Big Stories

POZ Label Talk: Violently Happy Records

by Zack Zarrillo - Oct 12, 2012

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PropertyOfZack had the pleasure of doing a great new Label Talk feature with Chad Gilbert of New Found Glory, who has started a new imprint via Bridge Nine called Violently Happy Records. Fans have been incredibly interested in Gilbert’s plans for the label and to find out more information about Candy Hearts, and we’re stoked to have chatted with Chad about that, and much more like plans for a solo record. Check out the full Label Talk below!

Violently Happy, your imprint label via Bridge Nine, was announced a few weeks, and fans were definitely surprised. How long was the label in the works for?
I guess, I would say it’s been since last December. Last December or the beginning of this year, probably. There were talks of it because I really loved Candy Hearts and I wanted to produce them. On the Pop Punk’s Not Dead Tour, I was sending Candy Hearts’ album to a lot of labels because I really wanted to produce them, but they’re a smaller band and I record in California, so they didn’t really have a way of getting out there. They were just really tiny, so I would send the record out. Bridge Nine and a few other labels loved it. I was thinking about all the opportunities that I could potentially bring them, and wanted to sign them to a label, but I wished that I could still be involved. After producing a lot of bands, like the Terror record, we came up with all these cool ideas to set up the record and we felt the impact. Some bands I produce, and that doesn’t happen. I record it and it comes out. Because Candy Hearts weren’t on a label, I felt like I could do a good job helping them promote and market. It made me not want to give the project away. It made me want to be a part of it. When Bridge Nine said they were into it, I asked if I could stay involved by starting this label. They were into the idea. 

In a press release about the label, you mentioned that your main desire behind starting it was to lend a helping hand to younger bands punk/hardcore scene. That’s something that New Found Glory has been doing for years in terms of bringing younger bands out on tour, but do you see this as a bigger and even more gratifying step for you?
I love it. I love being involved in music and in anything. I like being creative and productive. I like feeling like I’m contributing to something, so it is definitely gratifying and cool. I can’t wait for it to actually come out.

There’s no denying that Candy Hearts have an incredibly infectious sound. When exactly did they catch your ear?
The first time I heard “Tongue Tied,” Steve was playing it on the bus. Then I got the record and became a super fan. I think what I love about the band is that, I feel like the punk rock/emo scene is filled with singers that sound very similar. They go for that one sound. When I heard Mariel’s voice, I was like, “Finally a singer that doesn’t stick to this formula.” She’s got her own sound and a unique sound. I feel like her voice reminds me of the 90’s, which I really love. I love the band That Dog, and when I heard her voice, it reminded me of a few things from the 90’s. You could hear it on the Clueless soundtrack, and I thought that was really cool. I really like her lyrics too. Even something as simple as, “Erasing every comma so all my thoughts collide.” Lyrics like that are so cool and impress. This band, if they got out there, could do really, really well. 

You produced the EP this past spring. Did you see them take a big step during it?
The thing about Candy Hearts is that they’re nowhere near their potential. That’s another reason why I wanted to be a part of it. Candy Hearts is still growing as a band and they need to tour a lot and get tighter as a band. I think everyday with Candy Hearts is a step. I don’t think they’re anywhere near their full potential as a band yet. This is a band that I love. It’s not a race to make them popular. We just want them to tour and to be promoted. We’re going to try to get them to as many people as possible.

