ARCHIVE: A Thanksgiving to a Kill

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Kill Brand Clothing owner and creator Jonny Smith introduces his new line during a Midnite Vultures Thanksgiving Night party at the Brighton Bar — where he’ll also be appearing with his new band.

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI (First published on Red Bank oRBit November 24, 2009)

There may come a time on Thursday night, after the turkey’s been wolfed, the football games are winding down and quality family time is accelerating the onset of cabin fever. Rather than succumb to the Tryptophan and call it a night, there’s an alternative — an escape plan hatched from that very idea that nightlife doesn’t stop just because it’s a national holiday.

Thanksgiving night down at the world famous Brighton Bar in Long Branch, the West End rock club plays host to the annual Midnight Vultures Dance Party — an event presided over by the DJ collective (James David, Jin LeeEd Stapley-Brown and Jack Strangler) whose members regularly work the spiral scratch at such local venues as The Saint, the Asbury Lanes and The Annex.

The party’s man of the hour — internationally renowned D.I.Y. t-shirt guy Jonny Smith — is offering a peek at the newest lines of merchandise from Kill Brand, the Asbury Park-based clothing company that he started during his tenure in the band Tokyo Rose. The label’s designs have been featured in stores worldwide, and have been sighted on celebrities from Fall Out Boy and Cash Cash to Seth Green andAshlee Simpson.

Smith (who’s filled his flagship Kill Brand retail store on Emory Street in Asbury with in-store acts like Nicole Atkins) will have about 30 new designs on hand, plastered on shirts, hoodies and hats for the public to check out while guest DJ James David spins his mix of past favorites (”from the Beatles to the ClashT. Rex to Passion Pit”). The artist and businessman will also be appearing onstage in a short set with his new band, Gentleman Wolf, and folks rooted in the local scene from Shore Alternative radio are expected to make an appearance.

The new line from Kill Brand is a departure from Smith’s better-known accoutrements, which often contained large lettering, upbeat messages and bright colors. This time he’s rolling out a product with a little more bite — in some cases, literally. One of the new shirts features Twilight’s pretty vampire boy Robert Pattinson getting his jugular sucked on by another vampire and the shirt reads, “Keepin’ It Real.”

“We got really darker with this stuff,” Smith, 30, said. “I feel like the bright stuff is on its way out, so I want to be ahead of the curve.”

In the years since 2001 — when Smith accidentally started Kill Brand by simply spray-painting “Kill” on a pink tee in order to make it look tougher — he’s built up a fan base that spreads from his humble nook in Asbury Park to places like Japan and Europe. He’s also pulling in designers from all over the world, and of all ages. One of his favorite designers is a 17-year-old kid from Red Bank, Brandon Gallagher, who acts like Smith’s teenage “mole,” keeping the pulse on the high school demographic. Described by Kill Brand business manager Tom Dunphy as the company’s “prodigy,” Gallagher is helping keep Kill Brand, well, from being killed.

“He’s real in tune with what’s going on,” Dunphy, 24, said. “I’m a dinosaur and Jonny’s a fossil, so it’s a real resource to have him tell us what’s cool.”

Since the show is 18-plus, Gallagher can’t technically see what people think of his designs, but the party on Thanksgiving night is only a teaser. The rub is you canlook at Kill Brand’s latest, you just can’t buy it. The idea here is to preview what’s at Smith’s store in Asbury, which will be open from noon to 5pm selling everything for 50 percent off in honor of Shopper’s Anonymous Day, a.ka. Black Friday.

“I’ll be hungover here just trying to make some money,” Smith said.

If memory serves, a hangover is symbolic that something really really good or something really really bad happened the night before. Take a guess what Smith thinks Thursday night’s festivities will bring.

“We’re just going to party,” he said. “It’s like, why the hell not, you know?”

The partying begins in earnest at 9pm and it’ll cost you $3 at the door. For more info on Kill Brand and the Thanksgiving party, check out the company’s website or the MySpace page of the Midnite Vultures.

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