It’s tough to know which category to file this post under. Are Earthling Brains musicians or artists (let’s not get into the discussion about them being one and the same thing). As well as a fantastic band whose debut album is released by Forward Defensive Records on the 10th June, Earthling Brains is also a comic strip drawn by Joe. If all this sounds confusing, I spoke to Joe to try to shed some light on things.
So…what is you do exactly?
I started drawing about two years ago, started the Earthling Brains comic strip about a year and a half ago, and I’ve been uploading strips on a weekly basis since April 2012. I liked drawing and comics when I was a kid but gradually just lost interest.
I guess I started drawing again for a couple of reasons. At the time I was having trouble with my hearing and started thinking I might not be able to play music for that much longer without causing some serious damage. So I needed a plan B in terms of a creative outlet. And then I started getting into comics again and thought I wouldn’t mind a crack at that. Plus, compared to most hobbies it’s pretty cheap to get yourself going!
At the start I had all these plans to write something important and the comic strip was just a way of making sure I drew a couple of times a week! I haven’t got round to the important comic yet….
Have you found the secret to the human mind then? Describe a typical earthling brain.
Pink and spongy! And prone to silliness.
What do you get out of it?
I suppose the main thing is a creative outlet, but I like the diary aspect. I mean, it’s a pretty patchy diary, but most of this stuff happens (though I do get complaints when I’ve misrepresented someone for a punch line). It’s also satisfying printing up comics and hearing from people who read them.
Are you more a musician or a illustrator and artist?
I think it’s been 50/50 this year. I’ve done some cool drawing-related things (a comic in Off Life magazine, contributed some of the booklet art for Darren Hayman’s new record, and finished my first non-Earthling Brains comic, but actually they’ve all been related to music in one way or another!
My new comic, The Long Night Is Over is a companion piece to the album I’ll Leave A Light On For You. The next couple of big projects I’m planning also involve combining music and comics because you can tell the same story but in completely different ways.
I’ve been making music for a while and I have a sort of confidence about doing it that I lack when making comics. But at the moment I’m interested in putting the two things together, so half and half is about right!
What sort of things do you comment on, and where do you get your ideas?
Disappointing summer blockbusters, hot water bottles, video games, whatever happened that day… Like I say, it’s based on stuff that actually happens, one way or another. Almost inevitably the silly stuff. I grew up on newspaper comic strips so that style suits me down to the ground (though my strips tend to have more swearing).
Do you find there is much of ‘scene’ around comics and zines?
I’m sure there is, but I tend to operate in a bubble… or have done up until more recently. I had a table at DIY Cultures 2013 at Richmix last month and that was the first time I’ve been in a room full of people on a similar wavelength, trying to flog comics and zines. That was cool but a bit daunting too.
If you’re in a scene, the tendency is to produce something that will satisfy that audience (which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but I think you run the risk of hitting a dead end, creatively. I think the most important thing is to try to be happy with whatever you’re working on, and worry about how it’s perceived at another time.
Earthling Brains – I’ll Leave A Light On For You is available on June 10th on Forward Defensive Records