Five questions: D.S. Bradford

The Philly-based artist combining music with art – and now motion

DS Bradford
D.S. Bradford has come up with a way to share positive messages to the public using augmented reality and recognizable visual triggers found easily around Philly. Namely, SEPTA bus stops and train stations. | Image: Equinox By Fireside Studios

Versatile singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and visual artist D.S. Bradford draws from an eclectic roster of influences, including sci-fi-minded Neo-Prog stalwarts Coheed and Cambria, Emo-Punk rockers Bayside and alt-rock heroes Foo Fighters.

Raised in a musical household, the Philly-based Bradford discovered the visual arts first, but soon added guitar to his unofficial curriculum, and with that came the desire to compose music for film and television.

Now, it has been four years since Bradford released his EP “Elemental Evolution.” The visual aspect of Bradford’s musical releases have always been an integral part of the presentation and very much lend to the overall experience of his vision. Each song on “Elemental Evolution” had a corresponding art piece. While this did much to serve the product at the time, Bradford sought a way to continue to create different ways to present art in the digital age.

It took some time to discover an answer, but eventually Bradford landed on something profound while working on web development projects, building websites and applications. The first such piece was entitled Heart of the Matter, and the idea was simple. Bradford composed a short piece of music and recited a poem inspired by the art piece he created. A QR code was created for the spoken word and music recording and attached to the print on canvas. Once a person scans the code, they could view the art with their eyes and listen to the atmosphere of the piece simultaneously. It was a multi-sensory experience. 

Bradford continued to explore new ways to present art with sound, and now motion in a completely new way that allows the audience to be even more immersed in the worlds created in the medium of augmented reality. While working with Evil Ink Records, Bradford discovered ways to create 3D worlds in 2D spaces, playing with perspectives and optical illusions, setting the visual environments for sound clips in promotional videos. Out of that space came ”Universe Purge” and Future.” The latter was released as a poster print (12”x18”), with music and motion being viewable using the Artivive app, available for both iOS and Android. Visit my store for details.

PW recently caught up with Bradford to talk about his career and many projects.

‘Universal Purge’ by D.S. Bradford is but one of his works that are unique, multi-sensory experiences. | Image courtesy: Equinox By Fireside Studios

Talk a little about your early life. How did you get into music and art?

I was about 6 years old when I started drawing. From there, I developed a sense of what my style was, which was mostly a mixture of surrealism and portraiture. I used to draw caricatures of my classmates, too. 

Music has always been a big part of my life, too. My parents are both singers, my uncle writes music and started a band back in the ‘80s. When I got my first guitar at 12, I really began to explore the rock music at the time (‘90s alternative) and went backwards, listening to classic rock. I really absorbed a lot during that time as I learned how to play guitar and my favorite songs. 

After many years of that, I began to write my own songs in my 20s. I was in a couple of bands, but the one I learned the most about performing was with Certain Tragedy. They really opened me up as a writer and performer, and we got to play some pretty amazing venues. It was an eye-opening experience, for sure, and the confidence I gained from that period of time helped me a great deal. When I started writing and recording my own music afterwards, I had a better sense of direction. 

You’ve moved from performing just music to combining music with art – and now music and art with motion. Can you describe how your work has evolved and why you went in this direction?

Well, I’ve always sort of expressed my ideas in different mediums. As I’ve gotten older and started a family, most of my attention has gone to my fiancé Laura and my son, Nathaniel, who is 6. I haven’t been performing as often, although that is kind of out of the question for everyone these days, right? 

Instead of doing nothing, which is impossible because I always have ideas, I started having new ideas about other ways I can communicate what is inside of me artistically without the traditional live performances of songs. Where there’s a will, there’s a way. In music, all of the creative aspects were independent. I used the cover art of my releases to express visually what the songs were about. Developing an entire package was my goal, initially, from the music to the art to the website and overall aesthetic with each release. They were opportunities to really show what these songs were about and who I am as an artist.  

I dabbled in creating videos, but it wasn’t until I started working with Evil Ink Records (Coheed and Cambria frontman, Claudio Sanchez’s label) last year that I really embarked on some really interesting concepts in motion graphics that opened up a whole new stream of artistic consciousness that I had begun to use in my own ventures. By fusing together music and video and making it interactive, I found a more engaging way for people to experience art, while simultaneously making it a fresh experience for me that went beyond just writing songs. 

“All of the creative aspects were independent. I used the cover art of my releases to express visually what the songs were about … They were opportunities to really show what these songs were about and who I am as an artist.  

Artist, musician and Philadelphian D.S. Bradford

What or who influences you? What motivates you when it comes time to create a new piece?

I am inspired a lot by those closest to me and all of our journey to find where we fit into this life and the universe we live in. I sometimes can picture scenes I create, while other times I let all of the plans go and let my mind wander while the creation forms. The manifestations and inspirations vary, but most come from imagining surreal worlds in my mind and the curiosity of bringing those thoughts into a shared space of vision and sound. 

What’s ahead for you? Any new projects? How do you see your future playing out?

I’m continually creating new art pieces and those will come out in the near future. In addition, my web design company is always looking for new clients. I’m also working with Boom! Studios (comic book publisher) out in California, helping them create video content. 

The most ambitious project I have happening right now runs along the same lines as the interactive art. While social distancing, I was able to come up with a way to share positive messages to the public using augmented reality and recognizable visual triggers found easily around Philly. Namely, SEPTA bus stops and train stations.

It is a way for a mass amount of people to interact with their surroundings in a safe way that also creates positive feelings through the messages being communicated. Through AR, you can still keep to yourself in public while interacting with the world around you. Since there’s no physical footprint, there’s no defacing property or anything like that, either. The messages will change from time to time, too. 

The reach can be incredible, too. I have already implemented this project in New York City and in San Francisco, with more cities to follow. I’m excited to see how far I can take this, and all being controlled from home!

What are the best ways for people to keep up with what you’re doing and see your latest work?

I can be found on social media and my website, dsbradford.com and dsbdesignagency.com.

  • Eugene Zenyatta was raised on old-time Memphis 'rasslin' and strongly prefers the company of dogs to people. His greatest heartbreak came in the 2010 Breeders' Cup Classic.