Meeting and getting to spend time with Jess was truly a pleasure. Our first in person interview had me on the road before sunrise to drive up to the new Alchemist Brewery in Stowe, VT. Through the recordings you can hear the brewery in motion and power of the open space. Jess is not only a great artist, but truly an ambassador for the Alchemist. Her energy and insight was helpful, humble and extremely genuine. Not only the art that she has done for the brewery, but her own portfolio showcases that and shows her evolution as an artist which is exciting and great to watch. I look forward to my next trip to the brewery to see her next stamp on the evolution of the large canvas that is the brewery and hope to some day have her art grace a wall in my home. 

I hope you will enjoy this interview with Jess as much as I did.

AJK:               I’m sitting here with Jess Graham, the art director for the Alchemist.  We’re up in here in Stowe at the new brewery.  Thank you for taking the time to meet with me today.

Jess:                Yeah, it’s all right.

AJK:               Yeah, I just want to just really learn if you 00:14 been to the location, it’s really great to see all your art that’s around that, you know, Jess has done numbers of massive silo, it’s beautiful and then the vat kind of out front, the barrel --

Jess:                Oh yeah, that’s -- that’s my friend, Rachel Laundon and she’s out of Waterbury.

AJK:               Excellent.

Jess:                Yeah.

AJK:               Then the one on the side is also --

Jess:                Oh, the fermenter, yeah.

AJK:               The fermenter, yeah, excellent. And then there’s the man on the can.

Jess:                The man on the can, yeah, that’s John sleeping in the can, yeah, from the line on the Heady Topper can that says “It’s so good sometimes I just want to crawl into the can”

AJK:               Yeah, excellent.

Jess:                And I could imagine John doing that so I came up with that design and I actually did the first version of that as a practice in the Waterbury Brewery, much smaller and then came over here and put it up.

                                                                                           John is 'The Man in the Can'

                                                                                           John is 'The Man in the Can'

AJK:               Now, when you saw the schematics of the architecture plan for the new place, how excited -- I mean, as an artist to have that kind of -- it is really literally a massive amount of blank slate --

Jess:                Oh totally, yeah.  Yeah, it was exciting.  It’s still exciting.  There’s still a lot of space ready to get painted and so I have another practice I’m doing.  Actually, I’m going to do it first in the bathroom.  It is just a giant wave and the fun and challenging thing about doing art, you know, in a commercial space when you’re also the art director, is making sure that -- that you’re working with a color palette that all compliments each other and that kind of works with the branding and so you just have to stay consistent with that.  So, it’s good to practice first and make sure that you’re not using any colors that are just totally out of wack or you know.

AJK:               Now -- do you try to also do when there’s no one here?  Is it more of like a grand reveal?  Or do you like to -- if you’re working on your piece, people will come in and they’d see it kind of the stages of it.

Jess:                Well when I was doing all the work for the Stowe Brewery before we opened, we weren't open, so, you know, obviously no one was really around except for all the guys, all the contractors, which was pretty cool.  I mean I got to see how much work it takes to say like insulate all the pipes in here or do all the electrical work or program all the fermenters and all the tanks.  But for future murals in here -- and you know, like or for the bathroom doors, one of the contractors brought them to my house in a van and I painted those at my studio at home, which was really fun.  But when you get industrial size pieces into your own space, you realize how small your space is and how big, you know, a brewery is like this.  So, they barely -- actually barely cleared the ceilings of my studio, which was pretty funny. 

So, back to the question of the grand reveal, I -- yeah, so the new murals that are going to go up will be in front of people, which will be really fun.  So, what I’ll probably do is come in on Monday and get my projector set up and do an outline, that’s the hard thinking part, you know, and then I’ll probably put on my -- one of my ear buds, maybe have one out so I can talk to people and then paint while people are coming in.  I think that’s pretty cool to watch.  -

AJK:               Yeah, I think that’s nice, you -- even it’s like the brewery, you’d see it’s happening, it’s going on so it’s kind of -- it’s very Vermont and organic.

Jess:                Right, yeah.

AJK:               Now the doors are kind of a throwback to the original ones at the Brew pub, right?

    The original restroom art by Jess from the Brew Pub

   The original restroom art by Jess from the Brew Pub

Jess:                Right, yeah.  That was my first project, painting the bathroom doors was my first project for Jenn and John.  They had seen me -- I actually waited tables for them years ago, at the pub.  It was a great job.  I made decent money and we only served locals so I don't know if you’ve worked in a tourist town or tourist economy, but tourists can be really unfriendly, because they kind of like -- there’s this mentality like, oh, I’m never going to see you again.