We’ve seen you branch out a lot in the past few years with producing, and adding a label to the list must be time consuming. Is time a concern for you now between New Found, producing, and the label?
There’s a lot going on. I do have a lot going on, but I always reference my father. Up to the day he passed away, my dad worked non-stop. Even when he was sick. He built pools, was a foreman, and did so many things. He worked everyday in the hot sun of Florida from 6AM to 5:30PM. Every single day. I feel like my whole family is like that. All the Gilbert guys work once they hit 13, and I feel like I grew up around that and have that work ethic in me. I’ve been fortunate enough to make it where it’s not out there all day with cement, but at the same time, just because I’m in a band and have the opportunity to have a lot of downtime doesn’t mean I want it. I don’t feel like I’m productive unless I’m doing things with my life and am productive and am contributing because I have these opportunities. It is a lot, but for some reason it’s not overwhelming. Somehow I know how to balance all of it, and it all has never felt overwhelming. Bridge Nine is also a huge help. They really love what they do, and they’re not the biggest label, but that’s not what it’s about. It’s about being focussed and into what you’re doing instead of being stuck in your ways. That’s what’s cool about Bridge Nine. They give me the tools for my vision. 

You’re producing other bands right now, but do you have plans to bring in more bands to the label?
I don’t. New Found Glory got signed back in the day to Drive-Thru and eventually MCA started working with us. Back then, and I feel it’s the reason New Found Glory did well, the label really understood our band and working for our band. They didn’t care about when or how fast, they just knew that they wanted to give us tours for us to work and grow the band to really build us up. Now, labels will sign a band, release a record with promotion, and then after two months you don’t hear about the record ever again. Labels are constantly signing new bands. I don’t think when you sign a band, any of bands are getting anything out of it because there’s no focus. I understand it’s a business and people need to run their labels and make money, but for me, I don’t have to do that because I don’t have a big office. It’s me and my laptop. I really don’t want to sign all those bands. I want to work with Candy Hearts for a really long time. The pre-orders for the EP are starting, and I’m wondering about what tour to get them on next April. It’s not about signing another band. It’s about signing Candy Hearts and working with them for a long time to work and grow their career. 

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POZ Label Talk: Triple Crown Records

by Zack Zarrillo - Sep 19, 2012

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oTriple Crown Records is one of PropertyOfZack’s favorite labels, and how could they not be with a fantastic back-catalog and a current roster filled with bands like Bad Books, Moving Mountains, and O’Brother. It’s because of that that we are so happy to be bringing Fred Feldman back for a brand new Label Talk feature. Fred and I spoke in-depth about the label’s slight switch of sound, three big new signings, the important of development and touring, what Triple Crown offers compared to other indies, and a possible reissue of Deja Entendu on vinyl. Check out the whole feature below!

It’s been about a year and a half since our first Label Talk, and Triple Crown’s identity in terms of the bands on its roster has certainly begun to shift. Can you talk about moving from bands like The Secret Handshake, Fight Fair, and Hit The Lights to Moving Mountains and O’Brother?
It wasn’t a conscious shift. Keep in mind, we had Plug In Stereo until the beginning of the year and we made a deal with Atlantic to take over because we were doing a great job with pop radio, but we needed help. There was nothing in that world at that time that piqued my interested. It just happens that this is where we’re at right now. It’s not to say that we wouldn’t go back. We look to sign things that we can offer value to and try to make things happen for. It just happens right now, for the first time in the long time, that there’s a more identifiable sound for us. They’re all in that sweet-spot of post-rock, and they compliment each other really well. You look at Bad Books too, and they’re not like those bands, but it’s something that we offer value to and can grow the audience. I think it comes down to that nothing was piquing my interest that I wanted to get involved with. 

I’d say younger bands, in the poppier world, are also having a harder time creating something that’s special and different.
It feels like it’s a major label game. The pop stuff is so poppy that it’s harder to start it off. Even the poppier stuff that we got involved in was still slightly quirky, whether it was Secret Handshake or Plug In Stereo. When we get involved with those bands, we always look for something a little left of center.

