PropertyOfZack had the chance to interview Mike Ciprari from SJC drums a few weeks ago for a great interview. Mike and I discussed the history and infrastructure of the company, who they work with, how they continue to grow as a brand against competitors, their impact at festivals and shows, and much more. it’s a great look into one of our scene’s most popular companies, so read up!
So could you just introduce yourself and start talking about your role at the company and how long you’ve been there for?
Yep. I am Mike Ciprari. I am one of the owners at SJC Drums. I basically run the direction of the shop and do some A&R, taking care of our artists and what not.
Can you talk about the infrastructure of the company? I think a lot of general music fans see SJC as one of the top three or four prominent drum companies. But I don’t think many know how it works there. Can you talk about that?
Basically, we’re all pretty young guys. We started doing this when we were fifteen. We’re all in our early twenties. I guess the infrastructure of the company is that we’re dudes that either played in bands or are in bands. We know what touring is like. None of us really went to college or anything for this. We just learned from hands-on experiences. Which I think is great, because starting this company, I never had anybody to look up to or to ask a question if I was doing it right or wrong. I just did it and learned from my mistakes. That’s kind of how all of us do it, which is great. If you make a mistake one time, like a big mistake, you’re probably never going to do that again. Because you learn from actually seeing it go wrong. That’s cool. It’s a cool thing for us to do that. That helps us grow and that helps us deal with and offer what we like to think of as an unrivaled experience. With people buying drums from us and artists playing our drums. We get what they want and we know what they need. That’s important, because we have so many bands that are on tour. We really can’t afford to mess up and drop the ball. Bands really rely on us. There’s thirteen of us here at the shop. We’re twenty-two to twenty-seven years old. We’re pretty much doing all of the hands-on stuff here in our shop.
How long has SJC been around now?
We’ve been around since 2000, so twelve years.
Has the staff increased lately, or has it always been that size?
Just this past year, we’ve increased a ton. It was just my brother and myself for the first six years. Then we hired my best friend Brian, who just did some A and R sales stuff who’s now running the shop. He’s pretty much the shop manager. And in the last two years, we’ve hired six or seven more people to get us to about thirteen. We’ve got the book keeper that comes in and does our accounting. We’ve got full time guys doing pretty much everything: social media, sales, marketing. And then all of the guys in the back building the drums and the shipping guys. So in the past year or two we’ve really been bulking up and we just moved into a new shop about six months ago. Which allowed for more steady growth for us, which has been awesome.
How have you guys stayed competitive with the other three or four same size or bigger drum companies when it comes down to bands and promoting?
It seems crazy, but I feel like with some other companies, you don’t get the importance of social media. It’s such a big thing and such an awesome, easy way to get in touch with fans or artists or drummers. And for people to just see what you’re about in just one click. We try to utilize everything, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, all that stuff to be very accessible. Because it’s not like we’re a famous band, where we’re inaccessible and you can’t talk to us. We’re a company and we’re trying to sell drums. So for us to be approachable in the easiest way is for kids to know that they can rely on us to get what they want. Other companies don’t really take advantage of that. They don’t reply to emails. It’s scary for me as the guy working out the finances to pay people to just be selling or to do social media stuff. But that’s exactly where it is. So that’s where we try and be different. Because we are so active using the internet to find new bands, contact guys, and be like, “Hey. Watch this video. It shows you what SJC’s about in like two minutes.” Luckily for us, about ninety percent of the time, it works. The drummer just goes, “Oh shit! You guys aren’t corporate.” We’re not in suits. In the most humble way, we’re not out there trying to make a ton of some money. We’re just about trying to make awesome drums. We have all of our favorite bands and all the bands out there touring repping SJC. So at the end of the day, you can’t get a job much cooler than this. I just saw Refused in New York City. They were one of the first CDs I ever bought when I was like thirteen years old. That is the pay off for us. You’ve got to live and make money, but for us to put everything into having our favorite bands play our drums, it’s pretty awesome.
Something I’ve always been curious about is that you know guitarists get sponsored by Fender or Gibson. Drummers get sponsored by SJC or whoever. Can you tell, when you see a band like Refused play SJC drums, when that translates into normal drummers, not necessarily touring band drummers, go out and buy stuff from you?
Yeah. It’s a two part answer. We try to not pigeonhole ourselves into different genres of music and lately we’ve really been trying to branch out. We’ve been focusing heavily on the “Warped Tour” kind of bands. Because that’s where we grew up. Going to Warped Tour, hitting up those bands. That’s where the popularity in that kind of drum scene was. We, I think, have that on pretty good lock now. We’ve got a ton of bands on Warped. That whole genre. We’ve been reaching out more. We’ve got more country artists, we’ve got some R&B guys. We’re making some drums for different people now and through that, we can definitely see Refused or, right now, we’re working on some drums for George Rebello in Hot Water Music. Where once those guys get their drums, I’m sure that we’ll see, a couple months from then, different drummers in different age groups and different stats. See what stacks they’re ordering. For instance we got a lot of drum orders for kids with lights in them because of Panic! At The Disco or All Time Low or something like that. But when we have a different drummer in a hardcore scene where he just gets a black kit, when he starts touring with that kit, we’ll get a bunch of orders for basically that kit. That’s our marketing there, where we can see the direct relationship or the reflection and how that helps working for us.
