Jermaine Rogers has created poster artwork for Neil Young, David Bowie, Queens of the Stone Age, Eddie Vedder, Radiohead, and hundreds of other musicians. Rogers’ latest project was to create a series of creatures to adorn the labels of each Dogfish Head seasonal beer releases: Aprihop in spring, Festina Peche in summer, Punkin Ale in fall, and Piercing Pils in winter. “Everywhere the finest brews are sold, expect to see a little wild-eyed bunny leering back at you,” he told us.
Dogfish has a history of collaborations with music-world artists such as Jon Langford and Tara McPherson, all of whom have brought their own unique style to the craft brewery’s posters and posters. We caught up with Rogers to find out how he has incorporated some of his signature characters into the Dogfish universe.
What was your inspiration behind the project, and how did you pick the different creatures on the labels?
I wanted to establish some common ground between the product and the people who will be [drinking] it. Dogfish prides itself on making “off-centered ales for off-centered people,” which is right up my alley. I tried to create little personalities that were inviting and engaging, while being a bit disturbing—which is kind of my thing.
I love juxtaposing elements and melding subjects that people aren’t naturally conditioned to associate with one another. In a world that so often presents the boring status quo, it’s quite a treat when you see something out there in the wasteland that is speaking your weird and wonderful language.
If you view things that way—that art, at its core, is a potent and visual language—then creating artwork becomes much more than a solitary exercise in technique. I’d like to think that Dogfish Head customers can see me winking at them from these labels.
How did you get connected with Dogfish Head?
Dogfish Head contacted me in early 2013 and asked if I’d be into the idea of doing some work with them. I believe that some of the folks around there had seen some of my work before, but we hadn’t yet been officially introduced. That’s where artist Jim Mazza comes in.
I’ve known Jim for years, as he is an amazing artist in his own right and active in the rock-poster art scene. Jim did the fantastic artwork for Dogfish Head’s 2013 seasonal brews, and graciously suggested me to Sam Calagione for the 2014 artwork.
In a world that so often presents the boring status quo, it’s quite a treat when you see something out there in the wasteland that is speaking your weird and wonderful language.
How was working with Dogfish Head’s Sam Calagione?
Working with Sam and his team was pretty awesome. They are all very free, easy, and extremely open to new ideas—which is what you would expect from a company with their reputation. But Sam also has a very clear idea of the vibe that he wants in the air around his brews. So, working with Sam and Dogfish Head was a true pleasure.
Is this the first time you’ve done art for a food or alcohol product?
I’ve done artwork for some food and alcohol products before. For instance, when doing artwork for certain concerts or tours, occasionally a major sponsor will be an alcohol company—but that’s pretty detached, business-on-paper kind of stuff.
What I’ve done with Dogfish is a new thing for me, though. It’s the first time I’ve worked with a brewery to craft a visual aesthetic that will be tied so closely to the culture of the product. There is the challenge of honoring the groundwork that has been lain before by other amazing artists, and respecting that manicured atmosphere. At the same time, the creative strata that is already in place demands that I, the new guy to the table, do my best to add something fresh, exciting, and challenging.
I’ve seen the bear you use on the Punkin Ale label before in your designs. Is that a common character you use in your art?
The bear creature in the Punkin Ale piece is a being from a race that I call the Dero. I’ve been drawing Dero and Veil—another related bear character I created—ever since I was a teenager.
Dero is heavily influenced by Sid & Marty Krofft shows that I watched as a kid. TV shows like H.R. PufnStuf and Sigmund and The Sea Monsters introduced these worlds where everything was alive. The shows were populated by weird characters who were, of course, actors in big crazy suits—much like the people at Disneyland and other amusement parks walking around in those giant costumes.
That right there was the genesis of Dero for me. I found it a bit disturbing that there were adult people in these suits and everyone seemed to pretend that they were real. I knew that there were people in those suits, they knew it—everyone knew it. Yet, at the amusement park, people suspend reality and play along, and they hug these strangers in colorful costumes, take photos with them, and let their kids take photos with them.
I must’ve been a weird kid, because it all kind of freaked me out and held me spellbound at the same time. So, I started drawing these beings that looked like they could be people in suits. They had blank expressions on their faces and leering grins. They were the beings behind the scenes—the hidden hands pulling the strings. It’s no accident that the Dero bear looks like a freaky amusement park costume. It’s this fascination with the illusion of reality: something that looks alive on the surface, but has no real life inside. It’s why I love wax figures and mannequins, as well.
“This is the kind of fun freakiness that I feel Dogfish Head drinkers will be totally comfortable with.”
I gradually crafted a story around these beings and named them ‘Dero’—there is an entire mythology I’ve built around them and their related characters over the years, which is a mixture of disturbing para-science and over-the-top ridiculousness. Essentially, weird juxtapositions.
In the late ’80s and early ’90s, my addiction to Japanese animation drastically influenced the look of the bears, as well. There’s are obvious influences from the world of animation, especially in the visage of the Dero bear. The wide eyes, the Cheshire Cat-like grin. You see many of these elements when watching several anime films from this period.
I first used the Dero bear on a concert poster back in 1995, for a show by the band KMFDM at a place called Number’s in Houston, Texas. People in the scene at that time seemed to dig it. So, I use the bears every so often. There have been vinyl art toys made of Dero, as well.
So, yes, this is the kind of fun freakiness that I feel Dogfish Head drinkers will be totally comfortable with.
Are you big into beer? What is your favorite of the Dogfish Head seasonals?
I like drinking beer. I’m going to go with the Aprihop as my favorite of the seasonals. It’s very spring-y; it literally tastes like winter is over.