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An Interview with Steve Siegel, creator of the Viral ‘Simpsons Characters/Jamband Fans’ Chart

Last week, a quite viral chart of characters from The Simpsons were used to describe the fans of 9 Jambands. It took off like wildfire via social media and while making fans laugh at the incredibly spot on connections between characters and bands, it also sparked discussion about other bands not represented. Steve Siegel from The Barn Presents created this incredible chart and talked to PhanArt Pete about what went into creating it.

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Created by Steve Siegel

PhanArt Pete: When did you come up with this idea? How quickly did they always come together?

Steve Siegel: It was actually several years ago when I put the whole thing together so the process of creation isn’t really at the front of my mind. I’ve always had a very warm affection for lot shirts and designs that are inspired by popular culture. I always get a ton of ideas for these but my design skills are pretty limited.

A Simpsons design is kind of a shortcut. It’s hard not to get a warm-and-fuzzy when I see Phish shirts like the (Chief) Wiggum/Makisupa Policeman, Willie/Lawn Boy or Barney/The Sloth, but at the same time they are kind of lazy:  just slap a song title together with an image of the character. I have always been more impressed with some of the more clever Simpsons related designs: “Lawyers Guns & Money” (Lionel Hutz, Herman the Gunshop owner & Itchy), “Born On The Wrong Planet” (the alien Kang playing a mandolin), even the South Park “Boy Man God Shit”. I love that they used more obscure characters and tried to reach for something that required a beat or two to process and appreciate. I guess these were my main sources of inspiration.

PP: What were your thoughts when going through each band and considering a character for each? Any second guesses or close calls before the finished product?

SS: I seem to remember them coming together pretty quickly; one of the very few practical uses for that weird place in my brain that holds Simpsons trivia. Umphrey’s was tough but I kept coming back to that photo taken from the stage at one of their shows as few years back.

umphreys-kids

Finally, that squeaky voiced teenager who holds every menial job in the Simpsons-verse (does he even have a name?) just popped into my head. I lucked out on a couple too. Could there be a better image of Moe Syzlak than the one I used for moe.? Just looking at it is funny. I think I cycled through a couple of ideas/characters that didn’t really fit the jamband theme as well. After I published, I’ve gotten some good suggestions through comments, too, (such as) Bumblebee Man for Los Lobos.

PP: Are you surprised at how fast it went viral? It took only a few hours to get over 1000 shares on Facebook and the overwhelming response has been incredibly positive.

SS: Yes and no. I never posted it to Facebook on Friday and wasn’t really looking at my Facebook Newsfeed, so when I finally saw what was going on it was a bit of a shock. My friends were telling me it was being shared by people who didn’t know me or The Barn, popping up in their timelines multiple times. I’ve written some very popular posts before, but never quite like this. I guess I learned a couple lessons, too: 1. It’s a lot easier for people to share an image on Facebook than to click through a link to my site and 2. I should really put a logo or watermark on these things!

At the same time, I guess if anything were to take off, this had all the right elements. I expected this to resonate with people in their thirties or forties. The early-to-mid-90s was an awesome time for both Jamband fans and The Simpsons. Jerry was still around for much of it, Phish was at the absolute peak of their powers and there seemed to be this great overlap of young people that were both open to that sort of thing and could also appreciate how deep, layered and subversive The Simpsons were. Both really reward you for paying attention and at a time where there was far less of every variety of entertainment to distract us, they were the things that really earned our loyalty.

PP: Tell readers about The Barn Presents - what’s your website and what do you cover?

SS: It’s a music blog that tends to have a Jamband focus but really runs the gamut of the broad array of music that I love. I also have a handful of great contributors and am always looking to add more. I try to set it apart in a couple of ways: First is by covering our local scene pretty heavily. I’m from Chicago and there’s always so much great music originating from or coming through here, there’s definitely no shortage of shows to write about or music to share.

I’m also way into data visualization and that has become a secondary focus of the site. I love to not only feature music related charts, graphs and visuals from around the web, but also create some of my own, hence the Simpsons feature. I’ve also done some cool visual presentation stuff with setlists and other band/song data that’s pretty popular. I have plenty of ideas to add more, my only constraint is time!


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