Has branching out into these other genres been a great experience? Outside of the pop punk scene?
Yeah, definitely. That’s what we’ve been trying to do. You just have to build your cred I guess. To be able to show these drummers who… They’re not married to their company, but they’re definitely loyal to the company. They’ve been playing so long because they’re an older drummer. So for us to make so many other drummers to show them what we do, like, “Hey. We can do anything,” that in turn relates them. Like, “Okay. Cool. I’ll buy that out of the box and let you guys build me a kit. We’ll go for it.” So then we win them over. And then through them, we get other bands. For instance, Refused is playing our drums. To Hot Water Music we’re like, “Hey. You know. We’ve got all these other bands, but the dude from Refused played our drums. You know if he liked them, you’re going to like them.” So that definitely helps us in getting some cred out there as well. To just show what other bands that we’re working with.
What would you say your biggest bands are right now that rep you guys?
Right now, going through the whole genre, we’ve got Gym Class [Heroes], A Day To Remember, Rancid, All Time Low, Boys Like Girls, and all those dudes. But then we’ve got Refused, Every Time I Die, Rich Reinhardt [Richie Ramone] who plays for The Ramones, Dropkick Murphys. That’s kind of the bigger dudes in each of those genres. We haven’t announced it yet, but we’re working with Hot Water Music and Millencolin. Which for me, personally, is a huge landmark to announce those guys. It’s amazing.
You were talking earlier about the importance of social presence. What should we expect to see from you guys this summer? Whether it be at Bamboozle or Warped Tour or some other festival.
I’m actually flying to Europe tomorrow for Groezrock. It’s a big festival out there. I have tech for Rancid. So I’m going to be out there with Rancid doing that and working with all our other bands. We’ve got like two dozen bands playing Groezrock. Right after this phone call, I’m having a meeting with Josh and George about… We’ve got Bamboozle, so we’ll be at Bamboozle with some signings with their bands. We’ll be at Slam Dunk in London. I’ll be there. My band No Trigger is playing that. So that’s something that is rad for me. I get to just travel for free and kind of have a business trip on the band. So we’ll be at Slam Dunk. We’re doing Warped Tour, we’re going to have a booth at a couple of dates on the east coast. And then The Fest in Gainesville, Florida. Again, No Trigger is playing that and we’ll have a booth and we’re back lining that entire thing. And Warped Tour we’re back lining on the Kevin Says Stage. So all of our drums will be on the Kevin Says Stage for those bands to play, which will be rad. Then more shows like the London Drum Show and NAMM Festival coming up later this year. So definitely a busy year for marketing stuff and definitely making a presence. Which is great for us. And we just got back from South By Southwest in February as well.
Should we be seeing any other different things from the company this year?
Yeah. It’s kind of not public yet, but we can lead sort of into talking about it. We filmed a reality TV show. We filmed half of this season in February. I have a meeting with the network in a couple of weeks about moving forward once they’re done editing those shows. Discussing how we’re going to move forward. So that will be a really big and cool thing for us to kind of branch out to more people who don’t know about SJC. Can’t really say any information on the network yet, but it will be out there. It will be on the internet and everything. So that will be a really big thing for us to show off what we do and the artists that we work with and stuff.
That’s cool and very different. To close things up, have you guys started turning more towards the future? What are some long term goals that you’re able to talk about?
Long term goals? We just moved into this shop, like I said. But we’re expanding very quickly here. Long term goals, I guess, is just to grow the company in the most organic, grassroots way that we have so far. We’re not looking to make any giant leaps. We’re trying to just get more artists, keep branching out to newer clients, like the Hot Water Music or Eric Church country guys that we’re looking to. Trying to just expand in our shop. Get a solid crew here. Which we already have, but we’re expanding on that, as I mentioned. So that we can get our turnaround time down and be able to offer our custom drums at a quicker pace with the same quality. Just keep branching out to all of the new trade shows and festivals that we can get involved with. Like Redding and Leeds. We’re going to eventually be out there. More stuff like that. Traveling with our bands. Hopefully eventually opening up a drum store in Boston. I’d love to have a flagship SJC store where one of our guys has his office there and we also have a store out there. We’re working on an art show kind of thing where artists have a gallery and they’ll rent space in a city like Boston or Miami or New York City and they’ll have an art show. We’re working right now on having pretty big artists paint some drums. We’re going to have like a cool art show/ band show kind of thing. Where we try to get a thousand people and get a cool sponsor. Whether it be Glamour Kills or Johnny Cupcakes or something presenting it. We’d present the artist’s work, the drums that they’ve painted, and have a show. We’re discussing possibly having Bad Rabbits playing. Having a cool party and having more interaction with people that way. In that kind of street theme, which would be really cool.
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