Interview: The Gnarcissts

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(Devon and Braedon Acuna)

So tell me why you guys started making art?

Braedon: Was it Matthew?

Devon: Our friend Matthew came to school one day, and he had seen this documentary on graffiti that he was all psyched about. I think that’s how we got into it – by starting to do graffiti.

Braedon: That summer with our friend, we were also getting into skateboarding. We started cutting stencils, spraying them on skateboards, and trying to sell them to our friends. We had a bunch of stencils lying around, so one night we were walking around and started spraying them on stuff for kicks.

You started together? 

Devon: Yeah, it was collectively I guess. We didn’t even really start doing art until we were maybe 12 or 13.

And you’ve always been in interested in the graffiti style?

Braedon: Yeah, I mean, that’s how we got into it.

So you guys make your own t-shirts. How did that happen?

 Devon: One day Braedon just came to me and he was like “I’m gonna start a clothing brand” and I thought it was a sick idea. At first he didn’t want me to join, he wanted to do it himself; but then I convinced him that we should both do it. From there we just started drawing designs in our free tim until we found one that we thought was sick and the we just put it on a shirt.

The other day I had a conversation about what makes something art, so what makes something art in your mind?

Braedon: We actually talked about this the other day too. I think art is something that has meaning behind it. Like if you do something just cause cause it looks cool or you wanna sell something, but it doesn’t have any meaning to you, then that’s advertising. There’s a fine line between doing stuff for other people, and doing stuff that has importance to you. Even if someone else can’t distinguish between those two, as long as you know it has importance, then it’s art.

Devon: As soon as you start putting effort into how something looks is when it becomes art. As soon as it’s art to you and you’re thinking about how it looks and putting effort into it. As soon as it’s an expression of yourself or an artistic idea it becomes art.

You put your art on your shirts, so when you do that is the shirt art, or is it just a shirt that has art on it? 

Braedon: I guess it all depends on your definition of art. If you’re making a statement with the way you dress, I guess it could be art in a way.

Devon: I would say it’s just a shirt with art on it because we didn’t really put any thought into the shirt, just the design.

Devon, I hear you’re releasing a mixtape?

Devon: Yeah, me and the homie, Michael Shrimp are putting out a mixtape this summer. It’s gonna be sick.

Does that mean you wanna do more music?

Devon: Yeah, I mean I’ve always been into music, I’ve just never really done music to put out. Now I’m doing more of that and hopefully it’s good.

What kind of music are you into? 

Devon: I’m into hip-hop and Brae’s into weird punk music that I don’t like.

Braedon: I listen to a lot of punk rock and indie music, I guess, I don’t really know how to describe it. Ever since junior high I’ve been really into pop-punk, even though it’s kinda lame.

Is that the kind of music you want to make?

Braedon: Yeah, I think so. I also play a lot of folk music, mostly just because that’s how all my songs turn out. I think if I were actually in a band with other people, the music would be more like the music I listen to – more punk.

Okay, let’s start a band.

Braedon: Dude, if you’re down to be in a punk band-

That’s like my goal in life .

Braedon: Okay, let’s start a band. I actually wanna be in a band so bad.

My friend and I were actually like “Yo let’s start a punk band.”

Braedon: I’ll be in your punk band.

Devon: I wanna be in your band!

We need a drummer, do either of you drum?

Devon: I do!

Perfect. 

Devon: Yes! I’m joining your punk band. It should be a punk band with me rapping.

Braedon: No Devon! Nobody wants that.

Okay, so, the interview…

Braedon: Oh yeah…

Do you feel like the way you create music and the way you create art intersect? Is your creative process similar?

Devon: Oh yeah, definitely.

Is there a creative process, or for you guys is it just natural? Like whatever happens, happens.

Braedon: I guess where you’re doing art is pretty important. I’m not super detailed, but I think that the way you create art is really important. That sounds kinda douchey, but I mean I like to do it all at once. For example, if you’re in your room and listening to a song and in a certain mood. I always just try to put what I’m feeling in that moment and translate it into my art and let it be a representation of that.

Sort of like what you said about art being created by the meaning?

Braedon: Yeah, exactly. I saw this really cool video, it was one of Grosso’s love letters to skateboarding and he was talking about how you could think of an artists lifestyle as art. The way you live your life, skateboarding, doing graffiti, whatever. You could look at that as style of art. If you’re poor as hell and living off of whatever paintings you can sell and going skateboarding everyday, thats an art form. Which I thought was a really cool idea. So I guess anything that’s an expression of who you are is art.

