Tuesday, 18 October 2016

Art of Punk: Bryan Kienlen

Forgive me if I’m pointing out the obvious here but… Bryan Kienlen is the bassist of The Bouncing Souls. He has also been the man behind all of their artwork (nearly 30 years!), from the band’s early DIY gig flyers and first EP covers to their latest album, Simplicity, Bryan has designed them all – which is pretty good going for one man if you ask me!

After finishing high school, Bryan was all set to go off to art school but that would have meant giving up The Bouncing Souls who were just beginning to pick up momentum… so he didn’t go to art school and, as they say, the rest was history. Of course, he’s never given up creating visual art in place of musical art as the two work hand-in-hand. Plus, he also works as a tattooist, at Neptune Tattooville in New Jersey, when the band isn’t on tour as well.

The Bouncing Souls’ latest album features the iconic ‘face’ in the middle of its artwork. The same face that appears on almost all of their previous releases, not to mention on hundreds and hundreds of posters, t-shirts and other band merchandise for years. The ‘Ball Guy’ has acted as a sort of a mascot for the band, although it shouldn’t really be considered their logo as the classic crossbones heart probably serves that purpose better. I read somewhere that the ‘Ball Guy’ was a representation of Bryan himself – at least that’s what someone else in the band said, I think!

Something I like about Bryan’s art, and the artwork throughout The Bouncing Souls’ career in particular, is that it is so varied. The band’s album covers, for example, are so varied in visual style – Anchors Aweigh is an oil painting! – but the ‘Ball Guy’ has found his way into the majority of them. I do, however, like how it isn’t always so obvious – see Anchors Aweigh again, plus Ghosts On The Boardwalk.

I recently watched the 2004 Bouncing Souls documentary, Do You Remember?. The tagline for the documentary is ‘Fifteen years of The Bouncing Souls’ so obviously it is a little bit dated now, but it was great to hear the band talk about how they formed and see lots of footage from all those years ago. It was also particularly interesting for me to see Bryan creating art for the band, which included hand illustrating mail cards and CD artwork, plus spray painting designs onto fan’s own t-shirts – very DIY. You can watch the whole thing here on YouTube, but if you need persuading I’ve included some screenshots.

You can also check out a wide variety of Bryan’s designs, both for The Bouncing Souls and other bands, on his website. If you’re a tattoo fan then I recommend following Bryan on Instagram as well as his photos are mostly of his tattoo art.

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