Illustrated Tapes 087: Race to the Sun!

Curated by Sean O’Brien
08.12.20

spoti.fi/3n7qLSJ


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Sean is a Brighton-based Illustrator using visual language to explore character-driven narratives.

Hey Sean. Can you tell us a little bit about your tape and your song selections?

My tape is called “Race to the Sun” and it’s in response to the post-work bike rides I went on during the summer, getting out of Brighton and onto the South Downs. As Autumn drew nearer and it started getting darker quicker, this playlist is about going as far as you can with the little light that’s left in the day. It’s high energy and driven by basslines and hard hitting snare beats which make going as fast as you can even more fun. I think “What is Hip?” by Tower of Power usually comes on when I'm at the foot of one of the many hills in Brighton and it’s a great driving force, albeit a bit of a killer when you get to the top. Lots of these songs have come on while I’ve been riding and with earphones in it’s great to experience all the different layers and textures of the song, but also to distract yourself from the great deals of exhaustion you’re feeling!

What direction did you take with your cover art, and what was your process?

It’s a memory drawing I’ve done over and over again, trying to capture the ever changing layers of the South Downs. I drew the rolling hills and lines in lots of different variations before settling on this one. I  was really focusing on mark making and using different drawing mediums to create a representation of the texture of the place; I also drew this while listening to the playlist on repeat which definitely played an influence. I really love this process as the drawing is constantly evolving, just like the downs that are always changing throughout the year, each time I go. There’s a particular spot at the top of a hill between Ditchling Beacon and Stanmer Park where I ride to, that just opens up onto this great panorama of the downs.

What are your fave album covers, records with a great music and artwork combo, or musical projects with a visual component?

The first album cover I really remember thinking “Wow! That’s really cool” was Best of: Blur from 2000. The artwork was by Julian Opie and I think this is where I really got into pop art when I was younger.

Blur - The Best Of  – Blur
2000, EMI, Food, Parlophone
Artwork: Julian Opie


More recently though I got very heavily into Mr Bongo (a record label that remasters and reissues different world music) and they do these playlists called “Record Club”. They’re based in Brighton and I’ve met a few of the guys who work there who gave me a few of their CDs. Nicholas Burrows does the artwork for the covers and I really love the abstract shapes and forms that represent the music from all over.

Mr Bongo Records Club, Vol 1 – Various
2016, Mr Bongo
Artwork: Nicholas Burrows


Homeshake is one of my all time favourites and his partner, Salina, does all the artwork for his albums. They’re really great and always capture the mood of the album, which I think is a really hard thing to do.

Midnight Snack – Homeshake
2015, Sinderlyn
Artwork: Salina Ladha


Finally, Spiritual Jazz has this wicked album cover that is so textural and focuses heavily on the mark making which I love. It’s also a really good playlist to have on and listen from start to finish.


Spiritual Jazz 10: Prestige – Various
2019, Jazzman
Design: Andrew Symington

What did you listen to growing up?

My Dad has had a massive influence on my music taste throughout the years, introducing me to one of my all time favourite bands, The Style Council, which got me heavily into more jazz, funk and soul. The first single I ever bought was Gnarls Barkley’s “Crazy” and me and my Dad went into the HMV in Oxford Street where I remember picking it out. I also really loved Blur and Gorillaz as a kid, probably because of their illustrated covers! I can remember how shocked I was when I realised that Damon Albarn is 2D’s voice. That was a mind blowing moment for a tiny child brain. Me and my sister both vividly remember listening to Simply Red on a Sunday morning, eating scrambled eggs on toast and drinking orange juice. I can still taste that orange combo whenever I hear Mick Hucknell’s voice now.

And what’s on heavy rotation for you at the moment?

I’ve really got into Mr Bongo recently, and they helped me find one of my all time favourite songs “Can’t Live Without You” by Connie Laverne. They’re a music label that go digging for albums and artists from all around the world and remaster and release records. It’s so good to just stick one of their playlists on shuffle and let it play. There’s lots of South American latin, jazz, fusion. It’s so good! My part-time job in Brighton has its perks, and I’ve met a couple of the OG founders of Mr Bongo who were kind enough to give me some CDs. I’ve still got a CD player for these moments in life!

What’s happening in your creative world at the moment?

I am currently in the process of creating my very own curated Pizza Pilgrimage of Brighton. There are so many great pizza shops in Brighton that for my birthday I’m rounding up a couple of pilgrims to try a slice from each place and rate their favourites! Unfortunately, with the November lockdown I won't be able to do this, but it’ll be ready to go when we’re able to get out again.

Where can we find you?

You can find me wandering around Brighton during the early hours of the afternoon, or on instagram at @seanobillo or on my website at seanrobobrien.com!

Thanks, Sean.
Mark