Sons of Nero morphs into Forefathers

If you are involved in CD design, branding or packaging in the metal industry, the name Sons of Nero will be very familiar to you. But they have now transitioned into a new design firm called Forefathers. MBA caught up with Portland, co-owner/creator and former Ferret Music Creative Director. (All artwork pictured was from the Sons of Nero of portfolio)

How did Sons of Nero come about?
Sons started as idea back in early 2000. Friends of mine wanted to do a collective of writers, artists, photographers and do a zine/online site dedicated to our love or art and passion of creativity. Though that was just an idea in 2000 if became a reality a few years later when I started working at a school newspaper. I got done with all of work everyday super early and had a lot of time to kill. Being in a band demanded someone to do merch and web work. On top of that, our singer was the owner/president of Ferret Music and always needed a hand doing ads, banners, web work. I officially started Sons as an entity to give a face to all of the side work I was doing while working at the newspaper. Eventually I went on to be the art director for Ferret Music and kept Sons active as an outlet to do other creative work away from the label. We had the opportunity of working with a lot of great bands and collaborating with some of the best designers working in music. It was definitely a great ride.

In late 2010 we had the opportunity to start working with another amazing creative studio under the name Ectomachine. What started off as a collaboration effort on a few projects lead to us realizing we were stronger as a combined unit and rather then joining forces one way or another we would forge on together under a new name. We are now called Forefathers ( A new company, a new mission, a new dedication yet the same passion and love that started as a simple idea in 2000.

Have you always worked in your current style and if not how did you work before?
I actually started solely doing web work in Sons. This lead to a lot of web design and (eek) Flash development. It wasn’t until a few years into working at Ferret that I really wanted to dive into doing CD layouts. From the first layout to now, it’s pretty much been all we have done and it’s been a blast. We get to work with a variety of different styles – illustration, photography, graphic design, typography – so things are always different and no 2 projects are the same.

Who are your artistic influences?
There are way too many artist to list, but the ones that really drive me are the artists and creatives that march to their own beat, start their own companies, stay true to their beliefs and always do things that make them the happiest. I know it’s cliche to say, but life is short, and doing something you don’t love should be criminal. You spend way too much of your life working – so you better love to work and work to love.

What words best describe your artistic style?
Eclectic, varied, and ours.

Tell us about your studio space?
Forefathers is comprised of 6 employees all spread out over the county. Our studio spaces are all very different. For example – my studio is in our family room where all of my two daughters store their toys, play kitchens and books. It’s a madhouse here with them constantly running around while I work but I love having them here and love being able to be dad anytime I need to be.

I picture this really big space…that has floating ball of fire in the middle and a couple people working on computers that are supported by the bones of woodland creatures….did I get it right?
Ahaha – almost – just minus the fire.

Take us through a typical day.
Typical day starts between 10am-11 and goes solid until about 2am (with a few hour break in between for family time). We are workaholics and dedicate our life to the business.

How do you create your work? Take us through the process from concept to final.
Usually projects start with initial phone calls, emails or skypes with the client. Questionnaires are filled out and we do a lot of brainstorming. When necessary we do wireframes for website projects and rough sketches for layouts. Everything is done is stages and the client is presented with progress along the way. This avoids spending 70hours on something without the client seeing it and then finally presenting to an unwelcome response. Clients are sometimes not going to see eye to eye so it’s nice to keep them in the loop the entire process.

What materials do you use? How much if any is done on the computer?
We have done projects entirely on the computer though photoshop/illustrator manipulation, we have done projects where we physically build sets to photograph, we do illustrations either pencil/pen to paper or using a tablet. Every project is different – some call for different measures and that’s what keeps us progressing and trying new things.

Do you use reference materials or does all of it come from your head?
Research is key – especially doing website. But knowing your subject matter inside and out is crucial. It creates a better story and allows you and your potential to fully embrace your concept.

How much direction do you like from the band?
The more the better. Like I said above – the layout/art is for the band. This is the visual representation for the music they created. They have to live with this album and we want to provide visuals that best portrays the concepts or feelings of their music. There is nothing worse then working with a client that has zero input. How can you write a full album worth of music, including lyrics and an album title but have zero idea

Have there been any projects that have really gone off track or anything that you regret working on?
There are always going to be projects you wish went a different way. Unfortunately it’s usually business that gets in the way of a great project. Also timing plays a huge factor in things going south. Sometimes, you’re only given a tiny window to do a huge amount of work, ultimately causing headaches. Trying to please a group of people is sometimes a struggle as well. You’ll make 4 out of 5 people in a band happy and the drummer will hate it and make you start over. But that’s to be expected. There are very few gigs I wish I could do over – but I would love to revisit some of those projects and do a version 2.0 – that would be fun. haha
Do you have an advice for artist’s who wish to do artwork for bands?

Realize that you’re working for the band and for yourself. They are going to have suggestions as they should – it’s their art and their band. Stay away from bands that have zero

What are you currently working on?
Currently working on some album art for Dropkick Murphys, website for an author named Maggie Stiefvater, a local childrens clothing boutique and a military leadership camp. haha

Do you have any dream projects?
I would love to do some packaging for Craft Beers or Breweries

What are your favorite bands of all time and what bands are you listening to right now?
Of all time – Propagandhi, Sex Pistols, Descendents, Dinosaur Jr., Born Against

Listening to currently – O’ Brother, Deafheaven, Touche Amore, Dark Castle

What artists would you like to see on MBA?
No one off the top of my head, I like surprises. ;)

About Vertebrae33

Through hard work and dedication, Vertebrae33 has established himself as one of the most prolific and exciting illustrators on the scene today.  He has received much acclaim as of late for his innovative designs, attention to detail, and wholly unique, raw style.