PropertyOfZack’s first Label Talk with Rise Records was one of our favorites in the series, so we thought it would be a great idea to chat with founder Craig Ericson once again. Craig and I discussed the label’s continuous roster transition, quality vs quantity, the reputation of the label, the music industry in general, and what’s to come from Rise in 2012, among many other things. Make sure to read the full piece!
Last year, we opened up our Label Talk interview by asking you to discuss the transformation Rise Records made from the beginning of 2010 to the end of 2010 with signings like Man Overboard, Transit, and Sharks. Could you do the same, but for 2011?
It’s the same sort of thing. We stride to be diverse, and we try hard to do it. We’re still going to be putting out all facets of all-ages music in the underground scene, minus electronic and dubstep stuff. We love heavy music, we love hardcore, we love rock, we love pop-punk, you know?
People sort of looked at those first initial signings as some sort of joke, but you guys completely won over both sides of the fence in 2011. What have the general sentiments been from individuals reacting to all the signings as of late?
Some of the kids definitely respect our label more because we’re signing bands that they really like. They were trained beforehand to hate us for whatever circumstance. They looked at us as the enemy because the bands we had were popular in the scene, but they didn’t like them. We see all sorts of posts like, “I used to hate your fucking label, and now you’re my favorite label. Fuck you. What’s going on?” I think kids are pretty stoked on it, actually. When you’re younger and beginning to drink alcohol, you might not like good red wine, but as you get older your tastes change and you adapt and are more open to new things. Hopefully our label is opening up people to new things. That’s a really cheesy analogy [Laughs]. We don’t want to be pigeonholed as a screamo or metalcore label. We’ve never been exclusively that. We sign bands that we love and we want to be a diverse rock label.
Rise teased at the beginning of 2011 that there were a few more signings to be announced, but no one expected upwards of six or seven more. Were all of those planned, or did more and more just come up throughout the year?
Some were planned, but some were spur of the moment like Early November. That one happened quick. That one was not planned, but they reached out to us, and we said hell yeah. We had no idea we would sign that band. It’s a good mix of planning and spur of the moment decisions I think. Some bands take longer to sign for whatever reason.
How was 2011 for the label in terms of releases? You had a fair mix on both sides of the spectrum.
2011 was awesome. It was supposed to be our slow year. Back in 2010, we thought it would be a slow year because a lot of our big records were going to come out in 2010 and 2012, so we thought it was going to be slow. It surprised us that we did as well as we did. We always make room to put out a record for a band quick. We can move a lot quicker than other labels since we’re a small company.
We’re the initial releases from Man Overboard, Transit, and A Loss For Words a success considering it was the first time you stepped foot in that water in a long time?
I think so. It just depends on your term of success because it’s a relative word. The bands are still growing. They’re obviously not making us a million dollars, but I’m a firm believer that the trend in the all-ages music scene is going to go back to pop-punk and heavy melodic music like 90’s stuff. I don’t think metalcore and screamo are going away, but I think the scene has room for both people. We would like to be both because we love them both. We think there’s plenty of room to have several genres in the underground/all-ages scene.
I’m sure the original “pop-punk” style bands like Man Overboard and Transit may have had some trepidations of fitting into Rise’s roster, but has the feeling of the label for bands completely shifted as well this year?
It definitely has. I’m not going to lie, Man Overboard and Transit were nervous to sign to our label because they thought kids would discredit and tease them or fill in the blank for anything else. That’s why we announced them at the same time; we wanted them to have a buddy. We signed them at the same time so we could help them not get harassed. They got harassed a lot less than all of us thought. They thought there would be a huge backlash from bands too and were nervous about it. As long as the label doesn’t try to change a bands sound, everything should be okay. We told them we weren’t going to do that and we’d help them on the road and with promotion and all that stuff. It totally worked. No one hates the band because they signed the Rise. It went smoother than some thought.
Pop-punk is obviously rising up again, like you said. Whether the screamo genre becomes more or less popular, are you planning on pursuing bands on all spectrums still?
We definitely will. We’re here for it all. If metalcore starts to slip, we’re not going to abandon it. We’re going to be doing several genres. Man Overboard was in our office a few weeks ago, and some of them really love metal. Some of those guys really love metal, like Zac. He took our Miss May I CD with a preconceived notion. He listened to it and listened to it all the way to San Francisco and all night long and said Miss May I was his new favorite band and that he couldn’t believe how good they are. It’s funny how even bands in the scene and community have views about certain bands when they truly have never listened to them. He thought they were a melodic screamo band with tight pants and swoopy hair. He had no idea they were fucking greasy metal. It’s hard to change people’s preconceived notions sometimes.
You guys have taken on so many more bands this year. Have your day-to-day duties sort of expanded to make the necessary adjustments?
