By Nicolas Palermo | Posted Thursday, May 16, 2019
Bootleg items — whether it be clothes, jewelry, or accessories — often have an alluring aura to them. Take for example, a bootleg Grateful Dead t-shirt: it may not be “official”, but it has an individual personality that cannot be found in mass-produced, licensed merchandise. Therein lies the paradox of the “bootleg” — it is supposedly “inauthentic,” but in reality, it holds a unique quality given to it by the artist behind the graphic.
With that being said, some people are more fascinated with brand-authenticity and bootleg culture than others. Connor Bradley, a NJ-raised, Philadelphia-based artist and designer is one of these people. His latest brainchild is Cold Beer & Soda, a brand that promises “Fresh Quality Guaranteed.” Using his past experience with t-shirt designing/printing, Connor is putting out product that takes influence from hand-painted signage — an artform that is authentic as it gets.
So grab a lawn chair and kick back with your favorite chilled beverage and familiarize yourself with Connor Bradley and his latest project, Cold Beer & Soda. Fresh quality, indeed.
Where did you grow up and where do you currently live? Do you feel as if your environment has had an influence on the style of your artwork?
I grew up in Howell, NJ which is located in Monmouth County but currently live in Philadelphia, where I go to school. I feel like my change of environment has definitely influenced the things that I am currently doing and working on. When I was younger, growing up in a town that has farms and is very rural I was always influenced by the city lifestyle I saw in rap videos, skate videos, and on streetwear blogs. I followed a lot of blogs on Tumblr and Instagram pages that were taking photos of things that were happening in the city centered around streetwear, and I thought that was the coolest stuff in the entire world, and I wanted to be there and have that, but I couldn’t where I was located.
So the first chance I got to go to a city I jumped on and that’s here in Philadelphia. So now being in the city, and having the chance to meet other creatives who like the same stuff as me, and going to events like the ones I was seeing on the internet as a kid is really cool and inspiring to me at the moment. It’s great to actually be able to have fun like what I was seeing as a young kid. Being able to bounce ideas off of people and just talking about clothes, music, culture and having inspiring conversations with people is a great change of pace for me.
Your latest creative output, Cold Beer and Soda represents the East coast aesthetic so well. What is the overall theme or concept of the brand? What are your inspirations for the images you chose to use on the first run of CB&S tees?
Well that goes back to the blogs I spoke about earlier. Store fronts and hand signage are always something that I’ve loved to look at. So it comes from that a lot. I love looking at signs because they are all unique and they are really the first impression you get of a business when walking in the city. We didn’t have that by me growing up, we just had commercial stores that are so in your face with branding and that sort of stuff. It really gives me the opportunity to be creative when making and designing the graphics. It allows me to be funny with a slogan for a business, use some funny clip art that looks cheesy but at the same time fits the pieces. But mainly the aesthetic is funny souvenir t-shirts, or employee t-shirts for businesses. In the first collection I did a “Bootleg Emporium” tee that in a way is a homage to the bootlegs I have been making for the last 4-5 years. And of course the Moon Motel is a super legendary sign in my hometown that was out in front of a super run down motel that was really out of place for our area. And that kind of has its own aura to that.
I’ve been following your Instagram for a few years now and I can see that the Grateful Dead and Phish have had a massive influence on your lifestyle. When you first started making t-shirts, many of them were Dead bootlegs? What made you want to transition from Dead boots to starting your own brand? What did you learn from your early days of making and selling shirts?
I love Dead Bootlegs and they will forever hold a place in my heart but they don’t have longevity. It’s something that I like to do for fun and a hobby that allows me to buy ticket to see them. Cold Beer & Soda allows me to be more serious about my creative set and work on things that are out of the norm from what people usually see from me. It’s starting completely over from scratch again and that’s the fun for me. It really challenges me everyday when I sit down and think about it because I forget how slow of a process it is to build something from nothing. I’m very grateful that I started doing this early on in life and I have the experience that I do and can kind of navigate myself around some of the beginning stumbling blocks. So if I’ve learned anything, it’s definitely to be patient, and relax.
Are there any clothing brands or visual artists that you feel like we should know about?
Rather than a specific brand/person, I’d like to talk about the creative energy in Philadelphia right now. There are so many special things happening here right now, and I’m so excited to be able to toss my hat in the ring among this group of people who inspire me and push me out of my comfort zone. Everybody builds each other up, no competition and wanting to get over on someone. At first I was nervous being the outsider but everyone here has been so welcoming and encouraging. I wouldn’t have made the steps to start something new without these people.
We are all looking out for one another and supporting each other.
I’ll provide you with a list of some Instagram handles you should get familiar with:
Any cool stories or experiences from going to concerts for so many years that stand out?
There are many. But out of everything, it’s building up my family that I go to shows with. When I first started going to shows, I was going with a lot of older heads and they took me in and showed me the ropes of everything. I eventually started forming my steady group of friends and that’s the best thing that has ever happened to my life. We talk every second of everyday, I love them a lot. You get to meet so many amazing people from different backgrounds through this community and it humbles you and makes you grow everyday.
Thanks so much for taking the time to talk! Where can we follow you and see your latest Work?
Thank you for the opportunity!!!!!!!!