Is that the way you look at the clothing brand too?

Devon: Eh…an expression of who you are.

What about your guys’ style, where does that come from? And by style I don’t just mean what you wear; you have a very distinct style from the way you guys dress to the life you live and the art you make. It all has a cohesiveness about it. It has a vibe. Has that always been there or do you think it’s influenced by something? Did you consciously decide to be like that?

Devon: I’m pretty sure there was a period where we were never doing art.

Braedon: Yeah, when I was a kid I was into very different stuff than I am now and then slowly, I started with graffiti, and then got into skateboarding. Yeah, a lot of it is just skate culture.

Devon: It didn’t start with skate culture, dude. You were doing graffiti way before you started skating.

Bradeon: Yeah, so graffiti, skateboarding, getting into skate culture…

Devon: You were doing your music way before you were doing graffiti.

Braedon: Okay, can you fuck off? I’m trying to put a thought together.

Devon: I’m trying to help you, that’s what brothers’ are for.

Braedon: I didn’t really have a good idea of who I was or how I wanted to present myself.

Do you feel like now you have a pretty good handle on that? Do you feel like you are who you want to be?

Braedon: Yeah, I would say so. A lot of it comes from skate culture.

Wanna say skate culture a few more times? 

Braedon: Kay, I’m finishing my sentence and everyone keeps interrupting me!

Devon: That’s not a very good interviewing technique; to make fun of him.

You’re the one who keeps telling him his answers are wrong! Okay, continue your sentence.

Braedon: Okay, so skate culture, graffiti, punk music, yeah. I don’t know I’ve been really into the idea of descent. Like being a kid who just fucks shit up for fun.

Do you think the idea of DIY plays a role in what you guys do? Since you make your own music, you make your own skateboards, you make your own t-shirts, you’re just sorta going for it. 

Braedon: Yeah I would say so.

Devon: It’s not so much about the idea of DIY as it is about just doing stuff regardless of not having the proper equipment.

Braedon: I really like the idea of DIY, not necessarily because it’s DIY but because it’s expressing yourself. I would way rather design my own skateboard than buy a skateboard with someone else’s design on it.

Does having a twin cramp your style? That’s the real question. 

Devon: Answer that.

Braedon: If Devon wasn’t here I would probably be really happy, smiling all the time, have my life way more under control, have better grades. Basically I’d just be having the time of my life everyday.

I don’t buy that at all.

Braedon: Yeah, I’d be so bad at being an only child. Okay, I wanna talk about my thoughts on graffiti.

Alright, let’s talk about graffiti.

Braedon: First of all, everyone’s always so pissed off like “Oh our city keeps buffing our city. I wish everyone was just allowed to write everywhere and we could have people spray painting on anything all the time.”

Devon: That’s wack.

Braedon: And I always think that would be so dumb, I definitely don’t want that, that’s the point of the art form. You’re supposed to be fighting against people who don’t want it there. It’s a temporary art form, that’s what gives it value. So if you win the battle and you’re allowed to write wherever you want and nobody is trying to stop you, then what you’re saying doesn’t mean anything.

Devon: There’s no way that could ever work, it would be so messed up. That’s stupid.

Who are you favourite Edmonton graffiti artists?

Braedon: Well FISH definitely taught us a lot when we first started, but I don’t know if I could say I have a favourite artist. Because everyone does such different stuff and there’s just so many people who are plain fucking awful. Dev, who’s your favourite artist?

Devon: I don’t have a favourite artist, they all suck. Gringo97 is good though.

Braedon: It’s probably myself.

I can respect that. 

Braedon: Dev, tell the story about when you and Connor got arrested!

Devon: No, it’s a stupid story.

Braedon: Are there any other cool graffiti stories we have?

Do you always want to be doing art? And by art I don’t just mean visual art, but just graffiti, music anything.

Braedon: Yeah, if I can. It’s just the chillest thing you can do as a job. There’s nothing that’s less work and more fun than art.

Devon?

Devon: Yes, I definitely do. It’s always going to be my main pursuit.

What time is it? 

Devon: Shut up o’clock .

Braedon: Make sure that’s in the interview.

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To contact Devon or Braedon, or to buy your very own Gnarcissit t-shirt, email thegnarcissists@gmail.com 

 

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