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Tileyard London in Conversation with: Leo Elstob

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Ever wondered who dreams up all those epic Two Tribes beer can designs? We caught up with creative brain behind the company branding, Leo Elstob, to find out more about his design inspiration, creativity and background.

For those who don’t know you, can you introduce yourself?

I’m Leo Elstob but my street name is LEO ZERO (watch Breakdance 2 Electric Boogaloo if you don’t know what a street name is – ha ha). I’m a 48 year old collage and cut-up style artist, designer, knob twiddler, music producer, remixer, DJ. Usually people make that ‘wiki wiki’ scratch move with their hands at this point and I say – err, yeah that.

Have you always been into design and how did you get into it? 

Yes, I’ve always been into it – I was already obsessed with, and collecting records from age 10, and knew back then I wanted to design record sleeves as a job. Seeing Nick Egan and Keith Harring’s design work for the Malcolm McClaren’s ‘Duck Rock’ was the point when I really fell in love. That LP was produced by Trevor Horn and it blew my teenage hair gel covered head! Another Trevor Horn project: The Art Of Noise with its collage videos and early sampling got me more into learning about recording studios and how records sounded.

Photo credit: discogs.com

You work across a range of different projects. What type of project do you enjoy the most and can you give us an example of one you’ve worked on?

I’m like a kid in a sweet shop with any creative projects and love them all equally. From serious branding meetings with The Design Laboratory guys and the Two Tribes team, to chopping up old Italian disco records into re-edits to DJ, to working on collages for the beer cans and decor for Two Tribes events.

It’s all the same basic work – throwing ideas together and working with other people who inspire you and make the process a learning and growing experience. I always work with people who are friends first. It’s easy for me to know who I’ll click with and usually talking about music forms an instant bond. I always mix the hi-tech stuff with the DIY rough stuff, Photoshop, sellotape, Logic / Ableton and old school samplers. I’m always chopping things up and mixing things around as I go, allowing space for the happy accidents to happen. “Chaos is a friend of mine” is written on my studio wall.

How did you start working for Two Tribes?

Justin Deighton, the Two Tribes owner, is an old mate from the days of DJing and running record labels full time in the 90s – Justin ran two amazing labels, and helped invent Tech House back in the day facts fans. He got me in right at the start of the Tileyard taproom build, and together we’ve branded the whole company and work tightly on everything design-wise. He’s very hands-on and even designed the rough logo for me on a napkin. Luckily he’s got great ideas, and I’m happy to trust in his plans and help realise things as best I can.

Congratulations on winning the Best Individual Design for the Two Tribes Blitzed can last year. What’s the story behind the design?

Thank you – that design came from Justin and I having the name ‘Blitzed’ kicking around, coming from the blended fruit in the beer. We were looking at the 80s club night The Blitz where Boy George and Spandau Ballet hung out. They were all into David Bowie and it was originally called Bowie Night so we did an abstract pattern of Bowie’s make-up. Who knew all this painstaking thinking would be going into a beer can! We often go down a rabbit hole of ideas for cans and beer names. There are 6AM texts between us with “Eurika! I have the best name for a beer ever!”, often followed by “Nah, that’s the worst name ever”, ha ha.

What steps do you take when you’re working on a new design for Two Tribes? Can you describe the creative process?

It all starts with the ingredients. Head brewer Christoffer Tuominen and production guru Justin Hutton will give me the styles and special ingredients being used in upcoming brews. The beer takes a few weeks to produce, so in this period we fit the design with the beer colour, flavour and style. We dream up with loads of different names – terrible puns are a speciality.

We have a range called ‘New Romantic’ where we take Victorian botanical illustrations and give them a bit of a Photoshop tweak. We have citrus fruit inspired abstract art styles and lots of collages.

How long does it take from start to finish per design?

Every design is different, sometimes we’re fiddling for ages and the whole team are wrestling with something that isn’t quite working and it’s a bit of a tricky journey to completion. Other times we’ll crack it in 24 hours and everyone is into a design from the off. Either way it’s fun and a great learning experience. It has been great for me as a designer to jump into a completely new industry and apply record company / nightclub design ideas to beer.

What’s your favourite beer design so far?

I’m really happy with how the new Mariachi Mexican lager looks (It tastes amazing too). I got lucky with a pattern from a sombrero hat that works great when you see the cans lined up – it’s lovely when cans make good patterns on the shelf in rows.

What’s your go-to Two Tribes beer?

When I started at Two Tribes it was used to chemical-filled big brewery beer. I had no idea that this stuff was a totally different animal with only natural ingredients, basically water, hops, yeast, barley and nothing else – unfined and un-filtered (fines are fish extract used to filter supermarket beer – eeeww!). I quickly fell in love with Powerplant and was amazed how clean it tasted. Then to my amazement after a big Thurday night DJ session at the tap room there was no hangover, hallelujah!

Is any of your artwork available to buy. Where can we get can our hands on it?

We’re going into some printed items and clothing with the Two Tribes designs this year. In fact, we’re partnering with a big skateboard brand and some stationary manufacturers to create something special. Stay tuned as things will be ready very soon.

Any exciting plans or projects for 2020?

This summer we’re taking Two Tribes out to festivals and working on residencies for London with a river bank event series at one of the big galleries, and a terrace sunset DJ session in the heart of the city.

Remix-wise I’ve just completed club and downtempo mixes for the latest Dua Lipa single which should be out any minute. Also, there is a host of other music projects on the way: co/writes and production with Tileyard Education graduate Edward F Butler, and a remix project marking 40 years of Ze Records / Mutant Disco with mixes for Kid Creole and the Coconuts, Lizzy Mercier, and Was not Was.

My recording / design studio has just been built and wired in so I’m looking forward to a busy summer carving out music and cans and all sorts of good stuff.

Any Spotify playlists we should be listening to?

Leo Elstob – Shop / Instagram / Facebook

Two Tribes – Website / Instagram / Facebook / Twitter

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