AJK:               Right.

Jess:                But if it’s like your neighbors, they're a lot friendlier.  So, it was probably the best -- oh, and also the beer was amazing, and I was getting a beer education when I worked there.  So, anyway, once I left the pub, I was -- I started to do my own art for a living more and more and kind of piecing together the most random gigs, like people do when they're starting out and I would go to craft shows and I would teach classes and I got this really funny but kind of awesome and lucrative gig up at Mount Mansfield where I would show up with a four foot by four foot kind of panel, traced out in some kind of goofy cartoony ski and snowboard inspired mural and I would -- then I would like have kids come and hang out with me for a few hours.  Usually their folks would drop them off and like go to the bar and I was like the artist babysitter.

AJK:               Right, art therapy in a weird way.

Jess:                Yeah.  So, Jenn and John saw me doing that there at Stowe after I worked for them at the pub and they contacted me later and said, we have these bathroom doors, I don't know if you would consider painting peeing people.  And I’m like, for money, peeing people?  Yeah, absolutely, that sounds wonderful.

AJK:               You’re going to pay me to paint people who pee?!

Jess:                Yeah, it sounds hilarious and wonderful.  So, that was my first -- the first job I did for them.  I remember doing the sketches, printing them out on 8 1/2 by 11 pieces of paper, tiling it out and then taping together carbon paper to go along the whole back side of the design and then retracing that over the actual doors.  It was just -- it was, you know, it was like my first time doing it.  It was fun, I was nervous and then the guy ended up looking kind of too feminine, it was confusing for people for some reason, even though he was standing up.  So, I had to go back and then I did him -- I redid the face, it was straight up superman profile.  I found, you know, I found some superman comics and that was like, well, if this doesn't look manly enough, then I don't know what does.

AJK:               There you go.

Jess:                So.

AJK:               That’s awesome.

Jess:                Yeah.

AJK:               So, --

Jess:                So, these are a throw back.  And I can see how far my art’s come since then.  It was probably like 10 or 11 years ago and it’s just like a little more refined and better line work and better color mixing.

AJK:               I think -- well I think each phase is its own -- it’s kind of part of the story.

Jess:                Right, yeah.

AJK:               Right, you need to see how it was and the whole place was probably a little more, you know, rustic, so, it kind of fit more.

Jess:                Yeah,

AJK:               You’ve got a lot more clean lines and it’s very, you know, the architecture has a purpose.

Jess:                Right.

AJK:               So, you went from being -- from a patron to working there then kind of -- kind of -- leave -- prodigal son almost, the -- kind of come back without all the sadness part in the middle.

Jess:                Right, yeah.  I wish I knew the -- the allusion better, but to really speak intelligently about it, but yeah, I actually left because I blew my knee out and I couldn’t really walk very well, so that made it hard to wait tables.  Yeah, and I came back years later, once -- once Jenn and John opened the new facility -- the canning -- the cannery in Waterbury to can Heady Topper, because I think they quickly realized that just going to the local print shop and having them do graphic design wasn’t going to cut it in terms of their needs.  So, I started working with them contractually for about a year or so, and then I remember the day Jenn came up to me and she’s like, so I have a proposal for you.  And I was like, great what is it?  And she’s like, how would you like to be our art director?  And I was like, dream job, yes.  You know, I just -- you know, it wasn’t like I had to think about it or anything like that.

AJK:               Like, let me get back to you?

Jess:                Yeah, let me get -- you know, I have a lot of other offers on the table, like, you know, going to a lot of craft shows, which is really awesome.

AJK:               And this great corner table at the show.

Jess:                Yeah, yeah, my Subaru, I got the whole packing system down in my Subaru and I’m like really -- I give a lot of totes, so, yeah.

AJK:               Yeah, that’s great.

Jess:                Yeah.

AJK:               So, how would you describe your aesthetic?  What -- we were talking before, if you, you know, go to your website, it’s really very -- there’s the portraits, there’s the murals, the branding.  I think it’s really very versatile, but as an artist, how would you describe it?  Because each section is really unique.  There is some similarities we’ve discussed, but I would -- as each stands on it’s own for that, if that feeling is for that art content. 