The two bigger releases within the last year or so were from Moving Mountains and O’Brother. Have you been content with those?
We’re definitely really happy. Those types of bands are about longterm building. Touring is instrumental for them, and both of those bands got amazing opportunities. I really believe that their next records is when we’ll see the payoff. As hard as it is for me to say as a record label, sales are not indicative of where a band is at. Moving Mountains did headline dates in the spring, and the ticket counts were great. O’Brother keeps getting great opportunities as well. It’s a slow, methodical push. The one thing I like about these bands as well is that there’s definitely royalty. The crowds stay with them. I’m a big fan of that. If you go back to The Receiving End Of Sirens/As Tall As Lions days, there was always loyalty there. It’s not common these days.
POZ: Regardless of what it is, a lot of fans seem to grow out of more pop-oriented bands, versus someone like Moving Mountains.
Fred: When you lean towards the poppy side, it comes down to whether you have the song at that time or not and whether it’s a pop hit or just that song that resonates. You live and die by that, but these bands its about the collective works and touring. It’s about the live experience. O’Brother is one of the best live bands out there right now, and they win people over. They did a second tour with Thrice, and they won over many more people that walk away saying, “Holy shit, that was amazing.”

O’Brother’s touring schedule has been incredible.
Keep in mind, Moving Mountains had great chances as well and they’ve been busy with their new record. Over the last eighteen months they did Warped, Thrice, Coheed, and Biffy. They’ve had great opportunities as well.

In terms of releases, The Dear Hunter’s Color Spectrum has been out for a while now, but we keep seeing reissues. Has that been a surprise?
It was ambitious to take it on because he had this vision of releasing it all at once and for it to be cool. The public’s appetite for something that big can be fickle, but he has a loyal fan base and they got what he was trying to do. We came in and supported Casey’s vision. We came up with interesting ideas and it was very much a collaborative effort. It was great. We pressed another batch of box sets because there was a demand. They were selling for $500 on eBay, so people still wanted them. We put it out there.

Triple Crown has had these three big signings in the last few months, but it has been a somewhat slow year otherwise. Was that due to just figuring out the signings? Or have duties for the label shifted as well?
Every day is an adventure. We had a quiet first half, and we knew that’d be the case. We were digging in on O’Brother and Moving Mountains. And it’s about balancing your release schedule and being able to focus on the records that are out. No day is the same as the one before. Each day is different. You set out your goals and go for them. I try to work closely with the management and artist to complete their vision. That’s important to me. 

Caspian, Bad Books, and North Korea have all joined the Triple Crown family. How long were you working on some of those for? 
They take a little time. It’s hard to say. Sometimes when the lawyers get involved, things get done in a snap or it takes a little longer. We knew when we signed North Korea that we were hoping to get a record out this winter. I’ve happened to know those guys for a long time, and you start with a conversation and see where it goes. Bad Books, I have a long-standing relationship with Kevin and I’ve known the Manchester guys for years. I knew they were working on it and we just wanted to do it. Once it was done, we started working on it. It’s such a great record. It was definitely conscious to make the second half busier than the first half. We’re not a tremendous label staff wise, so it’s about making sure everything we put out gets the attention it deserves. 

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POZ Label Talk: Paper + Plastick Records

by Zack Zarrillo - Aug 24, 2012

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PropertyOfZack had the privilege of talking with Vinnie Fiorello of Paper + Plastick Records several weeks ago for a brand new addition to our Label Talk series. Vinnie and I had the chance to discuss the label’s change in release strategy, how they operate compared to most other labels, managing big and small named releases, staying creative with marketing, future releases, and some comic book action as well. Check it all out below!

Paper + Plastick seemed to be having a slower year than usual, but that’s certainly picked up in the last two months with the releases from Chad and Anthony and now Flatfoot 56 and a few others. Needless to say, has it been a few stressful months gearing up for the summer?
Yeah. I think I wanted to change the model after last year and the year before were heavy releases throughout the year. I wanted to have two pockets of when we do releases and sort of market the rest of the time; try it that way. So the first half of the year was getting together all of the content for the releases, but also setting up marketing and doing a bit heavier press than we did before. Because we’re doing it in-house now instead of going out of the label. Thomas and I are doing it. I wanted to split it up and do summer releases and then late fall releases. So that’s when you’ll see those two happen, at least for this year to see how it’s going; see if that makes a difference or not. 

