The immediate image conjured of a Venice surf shop is not what you can expect to find at Lone Wolfs, Objets d'Surf, and co-founders Alex Kemp and Scott Brown like it that way. Striking black and white minimalism, subtle humor, nostalgia, art, music, all of these things converge in haven for surfers who see surf as apart of a greater lifestyle that's a little bit punk, irreverent and sophisticated all at once. We talk with Alex and Scott about where their design aesthetic comes from and the inextricable link between surf, art and music.
We met up at southern corner of the Washington Blvd fishing pier in Venice for this interview. You seemed to know the locals, the homeless folks and more importantly, where to get a burrito and a beer at 9am. Is the pier parking lot hallowed ground for you?
Yeah, that little corner, as filthy as it is, has been super inspiring for us. The weird blend of crazy vets and sunshine and cigarette butts and hot moms and Mexican fisherman is so unique and real, it's an antidote to everything people might hate about LA. Plus, I don't know how anyone can come up with an idea without a little tar on their toes.
How did Lone Wolfs come to be?
We were building a music studio, so putting a surf shop in front just seemed like the obvious thing to do. We'd come up with designs at night, and talk them over in the water each morning. Nine months later we had Lone Wolfs.
Alex, you're a musician that runs a music studio located in the back of the store, Wolf at the Door, while Scott is a creative director at Chiat Day (a global advertising agency). Explain how you collaborate creatively?
Scott and I originally met working on spots together, which really set the groundwork for how we look at the shop now. In a weird way, we live in this conceptual playground where we want to share ideas. When we're working on commercials for something huge, like the Super Bowl, it's rad that so many people will see the work, but also there's a lot of rules and thought police, so the shop has become a way for us to create something that's more raw and pure. Sometimes we get there, and sometimes we don't, but creatively it's on our own terms at least.
Your aesthetic spills across a swath of eras: Janet Leigh in Psycho, a Rene Magritte ode, the French New Wave, David Shrigley, Walt Whitman, bathroom selfie discouragement...But the biggest through line is the punk yet practical black and white aesthetic. Explain any elements you'd say helped create your personal style ethos.
Black and white is something we came to really early on, so much stuff we loved didn't need color, and it was so antithetical to the normal "surf" culture that we just embraced it. And then like any creative constraint you give yourself, it's either a dead end or it's liberating, for us, the black and white, it feels like we're home.
Explain the origins of the Lone Wolfs and the "Ride Alone. Together." mantra.
We're into having a wrongness to everything, but in that wrongness there's something special. Like with the name of the shop, its spelled wrong, and its a singular thing that's never meant to be pluralized in the first place, so basically its all effed up. And we pretty much thrive in that 'effed-upedness.' So Ride Alone Together makes that whole idea of being wrong inclusive, like, "hey, come get backwards with us."
Tell us about the Society6 gear that you really dug and why.
There's a lot of stuff on the site that's rad, but we grabbed some stuff that was even radical-er. Especially the Richard Vergez stuff, which we liked before we even saw it on S6!!
Besides the brands you carry, are there any other labels, publications, shops, etc you'd like to give a shout to?
So many! A couple of important mentions would be Surfistas, a rad travelogue that's a beautifully written and designed book, and also INDOEK has a zine out now that covers Venice in a really smart and cool way. Plus the shapers: everyone who's making boards for the shop: Scott Anderson, Jose Barahona, Dead Kooks, Salt Surf, Vampirates, Misfit, Album, all those guys are super talented and we've been so lucky to get to hang with them.
You've had bands play in your parking lot, made films, served coffee inside, and, well on my visit, took your clothes off for our shoot. What's next for the Lone Wolfs?
We're working on a zine, and also we have a plans for an art show in Paris, so if you have any money, we could use it. Thanks. Seriously. Thanks.
Photos and interview by Matt Draper.