Freight Friday: Tre
If you’ve ever benched a line of freights rolling through your town, I can guarantee one thing: if there was a TRE panel on that line, you saw it. The reason why: for over 15 years, TRE has developed and honed a style that is all about impact – big, bold, BOOM. I first met TRE in the early 2000s, while looking for new recruits amongst the up and coming batch of writers in our hometown: the suburbs bordering West Philadelphia. Without getting too deep into it, Philly is generally not a “freight scene” city. Despite this, I had been mentored in the world of freights by NECSKE and MBER, and accordingly, freights have always been part of the required repertoire for any writer in my eyes.
So the first time we hung out, TRE- like most Philadelphians- was focused on handstyles and tags. I recall he had a really dope backwards handstyle in his previous incarnation as PAD. Instead of going and doing a wall or a spot, I took him and a few others to a daytime freight spot in West Philly. The other writers who came along had little to no interest in the trains because the return on their investment rep-wise was not immediate, like when doing spots. With freight trains (especially before the internet really exploded), there’s always been a need for patience – to walk 2 miles to paint, and send the panel off across the country and wait for months or even years before that panel is caught and shared. This pattern that repels a lot of Philly writers appealed to TRE in a way I’ve never experienced before or since meeting him. He was instantly addicted, and dropped his interest in any other medium of writing almost immediately. He actually loved freights more than I ever did, and still does – its truly something visceral for him.
From that point forward, he spent a few years figuring things out himself, networking, evolving his style. At some point in the mid-Aughties, he started painting BIG. While its pretty common these days to paint big, I hailed from the days when we would e2e a car with 7 writers sometimes – panels were usually split in 2 at least. TRE started bringing a bucket or using his bag to get an extra foot or two of height on each panel, and going door to ladder. At first, for years, we all made his life hell for doing this, telling him he was going too big and overshadowing team efforts. But he stuck to his guns and really believed that a panel was supposed to be for one piece only, and to be readable from a distance, high balling through your area.
And he was right – he anticipated the shift in freight train graffiti to larger more impactful pieces. He ended up converting me and even teaching me his tricks and techniques for going big with simple but booming color schemes. He clearly takes influence from both PRE and MBER (who painted a good chunk of his panels in Philadelphia) in the sense that his work is simple, and readable, with classical bar-based letter structure. He paints on a bigger scale then those guys did though, so everything is fat caps for outlines and readable from across a cornfield.
As he climbed the ladder of recognition and respect, TRE also struggled with the demons of addiction. I watched a good friend of mine slowly descend into a dark period of addiction, leading to burning bridges with friends, leaving crews, jail, and eventually a brush with death. He didn’t die though. He bounced back and started rebuilding his health, and returning to his patented formula on trains with a new posi, sober perspective. He has been rebuilding his friendships and working hard to be as good a dude as he is an artist. He wanted me to share this aspect of his struggle, so others can know that you can turn it around; you can beat the demons that haunt you and mend fences – true friends forgive.
So when you see a TRE panel rolling past you, from a half mile away, know that it was made by hand in America, by a true craftsman who loves train culture so much that it helped bring him back from the brink of destruction. He may be a pain in my ass sometimes, but he is a great guy who has made an impact on our culture by being original, dedicated, and going BIG.
-Chris Nise NSF/BA