Receiving new products in stores is the best, but you know what's better? Receiving new products from brands that are from here! Our most recent acquisition, the Spring 19 collection from Montreal artist Brother Merle.
Formerly a simple pseudonym used by Montreal skateboarder Gab Lalande to spread his art and creations, Brother Merle quickly became a popular brand in Quebec, Canada and even the world. We spoke with the mysterious artist to learn more about his skateboarding background, his brand, his career, his inspirations and what it means to be a freelance artist these days.
Which one came first, illustration or skateboarding?
Drawing came first, then skateboarding, then graphic design and then illustration.
Did skateboarding play a role in your interest for graphic design?
Yes. I was really into brand logos, board graphics and ads in magazines. My dad bought me a Big Brother Magazine at the video store when I was 10 or something. It was the one with the Metallica cover, I was really into brands with a cartoon vibe like Sheep footwear, Toy Machine and obviously, World Industries.
What was your main motivation to start your own brand?
It was never meant to be a brand, even to this day. I just wanted to explore graphic design and learn new skills. I was interested in learning screen printing and spray painting. It started as a little art project when my ankle was hurt, the motivation was really just to expand my creativity and design skills.
What’s the main difference between Brother Merle now and Brother Merle when you first started it?
It changed a little bit but the ideas behind Brother Merle remain the same. The only thing that changed over the years is the business side of running Brother Merle… and I feel it’s still a work in progress.
I started by selling product online, then skate shops started showing interest in carrying the brand. Then came the collaborations with skateboard companies, design studios and advertisement agencies. It’s really nice to be involved with different people and project, but it’s a lot of work and management. I recently teamed up with NBP Agency to take care of the shops carrying Brother Merle.
We couldn’t talk about Brother Merle without thinking of old people and clever toilet humor. What do you like about those subjects?
I’ve always liked poop jokes and dumb humor. I’m a huge fan of South Park, Family Guy, Beavis and Butt-Head and movies like Jay & Bob.
How about the "perfect" skate spot drawings? Where does that come from?
The first drawing was inspired by an 8 stairs handrail I used to skate with my friends. It was a shitty double set you had to put wood in the first stair set to drop in. The quote “I have a perfect rail for you…” is something I’ve heard a lot going on skate trips. We’d go meet a filmer or a local skater to show us around and every time they’d say “Oh you skate rails? I have a perfect rail for you...” and they would take us to the shittiest rail ever.
It also seems that the life of a self-employed graphic designer is a big part of the Brother Merle universe. Can you explain the idea behind that?
I have the chance to work with amazing clients and sometimes not-so-amazing clients. The idea is about a few bad experiences I had with people who don’t understand what’s it like to work “freelance”. I’ve heard tons of stupid request, but my favorite one is when someone doesn’t understand he/she has to pay to use my work for their product or advertisement… haha.
You made graphics for a bunch of brands including Foundation skateboards. What is it like to see your art on your favorite skaters pro boards?
It’s really nice, I never thought I’d do graphics for skateboard companies. It’s great to work with a brand like Foundation and to build a strong relationship with them. It’s definitely something I want to keep doing in the future.
If you had one advice to tell the next generation of graphic designers and brand creators, what would it be?
I’m still learning how stuff works and making tons of mistakes every day. Maybe that’s my advice, try new things, screw things up and learn from that.