Obviously you are just now getting into the meat of that model, but how has it been going so far? In terms of marketing and planning.
I think good, you know? It’s enough time to get the plan together and get it executed, but I also think that your best friend and worst enemy as well is repetition of marketing at the same websites for three different records. So it becomes slightly [more] tedious than it would if it was stretched out over a year. You have to talk to… let’s say your website and go, “Hey here’s this record. Let me talk to you in February and then talk to you in April and then talk to you in October.” Instead of within three weeks or a month going “Hey, we have Chuck from Good Riddance, we have Jr. Juggernaut, we have Flatfoot 56, here’s all this that we need from you.” So that’s the only thing that has taken a moment to get through. You’re covering a lot of the same ground all in a short period of time when you are doing a release schedule like we’re doing. 

So it’s more now just finding creative ways to separate the records that you’re marketing?
Absolutely. I think that the challenge to us right now is separating the records, marketing wise, and doing things that are fresh for each release. Instead of trying to plug it into the same thing. There you have Flatfoot 56, Celtic punk, Jr. Juggernaut which is very 90s inspired indie rock, you have the Obie Fernandez record which is reggae-Motown… You have a few records that go all over the spectrum. So I think there is only so much that you can plug into. Each of those releases have a specific voice that has to be marketed to a different crowd. So I think that it can cover similar ground and there is some grey area, but each record has to have a fresh perspective of where you market it from. 

For a while there it seemed like Paper + Plastick had a release a week if not more. Was that getting to be too much and is that why you wanted to try to shift it?
No, not really. I think that it was a heavy release schedule the first couple years of the label. That was more out of excitement of finding records and finding bands that I fell in love with. I think that the similar goes this year, except that we’re just pooling it all together into two different release times which is mid-summer and late fall. It hasn’t necessarily slowed down, I just think that we’re rearranging how we do it instead of continually doing it. Like I said earlier, instead of continually fighting with manufacturing schedules and things like that, it’s just happening all at once. 

So we obviously know bigger names like Chad Gilbert and Anthony Raneri and Flatfoot 56, but could you talk about some of the lesser known releases that you’re gearing up to do?
Well the Jr. Juggernaut record, that’s a record that I, one hundred percent, fell in love with. The only way I can describe it is that it has some Pavement vibe to it, it has some SuperChunk vibe to it. Very 90s inspired indie rock. The only name check that I could do with a modern band is Cheap Girls. If you’re a fan of Cheap Girls, you’re going to be a fan of the Junior Juggernaut record. In the office, that’s one of the records of a smaller band that people love and want to see succeed. I don’t know. Obie Fernandez, even though he was in Westbound Train, I consider that his first release as a solo artist. I sort of compare that to a Junior Juggernaut. While he was in a bigger band that was on Epitaph, I still have to start from zero with him. And that record’s blindingly good. It has some Motown feel to it, it has some reggae, soul… kind of all squashed together. Then we have Young Skin that we haven’t announced yet. That’s coming. That’s members of The Ergs! and Black Wine as well as a few others. That’s another 90s influenced band. It’s a one-off from it but it definitely has that crunchy 90s indie feel to it. We have John Snodgrass that we just put out a seven inch. It has Frank Turner playing on it with him. That record is amazing. 

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POZ Label Talk: Topshelf Records

by Zack Zarrillo - Aug 15, 2012

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We love Topshelf Records, and we think most of you do too, so PropertyOfZack is stoked to be posting a brand new Label Talk feature with Seth and Kevin. Seth, Kevin, and I had the chance to discuss Topshelf’s great growth over the past year, what bands like Pianos Become The Teeth and You Blew It! have been able to accomplish with help from the label, new signings, how the guys manage the internal side of the label, the future, and much more. Check out the full Label Talk below!

It’s been around a year since we did our first Label Talk with Topshelf. In the past year, I feel like you guys have really begun to transform from a label that artists respect in general to a label that fans are truly excited for with each and every release.
Seth:
Without a doubt. This past year, we’ve been trying to stay consistent and busy with our release schedule compared to the year before. We’ve been working with artists that are larger this past year and that have more of a fan base before we actually start working with them. 