Jess:                Yeah, I guess I would describe my style as -- I always have a hard time with this because it’s art so I just feel like, oh you have to see it to understand what I’m talking about.  But I guess a friend of mine, Mike Horn, interviewed me for a Backountry Magazine a million years ago, and he described my paintings as fantastical and so I would like to think of that as my style.

AJK:               Okay.

Jess:                Not whimsical, but fantastical.

AJK:               Yeah, whimsical sounds a little more like unicorns and --

Jess:                Yeah unicorns are cool, but --

AJK:               Yeah, right.


Jess:                You know, that’s not really what I’m going for.  It’s -- I guess whimsical’s cute.

AJK:               Right.

Jess:                And it’s a little more than cute, I guess, it’s got a little more soul than cute.

AJK:               Yeah, in your bio, I think that -- well you always talk about -- not about the art as you describe it but how it makes people feel about it.

Jess:                Right.

AJK:               So, which I thought -- yeah, no, it was really, really kind of -- I look your art first then I kind of read that.  It was fitting.

Jess:                Right.  That’s good, yeah, because I -- (mobile ringing) Oh is that mine, sorry.  Are we both ringing at the same time or is that me?  No, that was just me, sorry.  Those are the label people who I spend a lot of time on the phone with.

AJK:               Yeah.

Jess:                Yeah.  I want my art to be evocative and I am inspired by -- I mean I’m an athlete, you know, an amateur athlete, but I’m an athlete and a -- like I’m a mover in the world and I just want my art to have a similar sense of like kinetic energy and even like a landscape, I want it to look like it’s moving and it’s alive and that it’s not just static.  So, that, I mean, could be a challenge with 2D work, but I think like, with my -- a lot of my line work does lend a sense of movement, so I guess--

AJK:               Is there other artists that inspire you or that you looked at early on as like, that’s --

Jess:                That’s who I want to be like. 

AJK:               Artists you want to be yourself -- I think that’s pretty obvious, you’re very independent and you have your own feel and vibe and how you put things out, but everybody kind of, you know, looks at somebody and says, -- or even just somebody that didn’t live to be somebody renowned, maybe just somebody who was your inspiration or something.

Jess:                Right.  Yeah, I mean, it’s just -- there’s been so many inspirations.  I think -- I mean, I think at the end of the day, the thing I’m most inspired by is life, you know, and nature and colors and I’m just someone who sees the world in -- I thought everyone was like this, but apparently not.  Like I see the world in shapes and colors and I get really like -- I get a feeling if it’s -- if I’m in a city for too long, that my eyes are thirsty for green.  So, I think like I said, everything I see is my inspiration really, but that also kind of sounds like a lollipop commercial, everything I think I see.  Anyway.

AJK:               A one, a two --

Jess:                I also -- I mean, I feel like the people that inspired me are so cliche it’s almost embarrassing, like, you know, I loved Egon Shiele and Gustav Klimt when I was a kid.  I remember my dad used to drag me around -- my dad’s a photographer and his big inspiration was Ansel Adams, but he would -- we would go visit my grandparents on Long Island, you know, a couple of times a year and my dad would -- I mean, I say, dragged me around, because he really did drive me around to like museum after museum after museum and we would -- in Manhattan when we were there, and I remember seeing things like, you know, Monet’s Waterlilies, which I thought was super corny, when I saw it in like the dorm rooms of all the girls I went to school with.  But then, I was like, this is amazing, it’s bigger than me, and I feel like I’m sitting in it, you know.

AJK:               That’s how -- I went to the Van Gogh museum in Amsterdam and I was like, oh yeah, right, and the murals were the size of the room and we were just like, you can see -- I mean --

Jess:                You could see the brush work and --

AJK:               Yeah, and it’s like, all right.

Jess:                Okay I get why this guy is on lots of posters.

AJK:               Yeah, and they shouldn't sell this guy in 8 by 12.  Every book should be, you know --

Jess:                Right.

AJK:               Each like you’d have to carry around the room.

Jess:                Right, yeah.  Yeah, there’s another artist to like -- I went to see a show in Montreal with my friend, Jilly Ruth, who was actually was how I ended up meeting Jenn and John and working for them, through her.  I think his name is Anslin Keifer, but then when I looked that name up, it doesn't exist so I don't really -- I’m might be totally off base, but it was another show where you look at the calendar and you’re like, yeah, whatever.  And then you’re in this room and it’s winter cornfields, you know,, where there’s barely any snow, but then there’s like weird corn stalks just, you know, in rows and -- like, I know that and it’s in -- and then it’s larger -- you know, it’s bigger than your whole house.  So, I -- yeah, mural -- living in New York City, all the murals, all the street art, you know, like Miss Van, I love Miss Van.  So, and then a lot of other artists who I just don’t -- I don't know who they -- I don't know their names.

