Pillasbros is an urban art collective formed at the end of 2004 in Madrid, Spain. The duo is composed by the graphic artist Lucas Benarroch (MRKA) from Madrid and the illustrator Nicolas Linares (NKO) from San Francisco. Aesthetically their work is phenomenal. The lines are precise, the minimalistic colors are spot on and the intricate nature of their art is frankly mind-boggling.
They have collaborated with brands such as Wutang Brand, CA Square and Minimaldose500mg, always complementing each other’s visions to create something unique. I met up with my man Nico in London and asked him a few questions…
Firstly I don’t know whether you refer to yourself as a graffiti artist or a street artist.
We would describe ourselves as Artists. We definitely have a graffiti background, but we use more techniques than just a silver spray can with a fat cap, although we do like it. We use wheat paste, acrylic paint, brushes, collage, and markers as well. We do use typography but I don’t think we couldn't be labeled as old school/ real/vandal graffiti artist, even though we still go out and paint. The terms of graffiti and street art have been blurred in the last 10 years, as well as the philosophy behind it, so let’s just say we are Artists (that like
How old were you when you started spraying?
I started playing around with a spray can around the year 2000, so about 11 but I started being active at around age 13/14.
Anything in particular that sparked your interest to get into graffiti?
We've always loved drawing painting and graphic design, so graffiti was the logical next step. I’m from San Francisco and moved to Madrid, both places have a big street/mural/graffiti art scene, each in their own way, I guess that helped. MRKA is originally from Madrid and moved to NYC five years ago. Both cities are big in terms of graffiti. Pillasbros is an urban art collective formed at the end of 2004 in Madrid, Spain. The duo is composed by the graphic artist Lucas Benarroch (MRKA) from Madrid and the illustrator Nicolas Linares (NKO) from San Francisco. Aesthetically their work is phenomenal. The lines are precise, the minimalistic colors are spot on and the intricate nature of their art is frankly mind-boggling.
Where did the name Pillas come from? Explain a bit about how you and Lucas met etc.
Pillas means You Cap (weed) in Spanish, but it has several meanings, it can be understood differently depending on the context, kind of like us, but it started off
as a thing we laughed about and it stuck. MRKA and I met at school, in Madrid
and saw we had a common interest pretty quickly.
What would you call your style?
Graphic design and illustration inspired
art, usually performed in the streets
legally and/or illegally?
What spray cans do you use?
Montana, MTN Colors, the real one, the Spanish one, when possible. If not I do with whatever I can get my hands on. If there are no cans I’ll use acrylic and a brush or whatever will leave
a mark. It’s more about the message than the media, it’s about leaving a trace, and it’s not really about how you do it. I've seen MRKA painting with cigarette butts…
What other writers or artists have influenced and inspired your work?
Lots of artists have inspired or influenced me in different moments. At first some of the guys that where around in Spain when we were young. Guys like Zeta, Suso33, San, Okuda, Dems, Eltono, Nano and Antonito. It’s always inspiring to look at what other people are doing. Guys like 123 Klan, Remed, Jeremy Fish or Herakut always have great stuff that’s very inspiring.
Any favorite color combinations?
When I’m alone or painting for me, I sometimes use more colors, but when I paint with MRKA we’ll try to stick to a simple two-color pallet, usually pastel but always colors that pop out.
Tell us a bit about the graffiti competitions you have been in .
MRKA and I were involved in a couple Secret Wars (re-named Secret Walls now because of Marvel’s Secret Wars) in Brooklyn, It was fun, it put us to a test, we battled Guys that have been around for a while, like Chaz from The London Police, Deedock, Kosbe, great experience. We were also in another art battle in Gloria Gallery, in Madrid, good fun, even more when they auction your piece. Basically it’s a 90 minute live art battle, kind of like a freestyle battle for a rapper, where you have no sketches, no white paint, so you cant fuck up, it’s just 90 minutes of black paint... then the jury and the crowd decide.
How does it feel to travel the world and spray? Anywhere in particular you have enjoyed spraying the most?
You can’t ask for much more. There’s nothing better than traveling doing what you like, it gives us a chance to spread our trace, and you meet nice people, people that are on the same page as you. I’ll keep doing it for as long as I can. I enjoy painting everywhere, but there are always some special places. Miami was a great experience, we did a 100-foot wall there, it was a lot of work but it was an important step. San Fran was also special for me, it’s my hometown, and we randomly met James And Johnny from Upper Playground, chilled, and ended up painting their place and staying on their couch for a week.
Can your mood affect the way you spray?
I think your work is a projection of yourself, some days you’re more inspired, some days no matter how hard you try it just wont come out the way you want. On the other Hand, It can also affect my mood, make me relax, I use it to get away when I’m not having a good day.
Do you ever spray spontaneously? Or do you plan most of your art in advance?
If it’s something that’s commissioned, we’ll sketch out the main ideas and general disposition, even though we always stay open to new ideas or modifications that we can come up with on the spot. But in general it’s more spontaneous. MRKA takes care of the balance of the piece, adds stuff here and there and I usually take care of the content. We
each have our part.
How often do you draw from day to day? Like in a sketch pad?
Too often, pretty much all the time. I carry a sketchbook on me always and doodle or sketch whenever I’m not walking around.
Do you think that street art has the potential to become a representation of a city’s
culture if done properly? For example instead of tags all over the city. If actual street art was commissioned to local artists, do you think it could change the aesthetics of a city in a positive way?
Yes, Miami’s the most recent example, with the “Art district”, Wynnewood. Also Sao Paulo, Berlin, Lisboa, Barcelona in the old days... Most definitely.
Have you ever been arrested?
Unfortunately… One time we had to hide in an abandoned warehouse full of junkies, hookers and leaks and like 16 cops came in with their bulletproof vests, guns in hand.
What’s the graffiti scene like in Madrid now?
It’s active, there’s a lot going on, a lot of Graffiti, and a lot of street art. There’s always a hand full of quality artists putting new stuff up and a lot of young guys going out at night. However it’s calmer than 5 or 6 years ago. Bigger fines I guess.
How closely related is graffiti to music?
Graffi ti IS Hip Hop. Look at Gano (and Dj mathematics) and the Wu-Tang, he even did the logo everyone knows them by now.
Is there a particular genre of music you like to listen to whilst spraying?
Rap/ Hip Hop. Always. Mostly stuff from the 90s and early 2000’s, not that into the new bling bling cheap electronic/reggaeton base kind of thing.
Is Graffiti something you can see yourself doing for a long time?
For as long as I can, for sure. I still have a long way to go to be where I want to be at with my art.
Is there anything you would like to say to the world?
I like yellow rice and beans with my grilled chicken. Pillas! Pillas! Pillas!