Merchandise is a critical branding tool for bands but it is equally symbolic of community to fans – a wearable statement of belonging. Whether purchased with planned intent or in the spur of the moment, people embed memories of “that” show and “those” people into the fabric of those t-shirts. That is a really powerful thing, and Milan Chagoury has been helping bands channel that for years now.
INTERVIEW: ANTHONY THOMAS / PHOTOGRAPHY: KIERAN TUNBRIDGE
It all began when Milan fell in love with hardcore music in his late teens, a time when the scene started to gain some real traction in Australia, particularly along the east coast. There was something about the youth culture it bred that nurtured military-like comradery among those who associated with it. Bands like Carpathian, Parkway Drive, 50 Lions and Miles Away became royalty. A Sunshine Coast resident, Milan’s commitment saw him make frequent road trips to Byron Bay. His motivation was simple; the people and the memories they created together.
“I just loved the energy involved in the music. The album covers and merch were always very loud and appealing to me. It’s what got me into design in the first place,” Milan says, recalling how he dropped his journalism major in favour of graphic design.
“I guess hardcore saved my life.”
Closer to the end of his degree, the designs he was producing for a small bodyboard brand caught the eye of Joel Birch, frontman of rising stars The Amity Affliction, who approached Milan to collaborate with the band. The resulting design proved popular among fans and led to the band’s management company, UNFD, asking him to service its entire roster.
For perspective, this put a freshly graduated Milan in a position where he would be designing for one of Australia’s largest independent music agencies. While the learning curve was steep, it was a sink-or-swim environment he thrived in. Things snowballed. Under his alias, Stay Bold, Milan now counts prestige bands such as Bring Me The Horizon, Architects, Deez Nuts and While She Sleeps as clients.
Having a vested interest in the music itself obviously helps give the designs enhanced character and relevance, however, it’s Milan’s tendency to put a dark spin on things that made him a natural fit for these clients. Much of the ideation is left entirely on his shoulders as formal briefs are few and far between.
"It’s like firing an arrow into the dark and trying to hit a target,” Milan says, although it's obvious he hits the mark more often than not.
After the initial sketches are given the green light by the band, Milan develops them in Photoshop on his Wacom Cintiq graphic tablet. Once satisfied the foundations are solid, he jumps into Illustrator to really flesh out the design. Despite this somewhat niche client base, Milan’s fear of churning out stale work has seen him fall into a cycle of ongoing experimentation to avoid being pigeonholed stylistically.
It’s hardly surprising his portfolio has aesthetic vibes ranging from old westerns to Californian summers, though more recently he has found an obsession in retro rock posters and vintage advertisements...
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