AJK:               Right.

Jess:                But --

AJK:               The unknown artists.

Jess:                Yeah, street -- I love street art and art that’s larger than I could fit on your wall.

AJK:               Yeah, I agree.  With your dad being a photographer, what type of stuff does your dad shoot?

Jess:                All -- well, actually, when I was a kid it was all landscapes, you know, he’d be really stoked about what just happened here, which is like getting a few inches of snow and then freezing, freezing rain and then he would have been out like at the crack of dawn, taking photos of all the snow on the trees.  But he’d also torture us on road trips where he would stop by the side of the road for hours and he’d set up his tripod and like, and we were like, dad, come on, it like, wasn’t that fun.  And then he would embarrass us a lot when -- back before everyone carried a cell phone and took pictures of everyone else, he had a 35mm, like he’d have around his neck and with a view finder so he could just look -- just kind of glance down and you know how the series of mirrors or whatever so that he could see out of the lens without being -- putting it up to your face.

AJK:               Right.

Jess:                So, we’d go to like -- and this was also before people put their kids on leashes, he would put us on leashes and --

AJK:               He’s the originator.

Jess:                My dad.

AJK:               Family photos, selfies.

Jess:                I love him, I love him, it’s taken me a long time to appreciate -- oh gosh, I hope he doesn't listen to this, he might be upset, but -- so, anyway, so he would take us to the -- so like the Champlain Valley fair, which is the fair that happens every year around Labor Day in Vermont and take street -- basically street photos, and photos of the crowds and the carnies and I remember once, outside, we were at that -- the thing where the motorcycles go around the big -- the kind of kind of a centrifuge kind of thing.

AJK:               Right, right.  Where they’re like sideways and --

Jess:                Yes, that they go side -- yeah, exactly.  It’s a big cylinder, basically and it seems it’s all centrifugal force and danger and so my dad’s taking a bunch of photos in there -- and we go back outside and this guy follows us out and this huge tattooed guy -- my dad’s not that big,  I mean he’s maybe like 5’10”, he’s not a big guy, wears glasses, you know, and this huge tattooed guy threatened to beat my dad up.  My dad was just like, here you can have -- here, just take it.  And he takes the film out of the camera and gives it to the guy and finally the guy likes goes, okay.

AJK:               Like he was just taking pictures of them, not like -- which is --

Jess:                The guy was not impressed, you know,

AJK:               The candid shot was not appreciated back then.

Jess:                No, well especially, you know, it’s still a little weird, I mean, I was just at the March at Montpelier on Saturday and I saw my picture up on a -- in a news article and I was like, well that’s so strange, I didn’t know anyone was taking my picture.

AJK:               Right, because now with lenses, you don't have to like -- your dad probably had to be like fairly close to -- he wasn’t very subtle about the whole thing.

Jess:                No.  Yeah, yeah.

AJK:               Have you ever painted any of your dad’s photos?

Jess:                No, I have not, no.  One of my brothers is a really good painter and he has done a lot of that, yeah, yeah.  He’s more of a like, you know, oil painter, really good at realism.

AJK:               Okay.

Jess:                Yeah, yeah.

AJK:               So, with the silo and the larger works -- which was the first -- mural to me seems to me as I'm not an artist at all, so intense, overwhelming.  How is that, your first mural or even the silo, it just seems like such a massive canvas.  Was that -- were you comfortable doing that?  Or do you just kind of go with it and see what came out of it?

Jess:                With the silo?

AJK:               Yeah.

                                                        The phases of the Silo Mural

                                                        The phases of the Silo Mural

Jess:                I was really intimidated.  I had it all -- you know, with any mural it’s all planned out and I probably did thirty drawings or design for Jenn and John before we settled on that design.  But, you know, I mean, I had a 13 by 19 sheet of paper and after the first day I went and laminated it, which was really smart, it was getting really beat up.  And I had all of -- the silo is wrapped -- obviously the cylinder but it’s made up of panels, I can’t remember, I think they’re -- I mean you’d think I would know, 18 inches wide by several feet tall.

