When not making music as Shadow Monster, the Brooklyn artist is crafting hipster-demon drawings and working on Stray Cats, her webseries “about art, anxiety and NYC“
Off the Record is a new interview series exploring the creative endeavors that our favorite artists are pursuing outside of their music, the results of which don’t end up ON a record, so… (get it?!).
For this installment, we’re psyched to feature Gillian Visco, who—along with being half of our favorite “angsty and loud” Bushwick duo Shadow Monster—creates charmingly demonic quarantine ‘toons and is gearing up to premiere the first episode of her webseries, a dark comedy called Stray Cats—which we’re stoked to offer an exclusive preview of here.
Outside of music, how do you express yourself creatively?
Music has always been my number one form of expression. I’m also very interested in filmmaking and writing, both poetry and narrative storytelling. In fact, I released my first ever ‘zine of poetry alongside our most recent album, Punching Bag. Over the past couple years I’ve been writing a webseries entitled Stray Cats (@straycatstheshow). [Editor’s note: It’s premiering October 1st. Scroll down to catch a clip!] Visual art has always been a big part of my life, but it was never something I was trying to pursue. It’s a form of therapy and something that I like to hang in my room but not necessarily share, although I did start to incorporate some art at our merch table at shows.
You’ve been posting your Quarantine Series drawings for about two months now. Can you describe the series and the featured characters?
The main character in the series is a demon from a parallel reality named No Name. I’ve been using this character to kind of display where we have communally been mentally, through this weird experience. It’s a study in depression through isolation, and the coping mechanisms we use to get through.
Where do you get ideas for each drawing? Is it art imitating life?
Some of these drawings are more playful than others. Quarantined life has allowed us to dive deep into our minds, whether we were ready for that or not – and rub shoulders with our psychological friends and enemies that exist there. Each drawing is like a snapshot of a moment in quarantined life. The series explores everything from making a “quarantine to-do list”, to Bernie pulling out of the campaign, to struggling with a personal existential crisis.
How has the mood changed as this series continues?
I think we’re all getting a little restless. I do feel in the beginning the series was a bit lighter, but as time continues on, the loneliness gets insurmountable. 2020 has been the most insane year any of us can remember. A Pandemic, A Revolution. An Election. And we’ve all been forced to face it in isolation. Every drawing is an attempt at commenting truthfully on the times we are living in, and the emotional weight that comes with it.
How would you describe your style of art?
Gothic, quirky, estranged, detached yet connected, dark, childlike, inquisitive, seeking truth.
Where do you find inspiration?
Almost everywhere. I am very inspired by street art and graffiti.
Is there a tie-in between your artwork and your music? Do they influence or feed off each other?
The art is a different outlet for a similar emotion I conjure with music. I do feel that I can play and experiment more with art. I can be super blatant, or create something open to interpretation – whereas with music – it’s mostly love and heartbreak songs that I write. Doing art allows me to explore the human condition from a broader perspective.
Who are your favorite artists, local or otherwise?
I’ve got a list of favorite artists that inspire me. At the top of the list would have to be local Brooklyn artist Alexander Glueck (@stoic.mortuorum). He did our album cover for Punching Bag. He does both street art and larger pieces in his studio. His stuff seriously blows me away and is worth checking out if you’re not familiar with him.
I am a huge fan of Brandon Sines (@brandonsines) as well, who created Frank Ape (@frank_ape). I love Tara McPherson’s work (@taramcpherson). Other favorite street artists of mine are @ufo907, @buffmonster, @downerjones, @aerosolkingdom and @robotswillkill.
When/where/how do you like to work?
Incense, candles, music, solitarily in my room, with an idea. It’s really important for me to be in the right mindset before creating a piece. It’s kinda like meditating or having a seance.
Besides Instagram, is there anywhere people can find your work? Is it for sale?
If anyone is interested in purchasing or commissioning a piece they can hit me up through Instagram (@shadowmonster) or email email@example.com, and we can discuss all aspects of the process there. No Name has his own instagram page now! (@no_name_demon_777) and all the pieces in the Quarantine Series can be found here.
In addition to drawing and music, you’ve also been working on a web series. What’s Stray Cats about, and how did it come to be?
Stray Cats has been something I’ve been cooking up for years. I attempted relocating to LA a few years back, and what that move did most for me was reaffirm my everlasting love for New York. When I moved back I didn’t want to do it with my tail between my legs. I promised myself I’d approach the whole acting thing differently (I went to school for acting) and I had this unkindled desire to make movies. So this is my first go of bringing that desire to fruition. Stray Cats is a dark comedy about a few rough and tumble artist kids trying to “make it” in New York City. I want the series to shine a light on what it’s really like for struggling artists to make a life for themselves, and simultaneously act as a platform for different genres of underground art.
Where in Brooklyn have you been shooting? Any funny stories?
We shot the pilot in Bushwick baby! I don’t know if I have any funny stories because I was so hyper focused the entire time we were shooting. It was kind of a crazy weekend, two 12-hour days back to back.
You incorporate music from Brooklyn bands, which is awesome. Which favorites can people expect to hear?
Yes, the entire series will be full of independent music from the current scene in Brooklyn. In the pilot episode you will hear songs from Sic Tic and Darkwing!
What excites you most about the project?! What’s been your favorite part?
Well, it’s been A LOT of work. But sitting back and watching the finished pilot is probably the best part (but also terrifying). Having an idea of something in your head and then seeing it as an actual episode is kind of a trip. I also really enjoyed our rehearsal process prior to shooting where I got to work closely with the actors, and choreograph the shots with the DP. Working on this with FRIENDS has been really special. Almost everyone involved on and off camera are people I went to school with or met at UCB. I’m very excited to shoot the rest of season 1.
Follow Gillian at @shadowmonster (and No Name at @no_name_demon_777) , scoop up her music at shadowmonster.bandcamp.com and stay tuned for the Stray Cats pilot, premiering on YouTube October 1st!
Feature image (provided by the artist): Katherine Needles