My name is Phillip Toussaint Annand, age 24 and I was born in Lawrenceville, New Jersey. I’m the founder of Madbury Club; a creative house that shoots, directs, consults and creates. Within Madbury I am the “Director of Near Death Experiences”... we just try to not have titles, but Director would be the short version.
I went to a private middle school after going to a public elementary school and everyone there was really smart but had only experienced one sliver of life, in Princeton, New Jersey. So I got into all the best private high schools in the nation but once my parents got the bill, even with the scholarship, it was just crazy... it’s like paying for college twice, just to go to high school. So I left and went to public school but they pushed me so hard in private school that when I got back I was just bored... I was like a year and a half ahead of everyone else. Nothing really grabbed my attention, so I started doing graffiti because I was bored and always drawing and in suburban Jersey no one else was tagging, so it was just me, running around and fucking shit up. My first tag was OREO8...
I tagged this 40 foot piece on the back of my high school and everyone knew it was me.
I just got dumb and was having too much fun (laughs) so I realized I should maybe do something a little more positive with my art. So I’d draw on tees and sneakers and we were always in SoHo, buying Bape and Stussy. And then I knew the Hypebeast guys, from being featured on the site. So once I started putting things out there, that got attention.
My first real break-through was a street wear line called Award Tour.
It started so innocently... like I look back on the stuff I did and I don’t know why kids liked it so much. I just made like a hundred shirts, that were terrible,
and sold them in my high school for ten bucks a piece at lunch and made a killing. That was really the
foundation that everything started on. It was just what I was doing in New Jersey, like hanging out with Flatbush Zombies before they were Flatbush Zombies, and just bull shitting and drawing. I was probably seventeen or eighteen when it was at it’s biggest... Award Tour was sold in fifteen international stores at one point, so it was pretty crazy. It got multiple people interested in buying it or wanting to run it and tandem with me, which was cool I just never really knew the people approaching me and they were taking it way more seriously than I did (laughs). Like I just give these shits to my friends... but I definitely see people, like my friend Micah who does ONLY NY, and I see where they’ve taken the brand to and how big it’s grown. So sometimes I wish I kept at it, but it wasn’t fun anymore, it wasn’t what I wanted. Everyone had a street wear line, everyone was making tee shirts. It just reached a super saturation point. And it wasn’t even about what other people were doing, it was just that I’d look at shirts and have no interest in figuring out what to put on them any longer.
Five years ago, in 2009, I was a freshman in college going to school for graphic design, for one semester and then I got the fuck out of there. The classes were just painfully slow; they started from a very basic point, foundational art classes. And I already knew how to make money off it from my clothing line, Award Tour, and I wasn’t super big on the fine art aspect so I left. Then I just started taking random classes at Rutgers... first class I took was about hippies and counter culture movements of the ‘60s. So I was never working towards a major, I was taking all these classes that I was actually stoked on. That’s why I was killing it with a 4.0, because I would sit there and actually listen everyday. That was around the time that I was getting bored with Award Tour and Madbury Club was just beginning.
It’s crazy to see how far Madbury has come, from that first very first shoot. I can barely even credit the first couple of years of Madbury to having anything to do with what we’re doing now.
And I don’t know what we’ll be doing in another two years, which is kind of the beauty of it. So I definitely feel like we’re sophomores in our field.
At this point, we’re established but it hasn’t even come close to being fully realized. We do a lot of work, but it hasn’t even turned that corner to what it can be.
It’s a funny process I see happen all the time though; you do something, you work really hard at it and you get known for what you do.
Once you get notoriety people start coming to you and the more and more work you do for others, the further you get from those things that drew people to your work in the first place.
Well... this is what we put in work for right? To get paid to make art, you can’t really say no or shy away from it. But then sometimes it takes a couple of years to realize that your work is no longer your work, it’s your clients. So, for example, I had this mental thing where I had to make Nike a client, I worked really hard to get us to that point. When we got there it was fucking awesome! We were shooting these things, had all these opportunities... and I just had to realize, this is work. I transitioned from feeling like our Nike work was going to be the beginning of our legacy, to realizing that it's just work to get done, in order to open up lanes and opportunities to do our ownstuff, the stuff we really want to be doing.
Now we have eight people full time off Madbury, that’s fucking great.
But you have to come full circle and step back and see what it is we’re really doing.
With Madbury, we’ve never had a physical manifestation... we had a funny office in Hoboken at one point, but what do you make in an office? Fucking office work. We never used it because we were restricting ourselves by having that space. The biggest priority for me now is to have a physical manifestation of what Madbury is, and allow it to grow. I see it like Willy Wonka’s factory, I want that... you come through and do whatever you want; every resource, everything you need is at your fingertips.
