This project took a lot of creative muscle to pull off quickly and we just wanted to give you guys a little inside peek at our thought process. When the pandemic hit we said we’d double down and work harder than ever and get more creative to try to encourage others around us and to keep our little brand afloat. Vardagen is about everyday human experiences on everyday things like t-shirts. We’ve been exploring all the different emotions and feelings around a worldwide situation that has effected everyone’s everyday lives. Our newest sub-collection we’re adding to the PNDMC Collection is called “Get Antisocial!”. We created a new t-shirt design, a song with a music video as well as limited edition cassette tapes (only 20 pink versions available). Here’s some commentary from Daniel (who designed the shirts) Casey (who wrote the song) and Jared (who directed the music video).
Daniel: I’ve been some degree of a hard music lover for more than half of my life. A gnarly, gritty band tee brings me more pleasure than most other things on this earth. Plus, as someone who’s been in the design/print t-shirt game for a decade, I geek out over this art form from multiple standpoints at once.
When Jared and I were brainstorming some ideas around different aspects of this pandemic situation, the “social distancing” concept was obviously on the forefront. My mind went to words like “antisocial”, “societal collapse”, “going off the grid”, “distortion of communication”… you get the idea. Very punk. Perfect- I wanted to make a band tee. I sat down to sketch, made some grungy lettering that treated “Vardagen” like it was the name of the punk band and drew an outrageous skeleton running away from something, maybe society… maybe disease… maybe misinformation.
Although I didn’t quite have a full vision for the design yet, I sent the sketch over to Jared to get a reaction. I’d been hearing that older folks were most at risk of catching the virus, so I said I thought maybe the skeleton could be running away from his grandma so as not to put her at risk. Jared mentioned how they were saying on the news that you should stay 6 feet away from people. “6 Feet Away or 6 Feet under!” he said, and the design took off very quickly from there. Sometimes a tagline is all you need to round out a design concept.
Next step was printing a prototype. With band tees, not only is it the design I am drawn to, it’s the story of the shirt itself (I know that sounds corny, shuttup). I like to see what ink choices the printer made, is it a thick plastisol print that’s going to crack and gain personality with age or a waterbased/discharge print that fades and becomes more of a subtle, weathered texture than a “graphic” over time. Is it a heavy, budget tee that loosens up and evolves with repeated wears and washes or a soft tee that breaks down and gets holes and thin spots in high traffic areas? Those qualities make a band tee more than just a T-shirt, I think; they turn it into a treasured object.
This shirt needed to feel like it could take a beating, like no one was concerned about wearing the softest tri-blend available. It’s for throwing a leather jacket over, flailing limbs in, spilling beer on, and chopping apart to suit your style. I picked a heavyweight, oversized, cotton tee, made in LA. I popped in at our print shop, we set the design up on the presses. Test print was a home run. Shirt rolled off the belt and it was ready for battle, which is exactly what we are in right now in a variety of ways. We loved the result, but we were concerned people would take this the wrong way and think we were being insensitive. While we may not be inclined to tip-toe around and try to please everyone, we aren’t mean-spirited so we started thinking about more ways to offer context for our idea. That’s where the song and music video come into play.
Casey: After reading many articles on the pandemic, I went for a walk. I only met a few people on our normally busy sidewalk but I could see the fear in their eyes. I could feel the overall tension the pressure of social distancing causes. Is that my neighbor or a potential threat? Growing up listening to and being a part of hardcore and punk bands I was already processing things through music. That’s when I got a text from Jared. “Can you write a song called “6 Feet Away or 6 Feet Under?” I heard the chorus in my head before I even put my phone down. The lyrics came quick and the music followed shortly. I was so inspired by the design that Daniel had drawn and the idea that Jared had come up with. I wanted to write something that reflected the social anxiety we are all feeling. The lyrics start out a bit playful and sarcastic, the way that we all began thinking about this pandemic. They quickly become serious and eventually spiral into an expression of fear and anger and confusion with a reminder at the end to “Resist the panic!”
I wrote, recorded and produced the song in 2 days and we were shooting the music video at Vardagen a couple days later.
Jared: I love bouncing ideas around and getting other people involved, especially when everything comes together in short order. After throwing out “6 Feet Away or 6 Feet Under” I had a bunch of images in mind, but I’ve learned to trust Daniel on the art and waited patiently for about an hour (joking, but he does work really fast) to see where his head was at with the concept. He sent me the artwork with “Not Today Gram Gram” and I loved it! I’m not a songwriter but I could definitely hear “6 Feet Away or 6 Feet Under!” being screamed like a Comeback Kid anthem. I knew my brother-in-law Casey would have a blast with this so I asked him if he would be willing work on it. He sent the song back and it was perfect… well almost perfect. I just asked him to add more vocals and amp up the chorus so people across the country (ahem, me and a couple of my friends) could scream along with it in our quarantined bedrooms. After the track was ready we planned to meet at the store and shoot a music video. Casey and I are both creative forces to be dealt with so when you throw us together there’s some strong push/pull but in an awesome way. We both had different concepts for the vid but we started meshing them together. We considered having Casey playing all the parts in the video (since he played and recorded all of them anyway) but we also wanted the video to feel like an actual band that would normally be playing in the same space but they’re all quarantined into separate rooms. We had one problem though… the song is written for four and there was only two of us. We decided we could get away with just three so I asked my friend Pedro LeTorre to come play the drums. I really wanted the video to have an old-school feel with some modern tweaks. I thought a single take opening shot would help push the video in that direction so we can came up with the first shot showing all of us in our separate areas. Since I was doing the camera work and playing bass we had to plan it out for me to pass the camera off to Casey, sprint to my room and have him run in shortly after to get some shots of me. I wanted the video to express tension of space around other people so the pizza box idea at the beginning kind of starts that idea where it pushes the camera back. It intensifies when the camera gets too close to my face so I hit it, sending it crashing to the floor. I think during this time we’re feeling like we want to be around people but at the same time we don’t want them around at all. For the guitar solo I had Casey get in our couch so it would look like he was in a coffin and it was an opportunity to change the pace of the vid before the camera spins and he’s standing up with his amazing screams to end the song. This definitely pushed our creativity to the edge and fulfilled a longtime dream of mine. I had this silly question in my head "a lot of shirts are made that are inspired by music and movies, I wonder if we can ever make shirts that are cool enough to do the opposite?". I guess if we're doing it all, it can happen.