So, you know, I had the design all printed out, but I think, you know, it’s like day one and you’re trying to plot the first point on this massive thing and you’re -- you’re driving a cherry picker around, which you’ve never done and this whole place is a work -- a work zone and it’s a bunch of dudes in hard hats who all know how to drive this thing and you just have one lesson and you’re in the middle of the driveway, in the way of everyone and the delivery vehicles and you’re as high up in the air as you're comfortable and you like, pause for a second, because this is me, I’m like going to lose my breakfast, because the thing starts swaying and I’m like, oh my god, I’m going to die, I’m so scared.  And then you can’t turn it back on, and you’re up there panicking and you’re like, okay, I’m just going to act cool.  I’m going to just text the Shawn, who is like one of the foreman and have him come over subtly tell me how to do it.  And then you remember that you've got to push on the pedal to turn -- before you start it again, and there’s like, you know, all these like safety backups to operate the basket.  So, anyway, and then the very first point I plotted, I counted the -- maybe I shouldn't tell anyone this, I counted the panels incorrectly.  I just -- I started from the building and I should have started, you know, a few more panels in.

So, the whole thing is just shifted, you know, four to six panels and that’s like, I was pretty far into it, maybe a week or two, before I realized what I’d done.  I was like, oh well -- and it took me a while to get a system down, you know, because you have to -- the really long straight lines and I convinced Jenn and John to let me have an assistant, so we got this woman, Melissa Snow, who’s awesome, who’s one of the painters who painted this whole place, to come and help me, and so, between the two of us we had this long piece of flashing, and luckily she’s really tall, has really long arms and I’m not either of those things.  So, we got the system down, we figure what panel we were on, about how far into the panel we’d start the first line, and we, you know, we’d get the second point plotted out and then we’d get the flashing all lined lined up and then, you know, one person would start with the pencil and a person would meet with the pencil and then we’d tape it all off and then there’s all these different techniques you would have for getting the tape into the seams and -- It was cool, I mean, it was really fun.

So, the taping was what was so time consuming, and it would hurt your brain and, but then when it got to painting, it was -- that was the easy satisfying part, and then pulling the tape off was really rewarding because you had these beautiful lines, these beautiful crisp lines.  So, yeah, that was the biggest piece I’ve ever done, the silo, and I’m really proud of it, and I did, I did get really into it and more comfortable as the weeks progressed.  But yeah, those first few days I was so nervous and I was --it was hot and I was so like sweating because I’m nervous and sweating because it’s hot, I’m wearing a harness.  Yeah, anyway, it was great.  I love that kind of thing.  I love that kind of challenge, you know.  I’d prefer to do that than have to draw something really, really, really tiny and detailed, you know.  It’s just like --

AJK:               It sounds like a big ass canvas.

                                                                                             Absolutely love this photo from Jess' site - the finished product

                                                                                             Absolutely love this photo from Jess' site - the finished product

Jess:                Yeah.  Actually, the original architectural drawing that was -- that was their original intent and Jenn and John were like, no.  Actually, yeah, I don't even know if that would have flown in terms of zoning, but anyway.

AJK:               It was supposed to be a can?

Jess:                Well, that was like, that was how the original proposal came and they were like, no, I don't think so. 

AJK:               So, for the cans, how does the -- what’s the process for making the labels?  Is it collaborative?  Do you know when new beers are coming out and you have a certain amount of time between when the batch is ready and the label is made?  How has that been --?  I mean, how was it -?  Before it was just head in and folk all knew you had a pop up sales.  Did you -- where you -- did you do the stickers before?

Jess:                Yes, I did the stickers, the -- like the Crusher sticker and the Focal Banger, the old Focal Banger sticker.

AJK:               Right.

Jess:                Actually I have a bunch on my computer.  Some of it’s my artwork, some of its Dan Blakeslee’s artwork.  So, yeah, I would do the stickers back when we were -- I wonder if I have some of the numbers -- back when we were doing the pop up sales, in Waterbury, which were really fun.  We’d sell out in an hour or two.  Did you come to any of those pop up sales?

AJK:               I did not.

Jess:                So, I’m pulling out my -- so this is the really sexy part of being an artist, I do a lot.  Like I make spreadsheets, you know.  So, these are -- what I’m showing you now is the labels that we do for the short runs of cans.

AJK:               Okay.