I want to make a kung-fu movie (laughs) with every new New York rapper as a character in the movie, which would be hilarious. Like Bodega Bamz as the villain, Action Bronson! Meech and Juice as spiritual gurus! So I’ve been writing that script... film stuff is fun. We just stumbled into that... doing the music videos for the Zombies; that just happened because they needed videos so we just got it done. But yeah, we just create shit.
Would I consider myself an artist? Yes, but I don’t think I’ve made any art in like five years...
there are little experiments I do that’s fun, like I made that bench *points outside. Or if I make my kung-fu movie, it’s not going to be an art movie... I just like kung-fu movies, I have funny looking friends and I think it would be cool to put them all together. We just experiment and create.
FF- A lot of your success has come from the fact that your team is so close, are there any cons in working with your friends?
PA- I spend all day constantly thinking about how to optimize Madbury, like how the pieces fit together. I look at it as a sports team so that’s how I approach it... I have to coach. So I’m like Phil Jackson, the Lakers... then you have Kobe, you got Shaq, you got Derek Fisher, you got Ron Artest... you got all these fucking personalities. Especially because we have four photographers within Madbury! It’s a lot of egos, but everyone has to have that common goal. For example, Ellington just shot Lebron James the other day... everyone on the team would’ve loved to do that.
But you just got to believe that everyone’s turn is going to come, if we’re all in this together then your good is work is my good work, you shine, I shine... and that’s a hard thing to buy into sometimes.
Also, those guys are all my best friends, since before Madbury’s existence, so I know their weaknesses, what pisses them off, what they’re good at etc. So in traditional work environment you get performance reviews, we don’t have that at Madbury. I don’t sit down with my guys, like “come into my office” (laughs), that’d be weird as fuck. There have definitely been moments where I felt it would’ve been easier if I just did stuff myself, but I wouldn’t want to do it any other way. Everyone always says don’t work with your friends, I’m like what could possibly be better than working with your friends!? If you could find how to make it work, that’s so noble. And there couldn’t be anything more fun than making money with your friends... dude, we take pictures of basketballs and sneakers... that’s what we’d be doing regularly!
Everything we do; running around, traveling, creating, I’d pretty much do it for free. So I wouldn’t want it any other way. The capabilities of Madbury are greater than just the capabilities of me, myself.
FF- Suggest a few people who inspire you.
PA- Hyun Kim is a good one, he’s like the producer at Madbury, he used to write for Vibe and a bunch of hip hop magazines, he did a bunch of shit... he’s a little older. But he has this writer’s brain, where it’s almost as if he can’t hold a normal conversation because he’s interrogating people all the time. But he has a very good way of stepping into a situation and is naturally interested in everyone’s story. There’s always a follow up. So it’s fun
to see him interacting. And I’d say
(Kilo) Kish is another good one. Just from seeing her theory and approach with her work, I don’t think she gets enough credit. She has a conceptual art approach to the music she’s making and the way she puts her projects out.
The last show she did was for a project about collaboration; every song was with someone else. So she had every piece of correspondence with everyone she collaborated with on a huge gallery wall; every note, every email, printed out - everything about the project. It was manifested there in front of you and the only thing people really say is like Kilo Kish H&M ad... but it was just really great seeing it first hand. I also have to say my father would be number one... my dad is the coolest guy I know. He doesn’t make any mistakes, I’ve only seen him fuck up a couple times in my life. I just mean little shit, like I’d hammer a nail and hit my finger, I’ve never seen him do anything like that... once you hit 45 you just start moving slower and it’s like I’m not gonna knock this glass off the table! You just see things and fix them (laughs). It’s just his thought process, when someone speaks to him he listens and thinks about it and then responds articulately. He really taught me the beauty of language. Whereas with me, everything’s always just breaking and being thrown around! At one point I know I’m going to slow down, and it’s gonna be fire.
FF- So when you do slow down, where do you see yourself? What, to you, are the qualities of a life well lived?
PA- Family is the biggest for me. If you had to bust your ass for your family all your life, and you worked in a coal mine or something... I don’t know if you would stand up proud at the end of it and think you lived your life the way you wanted to. But if you can give your family opportunities based off the work that you did, that’s a life well lived. That’s how I approach Madbury as well as my own family, I’d do anything for those guys.
you can check out Madbury Club here, and follow Phil's instagram.
as told to: Olivia Seally // photos: Olivia Seally