Chances are, you might not know the name Sons of Nero, but you’re almost definitely familiar with their work. The graphic design firm, which formed in 2000, is behind many iconic album covers, T-shirts, and Web sites, including acts like Bring Me the Horizon, In Flames, Unearth, Protest the Hero, and 36 CrazyFists. Started in conjunction with Ferret Records and now part of Channel Zero Entertainment, Sons of Nero founder (and Nora guitarist) Matt “Portland” Hay answered some questions for us.
Anyone that posts a comment or follow-up question for Portland between now and December 31 will be entered to win a signed and numbered limited edition (only 25 made!) three color silkscreen.

Do your designs come to you from listening to the bands’ records first, or is it more of them coming to you with a concept?

Our designs ideally start with an initial concept from the band or client that we expand on. Sometimes they will just give us a sentence to go off of, sometimes its a line in the lyrics or simply the title of the album. If the band doesn’t have anything in mind, we’ll come up with between 1 and 3 concepts that we let them pick from. We like to work directly with the client so the more feedback they give us the better. When working on an album layout, we know that our art is there to represent the music and ideas of the band. Our job is to bring their ideas to life.

Do you let your personal musical taste dictate who you work for?

Not always. Of course we wouldn’t work for any band or client with a hateful message or ideals that we don’t agree with. Our musical tastes all vary greatly, but working with a variety of different genres allows us to explore new ideas and techniques. Different views help us grow as artists and ultimately as a company.

Do you have any favorite designs you’ve done?

I think each of us have different favorites, but mine are the pieces that all of us have equal hand on. It’s always great to be able to pass ideas back and forth between each other. If I get stuck, its awesome to have an extra set of eyes to give some insight. It also helps to not overdo a single piece. Having someone there as a teammate really helps the creativity process. Some of those projects where all of us had a part of it are Lower Definition, Bring Me The Horizon and New Found Glory.

You recently had your first art show in Lancaster Pennsylvania. Do you have plans for more in the future? Also, why Lancaster?

Lancaster has an amazing art community and really supports all types of artists. We have mutual friends of gallery owners Angelo and Lisa at Metropolis and when they caught wind of us wanting to show some of our works, they offered up their gallery. Timing couldn’t have worked out better and the process taught us so much. I was really naive going into that process and all the work getting things together was hard. I have learned to juggle my day job at Ferret Music with all the work with Sons of Nero, but throwing the gallery work on top of my plate really set things in a frenzy. We got through it and had one of the best times of our lives and for the history of Sons of Nero. Everyone that came out was super supportive and we got to work with some amazing people. We are stoked to have had that opportunity and definitely plan on doing more shows.
Most recently, we have been offered to show some of our pieces at T & P Fine Art in Philadelphia, PA. We’ll be part of ALTERNATIVE PRESS MAGAZINE PRESENTS: “Side Show” – Art by Musicians and Music Inspired Art on Friday Jan 2nd, 2009 at 7:00pm Participating artists include: Dan Smith, Drew Roulette, Ed Trask, Forrest Kline, Heather Gabel, Invisible Creature, Horsebites, Jason Cruz, Joby J. Ford, Jon Langford, Jonah Matranga, Jordan Buckley, Jordan Pundik, Kevin Hearn, Matt Skiba, Mike Ski, Porter McKnight, Rick Farr, Rick Schaier, Ricky Powell, Ryan Russell, Ryan Wombacher, Sergie Loobkoff, Shawn Harris, Sons of Nero, Steven Cerio, Tim Fite, Trevor Friedrich, and Wes Borland. Fore more information on that visit: T & P Fine Art

What bands are on your wish list to work with?

We look forward to whoever we get to work with next. We’d love to branch out of the more hard music genre and into some Indie Rock, or Hip Hop. Working with labels like Sub Pop, Matador or Barsuk would be amazing. We just got the opportunity to work on a project with up and coming NYC hip hop artist Prophit. We also look forward all the killer releases coming out on Ferret Music in 2009. We can’t wait to see what’s in store for us in the future. It just keeps getting better.