We know that both of you have outside jobs, or at least previously did, which might hinder giving the label 100% of your energy. Has that changed as the label has become busier?
Kevin: It’s definitely changed. I am not doing a full time 9-5 anymore. Seth’s still at Bridge Nine full time, but we share a space with them so that helps with being flexible. It seems like its a comfortable transition for Seth that we’re under one roof. There have been growing pains in terms of needing to have a personal income and working about the bigger things with the growth of the label. We’re still trying to find a balancing act that works. They’re good problems. 
Seth: We’ve been more active with having interns as well to help that growth that we’ve had. Both of us don’t have the time and day to be able to pack as much mail order and to ship out everything. When a band is like, “We’re leaving Friday for tour, and we need a hundred records and forgot to tell you.” Having interns help for that has definitely been one way that we’ve been able to try a much as possible to stay consistent with our growth to offset it and to not get too bogged down. Bridge Nine is my priority from 9 to 5 though, and we do feel growing pains. We do fall behind with mail order sometimes, and that’s a very important aspect for us. We’ve made a lot of changes in the past year with that with reordering. We’ve done a lot of small things that have made our operations easier, but you often don’t implement those things until it’s now or never or until you get so far behind, which is what happened a month and a half ago. I was processing orders and it wasn’t working right. So that night we reworked our entire order process.
POZ: I guess it’s good that you’re still small enough where you can redo things like that.
Kevin: It’s just the two of us, so we can change our minds really easily. I guess i would equate it too a large career shift at a big corporation. There are a lot of moving parts and making a major decision would be a big deal, but for us it’s just like, “Hey, you want to change this? Yes.” We’ve done a lot of little things like that recently where you wouldn’t notice it publicly, but internally things are running a lot better for us.

The labels two biggest releases as of late have been the Pianos and You Blew It! records. Both bands are getting a lot of push and stream. Can you talk about those releases?
Kevin: Pianos is a band that we’ve worked with for a while. We’re really, really good friends with those guys. We knew going into that that we knew there were high expectations for it. Everyone involved delivered. It was a really solid record. One of the strongest in our catalog. It’s been awesome seeing that band grow. They work way too hard, so we’re pumped for them. 
Seth: It’s in its fifth press on vinyl right now. 
Kevin: It’s the most successful release that we’ve done. It’s awesome because they’re awesome to work with. I can’t say enough things about them. People are still talking about it, and they just had that Coheed tour. So kids are still just getting into them. They’re having exponential growth right now, and it’s awesome since we’ve had our hands in putting out three things from them. 
Seth: In regards to the You Blew It! record, it’s been awesome. The overall response has been great. People have come out of the woodwork to support it. We were fans of their EP, and those guys are working hard and supporting the release. The band is going on the road and supporting it. They’re great guys and they’re very, very funny. We have a lot of group texts that go back and forth, and there’s probably only one serious text out of 30.
Kevin: I got a play-by-play rundown of what they got at CiCi’s Pizza this morning for breakfast.
Seth: It’s great to have a relationship with a band like that. Since we first started working with them, they’ve grown so much. It’s cool that we’re able to have a personal relationship with them where we can talk about anything and hopefully be able to be there for anything that they need as a band. 

One thing that’s interesting about the label is that Topshelf is becoming a label where fans are driven to check out all of your new signings and releases regardless of whether they know the band or not. You don’t want to fall back on that, but is that nice to have?
Seth: It’s been beyond awesome. We constantly have fans that get one specific release, but we put in samples of other bands in our orders, so they email us saying they checked out a new band on our label and they think its awesome. So we’ll see a kid order a You Blew It! record with a Pianos record. Kevin and I get to put out stuff that we enjoy. A lot of labels have trouble crossing over into different genres, but we’ve been fortunate. We see a lot of the same names when we’re doing mail order, and that’s awesome. We’re putting out stuff that we like, and we’re music fans like anyone else. We just are in a position where we curate what we release for other people. It’s awesome that we see a lot of the same names picking up stuff. It’s cool that people trust us. I like that we don’t have to be stuck forever in one genre, because that’s not how we listen to music. 

