bossa:nova were a Los Angeles DJ collective centered around Jason Bentley, Jun, Dave Hernandez and Allen Voskanian, held together by the hard work and dedication of Jennifer Stone and Kavi Ohri, who always made me feel like part of the family.
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Jen and Jason worked at Maverick Records while I was freelancing there in 1998 and 1999, and Jen and I hit it off. She showed me some flyers for the club night she was managing. I loved the music, but couldn’t abide the design of the flyers. I asked to take over. Jen told me there was no money for a designer, but I couldn’t just stand idly by. (Not then, not now.)
For the next five years I designed all of bossa:nova’s flyers and their promo CD releases. They became my style laboratory. This is where I first tried out my now patented circle doodles, for example. The March 2000 flyer for Gilles Peterson presages the L.A. Louver Rogue Wave cover, and the sleeve for the Living Stereo Selector is the origin of the cover for my first book, All Access.
1999: Small beginnings. Playing with the Pooley logo and a little bit of everything for Jazzanova.
2000: The first “Lazy Dog” flyer (bottom left) was inspired by a Bruno Monguzzi talk. He talked about photographing typography on distorted sheets of paper. Really works like a charm!
A word about Living Stereo: This was bossa:nova’s 2000 holiday CD sampler for friends and family. (An amazing mix, incidentally, that I still listen to and that still transports.) The type was done with a programmable LED toy I bought at Disneyland. You swirl it in the air and words appear. It took over 40 photographs of me twirling that thing to get it right. Photographs taken in the bathroom mirror, that is, with the camera in my left hand, twirling away with my right. In the dark. Luckily, I already had a digital camera at that point. It seems so mundane to point that out, but it was a new toy then, and I don’t think I’d have been able to pull it off with film.
When I was working on All Access the publisher and I got into a protracted battle over the cover design. After eight months and endless comps I told them, “Just look through my site, pick a look you like, and that’s how I’ll do the cover.” Never in a million years did I think Living Stereo would be what they’d choose. It had nothing to do with the concept of the book, or with their previous feedback. But it’s always been one of my favorite designs, so I counted my blessings and started twirling in the dark once more.
2001: Lazy Dog became our favorite visitors. Amazing shows! Great time to go to the Winter Music Conference in Miami, too. Artistically, I seem to have had other things on my mind. This feels like a bit of a lull.
2002: Clearly I got interested again. The two sound wave designs were our general flyers, and Lazy Dog 5 was the first ever appearance of the patented 344 circle doodles.
In the later years the flyers became a victim of bossa:nova’s growing success. They were able to bring in bigger acts as guest DJs. Those acts had albums to promote, and wanted the flyers to use the artwork from those albums. None of which I’m showing you here. The resulting flyers were’t unattractive, they just weren’t mine. My style lab had turned into just another grunt job. And that was no fun. After a few months of agonizing over the decision I handed in my notice.
I got to see some amazing people spinning for bossa:nova over the years, and I miss the opportunity to sneak in a little dancing. But more than anything, it was an honor to be associated with the club, and to get so many great opportunities to make new designs for musicians I loved. Sadly, the club closed its doors in February of 2007. Jason went on to become the music director at KCRW, of course. Jun, Dave, and Allen all kept DJing, too. Club nights don’t last forever. It’s the nature of things. But I do miss those Thursday night trips to Santa Monica.