We’ve featured the witty, thought-provoking objects of Brooklyn-based Colleen & Eric before, and got curious about the music that inspires them. Take a look at the music that has gotten a lot of airtime in the home studio/shop of designers Colleen and Eric Whiteley as they’ve been developing their budding business over the last year.
What do you listen to while you work? Eric: I’ve worked for years for an amazing furniture maker who has taught me everything I know about woodworking. His motto is “All soul, all the time.” After five years of hearing old school R&B and Motown for eight hours a day, it’s really rubbed off on me. When there’s serious work to be done, I like to listen to something that has a great groove and I’ve heard a million times. It lets me concentrate on what I’m working on, and really makes the time fly. Colleen: Mondays I usually listen to podcasts of programs that aired over the weekend to start my day off. I especially enjoy Radiolab—Jad and Robert can make even tapeworms seem amazing. After that, music in almost all its forms makes up the rest of my day.
How do you listen? Eric: Colleen and I got Android phones about a year ago, and we’ve found tons of apps for music, like Pandora and Grooveshark. It kind of blows my mind that we can be anywhere, and get any music we feel like. There’s always a way to plug the phone into whatever speaker system is available. On the other end of technology’s timeline, we also recently set up a Technics turntable, and listen to all the classic records Colleen has collected over the years. What’s great is, we’re just in time for the return of vinyl, and all the new releases that come with mp3 downloads, too. The ritual of choosing a record, dropping the needle on it, and flipping to side two does make the music more special somehow.
Do you have any favorite music websites/providers? Colleen: Our good friend Vicky (her husband Thomas MacLean built our amazing website) introduced us to Grooveshark.com. It has an endless selection of music that you can pull from to create playlists or just find someone who like similar music and listen to their mixes. 8tracks is kinda rad, too—people post “mixtapes” that you can listen to. Eric: You get a lot of personality in the playlist that way, and we hear lots of music we never would have found otherwise.
Does music influence your work? Eric: There’s a collaborative element to our Flock of Birds. We designed them, but the owner decides how to fit the flock to their space. Giving up some control of the final design is akin to jazz music—the same song is different each time it’s performed. Same with Flock of Birds—no two sets are going to look alike.
Colleen: Music definitely influences our work. When you hear an amazing album, let’s say Bjork’s “Medúlla”—all a cappella, but it sounds like there’s dozens of different instruments—it’s another art form that challenges you to push your concepts and aesthetic.
Where do you find music recommendations? Colleen: Most often I hear about music through friends so I guess our friends influence our musical taste. While listening to 8tracks, I’ve heard music that I really like and end up buying the album—like Mumford and Sons.
If your work was a song or a musician, what or who would it be? Eric: I really like Four Tet’s music. He samples strange noises, cuts them apart just to be assembled backwards, and layers dissonant tempos together. Yet somehow, the music is beautiful. I love that concept in design, too—playing the beautiful against the ugly or ordinary. Droog does that a lot, and Achille Castiglioni’s Mezzadro tractor-seat stool is a great example. I like to think the wing nut in our Hold On Tight shelf does the same thing. Colleen: David Byrne—he’s a huge inspiration! I was fortunate enough to go to the opening of Playing the Building at The Battery Maritime Building where he played the building (thanks Liz!). I love how he combines all forms of art.
COLEEN AND ERIC’S PLAYLIST
New York, I Love You But Your Bringing Me Down, LCD Soundsystem
This Must Be the Place, Talking Heads
Triumph of a Heart, Bjork
The Greatest, Cat Power
My Angel Rocks Back and Forth, Four Tet
La Vie En Rose, Louis Armstrong
P.Y.T., Michael Jackson
Tezeta (Nostalgia), Mulatu Astatke
Young Americans, David Bowie
Mercy Mercy, The Rolling Stones
Nothin’ From Nothin’, Billy Preston
The Distance, Cake
Let Spring Decide, Chromix
Images: Colleen & Eric