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PropertyOfZack Label Talk : : No Sleep Records

by Zack Zarrillo - May 29, 2012

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It’s been a long time coming, and we’re stoked to be premiering a new PropertyOfZack Label Talk feature with Chris Hansen of No Sleep Records. No Sleep is slowly gearing up for a big second half of 2012 with releases from Mixtapes, Drug Church, Lowtalker, TRC, and a few other bands that have yet to be announced. In the interview, Chris and I discussed his roster’s tendency to slowly grow in a positive way, touring success for bands like Into It. Over It. and La Dispute, his duties at the label, how he manages No Sleep’s ever-growing roster, future 2012 releases, and much more. Check out the full Label Talk below!

So 2011 wound up being a pretty solid year for you guys with bigger releases from La Dispute and Into It. Over It. It seems like those two releases, in particular, have taken off this year in terms of what the bands have been able to accomplish touring-wise. I don’t think that’s unusual with the label either. Can you discuss the strength your artists have in slow growth?
I think there is definitely slow growth with a lot of our bands. Not super slow growth, but a lot of the records come out, they do good, and then they continue to build because of the great fan base that all of the bands have and the community that we’re in. It will continue to go and the community tells everyone else what’s going on. With La Dispute’s first record, Somewhere At The Bottom Of The River, there was a slow growth with it, and then there was a rapid growth. And it kept going and going. Luckily everyone wants to tour, and they are able to get more and more tours. So releasing quality albums is helping them, I would say. 

Is it awesome to see Evan go from the Frank Turner tour, which seemed like the biggest grab of the world, to the really successful GK Tour? La Dispute and Balance have had this really successful Wildlife Tour as well.
Yeah. They’re getting all these amazing tours now which is great. I just hope that all of the smaller ones and stuff are going to be as lucky. 

Just in 2012, you have had releases from No Trigger and Xerxes and you’re gearing up for Mixtapes and Drug Church. Can you talk about how 2012 has been so far?
It’s been a good year. It’s going to be busy but it’s kind of a slow start right now. We didn’t have a lot of releases in some of the months, some months there wasn’t really anything. But we have a lot coming out later in the year. And we have five or six new bands that aren’t announced yet. They will be announced in the next few weeks, which will be good. It’s going to be a good year and there’s going to be a lot of releases. At first there were a lot of early plans for the year that fell through. But luckily we found other things to fill the holes and I’m happy with a lot of the stuff that we are going to get to do this year. It’s going to be fun. 

Like you said, you’ve had a few new signings lately. Whether it be Xerxes or Mixtapes or Drug Church. We’ve seen you tease a bunch more. How do you go about balancing priorities? In the sense that you’d like these younger bands to grow, but you also need to devote attention to bigger bands like La Dispute and Balance.
I usually try to give each room to breathe. I think that’s one of the big things. The weeks leading up to and the weeks after are really some of the biggest for our side of things. Some of the stuff we do, it’s more like hobbies for people or something. So that doesn’t need as much attention as others. Really trying to give everyone the full attention they deserve and releasing things somewhat apart so that each thing has its own breathing room, you know? I think that’s a big thing, because there are a lot of labels that release five things in one day. It doesn’t really let anything breathe. Doesn’t really get any focus. We’re a small label and the employee level is small, so we’re having to work a million things at once some times, but not running into any problems with it at all. If there’s a bigger release, we leave a little more breathing room around it. There are some releases this year that are like project things, where there’s not really a lot to do after, besides just releasing it. 

