Nick Cave, Tom Waits, Bon Iver & more create illustrated book of short stories

Musicians including Nick Cave, Tom Waits, Laura Marling and Bon Iver have teamed up with visual artists to create Stories for Ways and Means: an illustrated book of short stories for adults.

Spread from Micachu (Mica Levi)'s story, How to Escape from a Wasp, featuring artwork by Kirsty Whiten
Spread from Micachu (Mica Levi)’s story, How to Escape from a Wasp, featuring artwork by Kirsty Whiten

Stories for Ways and Means contains 29 short stories, each created by a different musician and illustrator. Contributing visual artists include Kai and Sunny, Ronzo, Anthony Lister, Will Barras and Jacob Escobedo.

The book is published by record label Waxploitation and will be released in 2017. The standard edition costs $98 and 80% of net proceeds will be donated to children’s literacy projects including Room to Read and Pencils of Promise.

Each tale has also been turned into an animated film with a voiceover from an actor or musician. Danny Devito has narrated a story by Frank Black of The Pixies, illustrated by Kai and Sunny, while Nick Offerman of Parks and Recreation has voiced one written by Bon Iver (Justin Vernon).

The project was conceived by Waxploitation founder Jeff Antebi. Antebi had the idea in 2009 after working on Dark Night of the Soul, an album by Danger Mouse and indie rock group Sparklehorse. The album included a book of photographs by film-maker David Lynch – a collaboration that inspired him to launch a bigger project pairing musicians with visual artists.

“There was something compelling about having an artist from the realm of music collaborate with an artist from a more visual world…. At the time, I thought… ‘what would happen if I really blew this collaboration up’?” he says.

“I’ve always loved how music artists are able to spin tales in their lyrics.  And I can’t help but see the stories visually in my head.  So I decided one day to approach a wide array of songwriters who I felt could work well in a multimedia format, and paired them with painters and illustrators who thrive at capturing something ‘otherworldly’.”

Antebi has been working on the project ever since, recruiting a formidable list of songwriters and artists. It’s taken seven years to put the book together: Antebi says musicians were free to create “whatever the hell they wanted, as long as it was more or less a children’s story” and were not given a fixed deadline.

“My background is artist management,” he explains. “And at the peak of managing the career of Gnarls Barkley, I was getting hundreds of requests a day for this and that and this and that. There’s way no way we could pursue every single thing, no matter how great the opportunity was or how good the cause. And I learned that the easiest way to gracefully pass on something was to simply ask when the deadline was – 99% of the time, the deadline was the deal killer.

“Whenever I approached someone I wanted to participate in Stories for Ways & Means, and they asked about the deadline, I responded ‘no deadlines!'” he continues. “That way, if someone wanted to pass, it was an honest pass. And if they wanted to potentially participate, they had all the time they needed.”

From the story Jellyfish, published in Stories for Ways and Means
From the story Jellyfish, published in Stories for Ways and Means
Stories for Ways and Means contains 29 illustrated stories. The standard hardcover edition costs $98
Stories for Ways and Means contains 29 illustrated stories. The standard hardcover edition costs $98

“In some cases, I would call them once a year, ask again, be told ‘not yet’, then call the following year. There was no need to rush. And every year, I would have new contributors in mind and was willing to add them to the list of people I’d wait for.”

Antebi says Waxploitation is now developing a VR version of the book and turning some of the stories into longer animated films. He also plans to launch a gallery exhibition showcasing original artwork.

Other charities to receive a percentage of net proceeds from the book include 826 National and War Child as well as smaller local literacy schemes. “We wanted to spread things out in a reasonable way to make sure global non-profits/NGOs that operate all over the world get the most and then smaller, localised ones that don’t necessarily have their own fundraising platforms would be able to get cheques too,” says Antebi.

You can pre-order copies of the book and buy prints at

What's the story?

The Storytelling issue, Oct/Nov 2017, is out now.
We invited writers to respond to our cover image
this month: read their stories inside.
PLUS: Tom Gauld, Oliver Jeffers, Giphy & S-Town

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