August 2024

This Is Happening

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Michael Vandino makes his bed every morning. I know this because I called him on it after watching him hang his Sydney exhibition, That’s Cool But Can You Make It More Sh*t. Despite the haphazard, lo-fi aesthetic of his work, Vandino was meticulous in his approach to the presentation, carefully piecing together the hundred-plus pieces of paraphernalia, he had selected from the archives of his work for LCD Soundsystem and DFA Records. As well as admitting he was an “organised creative” (a rare breed), Vandino took time out to give me the low down on his company BUREAU™, and his work with one of the hottest record labels on the planet.

Alice Cavanagh: Was there a moment or point in your life when you realised you wanted to be an artist?

Michael Vandino: When I figured out I was incapable of making follow up calls and filling in spreadsheets. 

AC: How much influence has living in New York had on your work?

MV: Well, I moved to Seattle right after (I decided I was through with) school. Nothing happened (for me) in that city. Moving to New York at once kicked me in the ass and showed me how not impossible it is to make something happen if want it. 

AC: Tell us about BUREAU™, how did it start?

MV: BUREAU™ started late in 2008. Tommy (Tommy Everett is the other half of BUREAU™) and I met a few years back through a friend in New York. I’m pretty sure everything in New York starts ‘through a friend’. I was freelancing as a creative director at a small agency and he was running a small (some would say ’boutique studio’ here but those words make me feel bad inside so let’s stick with small) design studio with a focus on 3D design (primary and secondary packaging for fragrance mostly).

At the time I was a little frustrated with print advertising, specifically fashion advertising. I think people can only do that type of work for so long. It’s disposable. A lot of work with little gratification. I would work really hard on a campaign and in six months (actually more like three months) it was dead and then I would start working on the next season. You can imagine after seven plus years this could get to be a drag. During all of this I was designing for DFA on the side. The DFA work kept me sane. It could live for more than a few months and it was an ongoing, evolving project.

AC: How did your work with LCD and DFA come about?

MV: Right place, right time, crappy computer, mutual OCD.

AC: What work have you done outside of LCD Soundsystem?

MV: Tim Hamilton, Mandy Coon. Just finished a little job for BUTT Magazine. Love those guys. The Juan Maclean. Holy Ghost. Would love to work with Planningtorock.

AC: Can you describe your creative process?

MV: Procrastinate, procrastinate, procrastinate, panic, make something.

AC: How do you approach your work?

MV: From behind. Cuddle up. Say hi.

AC: Where do you look for inspiration?

MV: It depends on the project. If it’s a fragrance bottle we’ll look at vintage furniture, vintage jewelry. Fine art is usually a decent place to start. Fine art takes you very quickly out of a commercial mindset. Art doesn’t have to answer to anything so it’s free to get weird. We like weird. We like things to be a little off. I was once told anything too tasteful is just tacky. I couldn’t agree more.

AC: When are you most inspired?

MV: Just before I go to sleep.

AC: The lightening bolt was a winning ticket – it’s really quite iconic. Was that something that was spur of the moment, or was there a specific inspiration behind that? 

MV: I could never draw something that dumb. You’ll have to ask Murphy about that. Honestly, I wish I could say I dreamt that up.  I saw it, liked it, I exploited it. Part of being a designer is picking out things that look good (sometimes bad). It’s like shopping. 

AC: What are some of your favorite works to date? For LCD?

MV: Hmmmm… if I had to pick something to stare at for a month it would probably be the covers for Drunk Girls. Nancy’s totally cute and Gavin, what an amazing looking guy. Good faces. I’m not mad at This is Happening; I can Change; All My Friends; Someone Great; Tribulations; Party #3, Party #2.

AC: Tell us a little about this retrospective.

MV: Here are all the bits that have informed the look of DFA. Judge accordingly.

AC: How did you come up with the title?

MV: Often times no matter how shit I try to make it (DFA art) Murphy wants it more shit. And I don’t use the work “shit” to be cheeky. Shit is the most synoptic word to describe what we’re going for.

AC: It must have been an interesting process rediscovering old work and sorting through so much creative, was it nostalgic or do you feel you have moved on from those moments?

MV: A little nostalgic, a little reaffirming, a little embarrassing.

AC: What has been a highlight for you since working with the band?

MV: Overall… getting to work with my friends. Who doesn’t want that? I love them; they are my sisters. Anecdotally: designing the Bye Bye Bayou cover at The Manshun in L.A. Really James, you rented a mansion in L.A.? Bummer.

AC: What does the future hold for Michael Vandino?

MV: I wish I could say vacation but that would be a lie. Long term?  Who knows?  This business (design) is unpredictable at best. Maybe BUREAU™ Sydney? This place kinda rules!

That’s Cool But Can You Make It More Sh*t is showing now at Sydney’s Tom Dunne Gallery


Next story: The Lens Of My Brain – Chris Johanson