Jerrod Landon Porter on his design work for Mayday Parade and the origins of “Pentagram Cat”February 20, 2012
Whether you've noticed it or not, chances are there’s an album in your library or a t-shirt in your closet with artwork designed by JERROD LANDON PORTER. Porter got his big break working with fellow Tallahassee, Florida mainstays Mayday Parade, which has led to work with Cartel, Never Shout Never, Go Radio, Lemuria and a slew of others. And when he’s not at home creating, he’s on the road with Of Montreal managing their merchandise.
In addition to his work with the above bands, Porter is an accomplished artist and designer in other realms. He’s done work for local businesses and neighborhoods all over Florida and beyond and his latest design, the “pentagram cat” (right), became an Internet meme overnight and is now available as a t-shirt thanks to Threadless.
AP chatted with Porter from Tallahassee about the many hats he wears, the origins of the pentagram cat and how he got into designing for bands and labels.
Interview: Bryne Yancey
Let’s start with the Threadless thing—the pentagram cat. Talk about how that came to be and the origins of the design.
Yeah, if I start blabbing too much in these answers, you’re allowed to say “Cool story, bro” and then I’ll just immediately stop talking and we’ll move onto the next thing. [Laughs.] It came from when I was pre-teen age—12ish. I had a disposable camera and I was just killing film taking pictures of my cat. The cat just happened to be cleaning itself right when I was snapping a shot and its body made the shape of a pentagram. I had this idea for years, so I wanted to make that into something.
Recently, I was driving around with somebody and telling them the idea, and then I got into an argument with them a couple days later and I was like, “I am going to find this picture and draw it.” I couldn’t find the picture, so it was really bumming me out. So I was like, “I’m just going to draw it and put it up online and everybody is going to laugh at it and I’m going to feel way better after having this argument.”
Then, I woke up the next morning and somebody was like, “Did you know that your image went viral? It’s all over the internet.” I had to jump in front of it because I didn’t want it to end up in some cheesy t-shirt company type thing—you know, they change it a little bit and steal your idea. It’s my deceased cat from my childhood and I didn’t want it to end up in something stupid, so I just submitted it to Threadless to see if they would bite on it. After I did that, Dave Navarro [of Jane’s Addiction] posted it on his blog and it just kind of blew up. It became [a meme] and ended up just winning like crazy on Threadless.
The way Threadless works is that people go on there and vote on designs and usually when a t-shirt wins, they judge it from zero to five—it’s a steady incline from zero to five on the votes. I looked at mine and from zero to four it was just flat across the board and then five was like a smokestack that just shot up. I knew that it was going to win after that.
Are those are currently in production or have they already been made?
Yeah, they started selling them on Monday and it’s doing pretty well. I work for a lot of bands, so I’m mailing them to bands right now to wear. I sent some to John [Nolan] in Taking Back Sunday and Sheena [Ozzella] in Lemuria. I think [I have] a couple other bands I haven’t nailed down on whether or not they want to wear them, but some others are going to wear them at Warped Tour and some other places.
Talk a little about the design stuff you’ve done for bands. How did you even get into that realm? I think that’s something a lot of people are curious about.
When you’re in high school and want to impress girls, you start a band and I was a nerdy comic book reader, so I was like, “I need something that’s cool to do.” I was going to college for politics because I was way into moderate/liberal leaning politics and had a band. We needed graphic design and I was an artist, so I started making stuff for our band and then when we would play with other bands, they would see it and be like, “Oh, where’d you get that done at?” and I was like, “Oh, I made it.” Then I would do their stuff and they would go on tour and other bands would see it.
It just became this snowballing effect where other bands just started calling or emailing me. Most of those bands were nobodies and then they would get popular and other bands that were [already] popular—it was just a big snowballing effect. Then record labels started hitting me up. For a while I was the primary designer at Doghouse Records and recently I’ve been doing a couple of things for Fearless because of the Mayday Parade connection. It’s as simple as that—I needed something for my band and it just snowballed to other bands.
You mentioned the Mayday Parade connection. What is that, exactly?
They were a couple years younger than me here in town and I was already an established designer in Florida. We sat at a Wendy’s one day and pitched ideas back and forth doing their EP cover when they weren’t even signed. I gave them my idea and I went around and took a bunch of pictures of payphones and had my friends posing for pictures and a couple weeks later they got signed to Fearless and Fearless got the design and now it’s like the first thing they put out on that. Then they got bumped up to a major label and the major label was getting them an artist to do their second two albums. Then we were just hanging out at a bar and they were like, “Man, we wish we had more control over the artwork.” They were just saying this to me and then they were like, “Oh, you did our first record and you’re a graphic designer that actually does major label and indie label designs. Will you do our next EP?” That was the Valdosta EP. They were so happy with that they were like, “We want to do a comic book for our next release [2011’s Mayday Parade, left] and you do comic books,” so that’s where that came from. I sort of did stuff for them when they were nobodies. I did their first three shirts and their first EP [2006's Tales Told By Dead Friends]. Then they went on Warped Tour, got popular and signed [to Fearless].