Jess:                And, so, we’re getting the hang of it now.  There used to be a lot of last minute scrambling, like inspiration would hit, the beer would get brewed and then the -- like the second part was like, oh yeah, we need stickers, and we needed good stickers, you know, so it takes a little while to get those ordered.  But now we have a process where John or Joel will come to me and say, we’re brewing this on this date.  It’s -- now we’re -- we’re doing really, well, I think we’re at least a month out.

So, from start -- like, maybe even six weeks sometimes.  So, so yeah, it’s great.  But something more complicated, like I’m really proud of the -- so, our short run labels are -- they’re clean and they're really simple, they're just my hop drawing with you know, the different color schemes.  And I’ve learned a lot about how color works and how digital printers work and all the potential variations in that.  I’m self taught, in terms of graphic design, so I’ve made some mistakes. 

Thankfully Jenn and John are really patient in terms of like -- there’s been one really bad color mistake, so I’m getting the hanging of it.  But my -- what I’m -- was really proud of this Petit Mutant label which was our American Brett Ale, because it’s on a really nice textured stock and I got to do spot UV on the cherries, and I got to draw these big luscious cherries, whichlike, Jenn and John weren’t quite sure about at first because they thought maybe they’d look like apples, but I convinced them they looked like cherries and --

AJK:               Very much like cherries.

Jess:                Yeah.

AJK:               And this is a great example, we have seen this before, but to see it this close, it’s a whole different -- yeah, it’s different level of appreciation.

Jess:                Thanks.

AJK:               So, how did you convince them to have that one to be so, I guess, special, versus the other ones.

Jess:                Well the Petit’s special because it’s -- it takes so long to condition.  I think they -- I mean it’s a year that it’s in barrels, almost, and just kind of a labor of love.  I don't think -- you know, and every year -- I remember -- I think it was this batch where John called us all down to the brewery, you know, like all hands on deck down in Waterbury, and he was like, I need everyone down here to help me drink this beer.  I think, so there are -- and forgive me because, you know, I’m not a brewer so I don't always get the terminology straight, but they were -- they were using the yeast from the -- I think it was maybe Saison Dupont, or something like that.  They’re using the yeast on the top of the bottle to introduce that yeast into the Petit.  But then there’s the whole rest of the bottle left and he needed help drinking it.  

It was really fun.  So, yeah, and the way that I end up coming up -- like the process that I go through with Jenn and John and label like this or really any artwork, is I -- you know, I do pencil drawings.  I have a friend, my friend, Ryan Tivo is, you know, he’ll come up with a beautiful design, I’m like, wow!  And, he’s like, yeah, I drew this in Illustrator on my laptop on the plane.  So, he’s not even using a -- you know, like a pad, he’s using like the pad on his actual laptop and then his designs are beautiful and clean and they have depth and texture and I’m like, yeah, I don't know if I’ll ever get there, I’m just such a analogue person in terms of drawing.  You know, so I draw in pencil, and I do line work and then, you know, Jenn and John may come up with -- you know, I come up with rough sketches and they say, yeah, to that one.  And then, the line work is all pencil and then I take it into Illustrator and that’s where I add all the color and everything.  But, yeah, I have so much respect and awe for people who can draw in Illustrator.  I just -- it’s not -- maybe one day when you can like draw on the screen, it will make more sense to me, but not yet.

AJK:               Right, yeah, no.  I think that, from doing this, everyone I’ve spoken to has a different process. 

Jess:                Right.

AJK:               So, it’s amazing to think about, you know, how they do it, but yet.  Were you a beer person before you started working here?

Jess:                Yes.  I discovered -- I went to school -- I started college in Portland, Oregon, at Reed College.  I finished at Hunter College in New York City, but we had -- Thursday nights was 40 nights, and my college had no rules.  We had the honor -- this is air quotes, honor system, I don't know if it’s like that anymore, so we would drink 40s in the Student Union on Thursday nights after the library, not the library closed, but after like 9 or something.  And I discovered -- and I think one, one night one of my friends brought the -- I think it’s Deschutes Brewery Obsidian Stout.

AJK:               Right.

Jess:                And I tried one of those and I was like, I feel amazing, I don't have a headache and I’m totally lit.  It’s like a totally different feeling, and it tasted good, and I only had to drink 12 ounces instead of 40 to feel like, or you know.

AJK:               The last 12 of 40 is not the best 12, yeah.

Jess:                It’s really warm.

