Baseball cap-wearing basketballs and fedora-clad pyramids intermingle with wide-eyed, fuzzy-edged monsters on a colorful new mural on the wall of Trophy on Morgan.
The monsters, creations of the Brooklyn-based artist, illustrator and graphic designer Kevin Lyons, are painted in regional colors: Duke and Tarheel blues, Wolfpack red, even Shaw University’s distinctive burgundy. In place of teeth inside some of the monsters’ mouths, painted in white block letters, are the names of several of North Carolina’s legendary jazz and hip-hop artists: Nina Simone, Thelonious Monk, Betty Davis, John Coltrane, Rapsody, King Mez, J. Cole, Ninth Wonder.
It’s a curated list of the greats, retro and modern, whose music Lyons keeps in his personal collection.
“There are a lot of references to my interpretation of Raleigh, or Carolina in general,” Lyons says of the new mural. “So the Triangle is represented, and all of North Carolina is represented in terms of the musicians.”
Three years ago, Lyons came to Raleigh to paint a different mural on Trophy’s wall for the Truth Initiative, a national anti-smoking organization. The playful, black-and-white original was a little sun-worn and weathered, so Lyons, in partnership with Jed Gant and the Raleigh Murals Project, returned last month to paint a mural on the same east-facing wall—only this one’s bigger, brighter and a bit more personal.
“This was done purely for love, no commercial gain,” Lyons says. “It was purely because Jed and his team are really dedicated to beautifying Raleigh, to putting more murals here, to bringing in artists from outside and giving people content and things to enjoy.”
The original mural proved a popular spot for Raleighites and travelers to visit and capture on Instagram, providing local color and no doubt driving traffic to Trophy.
“It’s amazing for us,” says David Meeker, one of the popular brewery’s co-owners, of Lyons’s Raleigh return. “We got an international mural artist at a reasonable price—for free, basically—to redo the mural, just because he wants to.”
To celebrate, Trophy launched the Morgan Monsters New England IPA, a citrusy, hop-forward brew that Meeker describes as “beautiful,” and perfect to enjoy during the warm summer months. Look for cans of the limited-release beer with Lyons’s signature monsters on their labels.
Lyons, who has painted murals all over the world and worked with brands including Nike, Vans, DC and Urban Outfitters, recently completed a similar homage to local jazz musicians in Detroit. He says Raleigh’s mural is the second run in what could become a national mural miniseries, combining music and touches of local flair. For Raleigh and Trophy, that means music with a side of pizza, beer and college sports.
“Raleigh is a really interesting town,” Lyons says. “There’s basketball, everything runs around that, but there’s also great music and entertainment, shops and food, the college logos you can’t escape seeing. And I do these pyramids in all my work, they’re a staple, and I thought, ‘They work for the Triangle.’”
“I overthink everything,” he adds. “Nothing doesn’t have meaning.”