An upended semitruck mounted on a tower juts up against a sunset, like a rocket ready for launch. An arrow fastened to the side of the trailer beckons highway travelers to the next exit, and a small billboard proclaims, “open 24 hours.” Disparate signs form a seemingly nonsensical phrase that just happens to be the name of a band: MY MORNING JACKET.
This surreal scene is the centerpiece of a concert poster made by Landland, a Chicago-based graphic design studio and screenprinting shop fueled by the imagination of artists Dan Black and Jessica Seamans. Together, the duo creates tangible mementos that concertgoers (or attendees of the annual Flatstock poster fair at the Pitchfork Music Festival) can take home, each painstakingly printed, one layer of ink at a time.
“For years we were doing this stuff out of apartments, basements and sheds,” says Seamans, a lifelong drawer, adept at fanciful layouts. Her collaborator Black grew up in Minneapolis making DIY punk flyers on Xerox machines and specializes in detailed renderings of deserted architectural elements. “I’ll sometimes sketch something out and then Jes will finish the drawing, which is really surreal to see happening,” Black says. Yes, these two can finish each other’s… sketches.
Years after meeting in a studio at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design, Black and Seamans began working together in 2007, producing prints for local bands in Minneapolis. “Band posters were a way of tricking myself into producing stuff,” Seamans says. “I felt insecure with the idea of myself as an artist. I felt like I didn’t have anything to say.” The studio’s work caught the eye of then-rising indie bands Bon Iver and Arcade Fire, who each commissioned posters, leading other acts to follow suit.
By the time Black moved to Chicago in 2013, Landland was creating concert posters for the likes of Phish and the Black Keys. On a typical day, Black and Seamans are designing or printing, a meticulous process that frequently means long workdays. Sometimes Black personally delivers posters; he’s driven as far as Philadelphia and Colorado to drop off prints on the day of a show in a pinch.
The success of their concert posters has allowed the artists take on other projects, too. Black designs album covers for Landland’s small record label, and Seamans has drawn movie posters and creates album art for horror film soundtrack reissues.
Designing posters has landed the duo backstage with artists like Ian MacKaye and Arcade Fire, but the pair’s most anticipated meetings are those that happen when Landland sets up at the Flatstock poster market. “Seeing the actual human beings who are buying your stuff provides valuable feedback,” Black says. “It forces you to think about the appeal of the works you’re making.”
When the duo returns to its Bucktown studio, it’s back to the grind. “When we started doing this, it was almost exclusively for bands we were really excited about,” says Seamans. “Now it’s more of a job.” But it’s a job both seem uniquely qualified to do, creating images that subtly recall amazing performances. “We have a very certain skill set,” admits Black. “We understand the chaos of it a lot better now.”
Landland will be among the artists selling posters at Flatstock 55, during the Pitchfork Music Festival, July 15–17.