AJK:               Yeah, we had a -- yeah, we had a couple of 40 nights, we thought we were funny at the time, but looking back it was like, uh.

Jess:                But that was like what was cool in the late 90, early 2000s and I feel like you tell people about that now and they’re like, you did what? You know.

AJK:               Well, like, seeing back then, you couldn’t -- I mean get into a bar you know, with a major nod, and you couldn’t be yourself, there wasn’t the many selections that we would --

Jess:                No, no.

AJK:               And you had two nickels to rub together so you weren't -- you weren't really looking for --

Jess:                For quality. 

AJK:               Yeah, it was like, ah, this is a dollar, or five dollars, or, I’m not a math major, but I can get five of the dollars for this.

Jess:                Exactly, I can get well lit on this.

AJK:               Yeah, it was like senior year, a friend of mine had like, I think it was like Harpoon IPA and we’re like, you paid what for a six pack?

Jess:                Right.

AJK:               What did you do?

Jess:                Right.

AJK:               And we’re like -- I was like, oh, okay.  I see this is -- it was like, I was pretty excited.

Jess:                Yeah.

AJK:               Yeah, so.  So, is there any -- you must -- is there a favorite here that you -- of yours that you would have.

Jess:                Oh yeah.  I love the Focal Banger in the summer.  I mean, I love the Heady Topper, but it’s, it’s intense and it’s boozy, so it’s -- you don't always feel like it.  And it’s like a big commitment.  I might not start the night with the Heady, for a while we were -- and I guess this is sort of legit, but we were hiding it from John for a while, until he realized it was kind of legit.  We were making Heady Lights, we were just adding Seltzer Water to the Heady.  I know, I know, but that's how, like if you try to control the ABV in a beer, I mean you're just adding water and carbonating it, so really not much different.  We had Crusher Light on tap for a while like for --

AJK:               Who was the one who finally told John that you were doing that. 

Jess:                I think my friend Chrissy, we might have had a couple of beers and she was like, oh my god, we’ve been totally doing this at home.

AJK:               Like, no but we did it once, just one time

Jess:                No.  So, yeah, I love the Focal Banger, I really love the Crusher, I love the -- I -- I don't know, it must just be the aromatics or the aroma of the Crusher, it just really works for me, and which is kind of intense because it’s like 9%, so you really don't want to -  I’m like, what am I doing, I don't know, it’s -- it makes me feel less loopy than the Heady Topper, I don't know, I’m sure different hop profiles like affect your brain differently and --

AJK:               I like the original stickers like the -- it was like the turtle, right?

Jess:                Oh, right, yeah.  It was supposed to be -- I have it right here.

AJK:               Turtle muscle man?

Jess:                Yeah, it was supposed to be from the Warner Brothers cartoon but I convinced John that we didn’t do -- we didn’t want to get in trouble with Warner Brothers.  So, yeah, it’s from -- it’s this kind of turtelly looking guy with like many layers of muscles and that was a fun -- that was a fun one to work on.  And John really knows what he wants in terms of art, you know he -- I remember him saying like, the eye shape needs to be more like this and not like this.  Like the shade needs to be more like this and not like this.  It’s very -- it’s like a good working relationship in that way.

AJK:               Now -- so is it, when you present him with concepts, the ones that -- because you said you pushed back on the Mutant, but the times when you like -- how do you kind of assess when it’s -- when it’s good to push and when it’s not?

Jess:                It’s usually not good to push.  I mean, honestly, I mean I’m here like, I’m -- I don't know how to say it, like, I’m like the vehicle for the vision and I -- and like I execute Jenn and John’s ideas and when I have a really good idea that I feel strongly about, you know, I’ll present it, but I don't see -- I just don't really -- there’s no point really, like it’s not my vision, like it’s not my company and I respect their vision.  It’s always worked, we have a good consistent aesthetic - 

I mean, I can’t think of -- I wish I had a really great example, but I can’t think of one off the top of my head.  Oh, I think it was a big deal that I got the purple on -- the purple drawers on the Crusher there. 

AJK:               Yeah.

Jess:                Yeah, like I -- that was a big deal.

AJK:               Yeah.  That’s good.

Jess:                I have the key for purple.

AJK:               All right.  I think one last one.  When you were creating -- before you said you might put on ear buds or kind of get into a --

Jess:                Actually --

AJK:               What are you listening to?