We still only have three people. We’re busy, but we pull it off well. We hardly let things slip through the cracks. You can’t be perfect, but the three of us equal about ten normal major label staffers, which is sort of a joke, but true too. We don’t just gossip at a desk all day, we do shit.
We chatted last year about how major labels were obviously in a downward spiral and continue to be in 2011, but that Rise’s sales have only increased. Was that the case once again?
It’s been pretty steady over the last few years. We had a big 2010, and like I said, we thought 2011 would be smaller, but it ended up being about the same as 2010. We had a great 2010, so we’re pretty steady.
Regardless of sales, bringing in a lot of new bands can be difficult for marketing. Do you ever fear that your roster is too large with the size of your team to be able to properly give each band the space they deserve?
There are definitely some instances where we have several releases in one month and there’s only so much ad space you can get and you have to couple them up. There is a disadvantage to having a larger roster, but it’s not that important in terms of print-ads. They’re still relevant, but word of mouth is king. Whether we put in two bands on one page of an ad isn’t really going to matter in the long run. The kids dictate whether music will be successful or not. I think it’s getting easier for labels to do their job now because you don’t have to spend a lot of money to get it heard. You do need to have a brand that kids trust. If you’re a no name band on a no label, it’s going to be hard for kids to find you, but we’re in a position where we’re in the limelight right now and kids listen to our new releases. There’s a better chance of getting heard on a label like ours.
Can you discuss the Velocity imprint and if you’ll be expanding it with Dave Shapiro in 2012?
Velocity won’t really be expanded. It’ll just be a few bands on the roster. There isn’t much big news there. Woe, Is Me and Abandon All Ships are the two bigger of the Velocity bands and we’re developing the smaller ones like Secrets and A Loss For Words. We’ll announce another signing in 2012, but we don’t want to do too many releases. Rise is busy enough as it is.
It seems that the general album cycle for almost every band has sort of quickly increased, especially in the pop-punk scene. How do you feel about bands releasing albums every year with the possibility of the material not being as strong?
The material being strong is key. I think a year is too soon, but I think a year and a half is perfect for album cycles. Two years is a little too long for me. I prefer a year and a half. If you wait too long, kids sort of lose interest. Kids always look for something new. You kind of have to get into their grill.
One thing that’s particularly interesting with Rise now is that there are sort of three pillars with your roster. Attack Attack! and Miss May I are sort of the heads of the metal area while Hot Water Music fronts up the punk rock side and The Early November head the pop-punk and emo side. But what’s interesting is that you have perfect touring packages with all of the smaller bands on the label. Do you see that as being huge in 2012?
I definitely do. I think all our bands will tour together as they always have. We do have three different aspects: We have beardcore with Hot Water Music, pop-punk, and the heavier stuff. Transit is hard to categorize because they’re not pop-punk, to be honest. They fit perfectly with The Early November. I would bet that they end up on tour sooner than later. Man Overboard can do any sort of tour because they’re so well-liked by every band. They always get rad tour offers. We definitely like to couple up our bands.
It’s obviously been a great year for the label, but there has been a fair amount of drama whether it be with Dance Gavin Dance, Emarosa, That’s Outrageous!, or Woe, Is Me. Has all that been a struggle?
It definitely has. Every time a band loses a frontman or a songwriter it’s always difficult. We try to stick with them and be loyal, but it’s too bad. The whole Jonny thing sucks really bad. Emarosa has a new singer that we’ll be announcing soon. They’re gonna be back in action. That’s Outrageous! has a rad frontman too. Their first album is what it is, but at this point we’re building up for their second record. There was so much drama for their first record. It’s hard for a kid to be super attached to a new band that loses it’s frontman. Hopefully bands keep their members. It’s a pain in the ass for me when they don’t.
Attack Attack! will sort of be leading off the year in terms of big releases from you, but what else can we expect early on in 2012?
Attack Attack!, Secrets, My Ticket Home, Bleeding Through all in January. Some of these records were done and we held them through the holiday. Cheap Girls will be out on February 21st, which falls into a unique category on Rise. I guess they’d be in Transit’s world even though they don’t sound like Transit. Sharks will be out on March 20th. April will see Daytrader and Early November. Hot Water Music will be out on May 15th and a new Miss May I record will be out too. Make Do And Mend will come out in June and so will Memphis May Fire. We’ve got them lined up. It’ll be a hectic year and we wouldn’t want it any other way.
Will there be any other signings?
We have a couple baby bands that we’re waiting to announce. We’ve been announcing a lot of stuff and we want to spread them out. There are a couple new signings. They’re not in a “what the fuck” category. We’re putting out a couple classic records from an older band that people really like.
People can assume that Rise will have a large imprint on Warped again. Do you see that as being extremely important too?
I think so. We’ll be on there just like last year. It’s definitely our scene for the screamo and metalcore stuff. We have several non-metal bands on the tour this year as well.
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