TURNING UP THE VOLUME
A discussion with Sean Tiffany, the creator, writer, and artist of OilCan Drive
Sean Tiffany has been a working artist and illustrator for the last twenty years. He has worked for companies such as Marvel Comics, Time Magazine, Sports Illustrated Magazine, Stone Arch Books, and The Geppetto Group Advertising.
In 1998 he wrote, drew, and self published his first comic book called Exit 6. It was a comic book featuring the story of a small town teenager and her adventures with a reluctant vampire. The Twilight series had nothing on this stuff. But, even with critical acclaim and a Most Promising Newcomer to the Comic Book Field Award nomination, Sean was a bit ahead of his time and low sales of the book forced him to abandon the project before it could successfully get off the ground.
So, how did an artist who has done mainstream work and a self published vampire comic go on to work with a band on a post apocalyptic rock and roll tale?
“The concept of OilCan Drive came about when I had the idea of telling smaller, shorter, self contained comic book stories. I had read somewhere that the magazine Heavy Metal was always looking for short, ten page stories to publish. At the time the only concepts I had were longer, multiple issue, stories. So, I needed to come up with something new.
OilCan Drive came about by putting everything I loved into one comic book. A post-apocalyptic Road Warrior type setting, air ships, teens on the run, and even a hi-tech military would mix all together with an old Western feel. It wasn’t until I had all those concepts established that I wondered why these characters were traveling together in the first place. It was then that I saw Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band playing in concert on my TV one morning. That’s when it hit me.
My characters were together because they were all in a band!”
Putting all other projects aside, Sean furiously began drawing the first OilCan Drive story and published a small run of books for the first ever Free Comic Book Day in 2002. And that is when the band, who only existed previously in printed form, began actually making music.
“When I first started telling stories about a band I began asking a lot of questions of friends who were in bands, played music, and had actually toured. I wanted to hear their real life stories and struggles. After that first book was published one of my friends said the only thing the book was missing now was some actual music. And that’s when the band started making noise.”
The band OilCan Drive recorded here and there, releasing singles and cover songs to friends and family. On January 14, 2010, the band made their radio debut on Bob Reitman’s “It’s Alright Ma, It’s Only Music” radio show. Sandwiched between Bob Dylan, The Ramones, The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Roy Orbison, Elvis Presley, Tom Waites, and Lou Reed, OilCan Drive did their rendition of the Bob Dylan song, “When I Paint My Masterpiece.” The song was originally recorded for the band’s good friend, Rob Kelly, a huge Dylan fan who counts “When I Paint My Masterpiece” as one of his favorite songs.
“Geez, when that happened I didn’t even know what to think,” says Sean. “How had this band that has only existed in my head and on the comic book page gone on to play a song on a national radio show next to the likes of Elvis and The Beatles? It was unreal, exciting, and a little bit scary all at the same time.”
More comic book stories were created and the band knocked around the recording studio for the next few years. But, things were slow and both the band and artist floundered for a direction.
But now, with the creation of the official OilCan Drive website, there is one place to find both the first early OilCan Drive comic book stories, the new adventures of the band, and the music of OilCan Drive.
For the first eight months, starting on May 15th, 2012, the web comic featured every story Sean had done in the past since he created OilCan Drive. With a publishing schedule of three times a week, many of these stories had never been seen before. After that the fun really began. With the backlog of art and stories exhausted Sean launched the new story, entitled “Tracks“, on May 3rd, 2013. With new pages posted once a week every Friday, Sean is happy to have a place to finally show off the continuing adventures of OilCan Drive. It’s a dream come true for an artist who loves to tell stories.
And, as for the band, OilCan Drive plans to continue making new music as well. With a handful of cover songs finished and recorded the band hit the studio in the spring of 2013. Their first official EP album, “Breaking the Border“, debuted at the 2013 Denver Comic Con and is now available on CDBaby, Amazon, and Itunes. The band loves being in the studio and recording so you can be sure more music is on the way. Whether it will be released as a series of singles, EPs, or a full album remains to be seen.
“Right now it’s really exciting for both myself and the band to have a single place where all of our creative endeavors can exist. In the past it’s been hard to continue with the project not knowing if and where anyone would see any of the new work. But now, with this website, it feels like we finally have a focus for all of this creative energy. It just feels right. And, that’s exciting.”
Sean’s artistic influences include Jeff Smith, Drew Struzan, Mike Mignola, Evan Dorkin, John Romita Jr, and Chris Bachalo. As far as other influences go, Sean is a pretty big fan of his parents, Rob and Jill Tiffany.
Plastic Spoon Press is the publishing company dedicated to the creation and distribution of all things Sean Tiffany. First publishing Exit 6 in 1998, Plastic Spoon Press now serves as the umbrella company to publish and distribute the artwork, comics, and music of OilCan Drive. The name comes from The Who song, Substitute, with the famous line, “I was born with a plastic spoon in my mouth.” So, as you can see, even back before there was a soundtrack, there has always been a connection to the music.