Jess:                It’s so funny, I have -- it’s like my crutch at work because we have these communal offices, I have to have headphones in, I feel like, to work.  And I don't know where mine are, they're not here today, really sad about that.  But I’ll listen to anything from, you know, like Hipster Cocktail Party, which is a lot of -- I mean it’s good because it’s just a lot of good beats and would -- it’s a Pandora station, it’s a lot of good beats and it’s totally my list, it’s just like eating candy, you know.  I don't have to -- like I’m not really concentrating on the music, it’s just a nice rhythmic soundtrack for me to just keep working.  But sometimes I’ll listen to Bluegrass, more like I feel like Bluegrass is for the summer.  Or a lot of singer-songwriter, like I’ll go through like James McMurtry phase, I went through one of those recently.  My boyfriend really likes the Grateful Dead and I’ve never, but I don't know if anyone lives or has been to Vermont, but the Grateful Dead are pretty much still alive as far as Vermonters are concerned. 

AJK:               Right.

Jess:                So, I’ll listen to -- I really actually do like Jerry Garcia Band and like Jerry Garcia and Merl Saunders, which is a lot more Bluesy.

AJK:               Yeah, it’s great, yeah.

Jess:                I don't really like -- I like Super trippy stuff and--

AJK:               You like singer-songwriter -- like American Beauty is probably -- that’s probably the best -- yeah.

Jess:                Yeah.

AJK:               I like that style, I like -- but it’s more of a -- it’s more of a album, it’s more about the songs.

Jess:                Right, right.

AJK:               It’s more than the -- or, you know, the songs are traditional and it’s shorter, you can hear like the stories, the lyrics so I go that way.

Jess:                Yeah, right, okay.

AJK:               Yeah, I think once you hear a song that’s 20 minutes long it’s hard to come back from that to realize it was a three minute song at one point.

Jess:                Right, where I got lost.

AJK:               Right, yeah, that’s my wife’s like that...

Jess:                On the jersey.

AJK:               She’s like, anything over like -- she’s like, I’ll give you 8 minutes

Jess:                Okay.

AJK:               Yeah.

Jess:                Next, moving on.  Yeah, and sometimes I like want to listen to Salsa, like I’m going on to this freak out, like oh, I’m like, let’s listen to some Salsa, or like sometimes I listen to like the Dolly Parton station.  I got my country on.  It just depends, it just depends, you know.  I was actually listening to Christmas music this year which is really weird.  For like a big part of December.

AJK:               Oh, we have to end the interview now.

Jess:                Okay.

AJK:               We get along so well.

Jess:                It was really --

AJK:               We can’t win them all.

Jess:                And I’m half Jewish, I don't know.  It was something.

AJK:               It was interesting, it was like, oh, what’s this all about.

Jess:                It was kind of interesting, yeah, because I like hadn't listened to a lot of the songs before.  I’m like, this is nice.  It’s nice time to reflect about family and friends. 

AJK:               Yeah, I think, yeah, given the current state of thing that they’ve done with health.

Jess:                I may have been shocked about the elections and trying to --

AJK:               Or Vermont’s about to fall of the map, just like, what’s going on.

Jess:                I know, we don't feel good about it, most of us.

AJK:               All right, is there any other -- what’s kind of -- what’s next?  You said you're working on a mural?

Jess:                Yeah.

AJK:               Excellent.  So, when could folks expect that?  To put you on the deadline.

Jess:                Oh, for sure.  Well, I haven't done the practice yet and I’m going away on vacation, which I’m excited about.  So, I would say, middle of March.

AJK:               All right, so it was there --

Jess:                Not that it will take me that long to paint it, but it will take me that long to get around to it because I do a lot of -- I do all of our merch design, so we’re trying to get like T-shirts and hats and discs and all kinds of stuff ready to go for Spring, Summer, so that ends up taking --

AJK:               DIsc golf discs?

Jess:                Yeah, yeah.  They're taking priority over the painting because I can paint any time and you know, you've got to get stuff ordered, so --

AJK:               Excellent.  All right, well thank you so much.

Jess:                Thank you, AJ, it was fun.

AJK:               All right, this was awesome.

Jess:                I wasn’t as nervous as I thought I would be.

AJK:               There you go.


                          Photo via  Scott Martin

                          Photo via Scott Martin

Jess Graham Bio
Jess Graham Studio
Etsy: JessGrahamStudio
Instagram: JessGrahamVT