I met Sean (aka Space Bat Killer) up on the Watermark rooftop during the 2018 Bouncing Souls’ Stoked for Summer tour. You could see the Stony Pony Summerstage from the bar and didn’t have to pay a cover. For that particular Saturday in Asbury Park, it was a local go-to.
I was with my Bradley Beach buddies and one of his friends knew my pal, Paul. Our circles converged and we ended up buying each other enough rounds to loosen up.
“You look familiar,” he said.
“So do you. You from around here? What do you do?”
“I make art, live in Brielle.”
“Oh nice, I grew up in Manasquan,” I said. “What kinds of art do you make?”
“Collage stuff, sketches,” he replied. “Ever hear of Evil Paradise?”
Everything immediately clicked. I couldn’t control myself, recognizing and connecting the dots like the lame-ass fanboy I am. “Oh shit, that's you?? I love your work!” I felt embarrassed about my reaction but I couldn't help it. All of the stickers and t-shirts I’ve seen going around flashed through my brain like a visual dictionary.
He laughed; “Yeah man. Thanks!”
“That’s where I know you from,” I went on. “I follow you on Insta.”
I’d seen one of his sticker-fused STOP signs a few years back and gave him a follow. Since then, I’d come to find more and more of his art pop up in all the local surf & skate shops. Dark Seas bought a few of his designs and that was it. He’d made it.
That started the conversation about art and finding creative success along the Jersey shore.
“What kind of stuff do you make?”
“I’m a writer,” I said. “At least that’s what I’m good at. I’m a creative at heart, so really I just like to make.”
“I get that,” he said with poise like he’d seen some shit.
We went on to talk a bit about surfing, about punk rock, about growing a small business. He was not only a cool human being, but he knew his stuff. He’d built a local grassroots empire through the Jersey surf and skate scene. And that inspired me tenfold.
It’s not easy to do that kind of thing anymore. Sure, social media helps to build a network, but there’s all kinds of software out there to automate that. Reaching out and connecting with people in an analog way takes a bit more these days. It’s ironic that we’d previously connected on Instagram, but I’d only found him because of the vandalized traffic sign.
And now, here I was, having an authentic conversation with a dude I’d admired from the internet. We’d only just met, talking about art and music and beer like I’d known him for years.
To me, that’s inspiring as hell. Planting those seeds, laying down the grassroots in a way that isn’t reliant on Instagram or Twitter is what will take Sean to a whole ‘nother level of success. I am truly stoked for him and where he’s going.
This is only the beginning of his career. And even if Evil Paradise doesn’t grow beyond the shorelines of an East and West coast, Sean’s work will outlast many others’ sheerly because of his authenticity.
The Bouncing Souls ripped on stage, as always. For the encore, they rocked “Lean on Sheena” and “Hopeless Romantic” among their other anthems. Eventually the bar started to clear out and all the local legends stumbled their way into the night.
“It was cool meeting you,” he said.
I went back to Bradley Beach with my buds for some post-show beach beers at Paul’s house, then, eventually, biked home back to Belmar. The whole way home I couldn’t stop thinking about success and inspiration and the only thing I wanted to do was sit down to make some art. (So thanks for that, Sean. Let’s grab some beers soon!)
Strange to think about the inspiration that stems from a digital platform that didn’t exist 10 years ago. The opportunities that subsist now are only the first step to your own creative success. So start making, friends!