious household, so I have a naive obsession with that sort of imagery, for no real reason.
“There’s no baggage there. I was never forced to sit in church, so I just see them as pretty pictures.”
Battick hopes to do work for other bands, but acknowledges it’s a tough sell in Portland’s DIY scene.
“Even though there’s a wealth of venues and artists in Portland, there isn’t an industry — which is what makes it so great here — but it also means there’s no money in it. So I couldn’t be like, ‘Hey, Band X, I will design your flyer. Here is my rate.’ You know what I mean? If somebody said that to me I would laugh really hard, you know? So I just love doing it.”
In the meantime, Battick is looking forward to Saturday.
“It’s going to be a really amazing show,” he said. “I can’t really believe they’re playing Portland, first of all. And I also can’t believe they’re playing Space. It seems too good to be true.”