The next big thing you have are the Mixtapes EP and LP. Are you excited to see all that’s surrounding that band right now?
Yeah. I’ve been talking to Mixtapes for a long time. I’ve been friends with Ryan and all of them for a while. We were both waiting for the right time for them to move up and to do an actual full-length. The record’s awesome. I’m really excited for all of the buzz that they are getting currently. It should be a really good year and next year and so on for them. They are great people and they deserve the buzz that they are getting. The record is, I think, going to make people excited for sure. 

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PropertyOfZack Label Talk : : Hopeless Records

by Zack Zarrillo - Apr 10, 2012

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We did one of our favorite Label Talks last year with Louis Posen, the founder of Hopeless Records. We’re beyond happy to be featuring Louis and the label once again on PropertyOfZack. For the new Label Talk, Louis and I discussed the label’s growth from 2010 to 2011, “legacy bands,” how Hopeless manages a roster of different sized bands, special releases, the future, and so much more. This is one of the best we’ve ever had on the site, so be sure to take your time and read what Louis had to say!

Last year we talked about how a great of a year 2010 was for the label. It seems like 2011 was an extra push beyond the great year before it with the big releases from Yellowcard and The Wonder Years, among many others. Can you chat about last year a bit and the first stages of this year?
Sure. It’s hard to remember last year. We’re already three months into 2012. But I do recall that we put out eleven full albums last year. Nine of which debuted in the Billboard Top 200 which was a record for us. We added extra people on our team in which we put the highest value of what we do here. We grew internationally. Now, around thirty percent of our business is international. We have nine people on the ground around the world. We added someone in Singapore, Sameer. And we have someone in Canada now, Sarah. And we’re soon to have someone in Latin America. There is going to be two different people, one in Brazil and one in somewhere else in Latin America. Someone that covers the whole territory. Those are some of the highlights. We also broke 2 million dollars donated to non-profit organizations through our non-profit Sub City last year. We also ran the local Stake Club which is like a quarterly get-together amongst industry people that want to take their resources and talents and make a difference. We have a different charity come out and talk to everyone about what they are doing and see how they can get involved.

That’s got to be great and interesting to move into other territories. I know you guys have had people, whether it’s in the UK or Australia, but markets like Asia and South America are really growing. Has that been a fun challenge to navigate growth there successfully?
It has. It’s always nice when there are a lot of fans. It’s not only about creativity and opportunity to give those fans what they’re looking for, you know? Music or merch or whatever it is. If you look at our YouTube plays or our Facebook Likes, countries like the Philippines and Indonesia are doing as well as the US and the UK. So there is a lot of fans all over the world. It’s awesome how they can now connect to the music as they are getting smartphones or they are getting internet. It’s been interesting to learn about the territories and the culture and what the differences are. We just went over to Hong Kong, which is where we are expanding our distribution in SE Asia and it’s fascinating. 

Last year, you had a crazy amount of releases. The year just felt big with Yellowcard and The Wonder Years at the forefront of everything. Could you have even imagined how big The Wonder Years would grow in the past year?
It’s been awesome to watch, because I feel like a lot of people thought that that scene had a ceiling on it. You could only do so well. But I think those guys are continuing to push that ceiling higher. I never doubted their talent or their passion for what they do or how great of guys they are to work with. How much they care about their fans and what they are doing. They are charting new territory every day. We’re really excited about the next record that’s going to come out next year. They are going to start working on it pretty soon. 

And Yellowcard was a big band too in the past before their hiatus. Often when bands come back, they could be here for a hot minute and then fade out of the picture again. But it seems to me that that is the exact opposite of what Yellowcard is doing. Can you talk about that as well?
It’s a good observation and something we thought about from the beginning when discussing working with those guys. There are a lot of people picking up what you call “legacy” artists or established artists. We aren’t the only ones doing that. Where in the past we’re mainly signing eighteen year old kids who are out on their tour for the first time. It’s something fairly new for us, but we consciously wanted to be very, I don’t know if you want to call it “picky”, but careful about who we sign in that arena. Because we don’t want to connect ourselves and we don’t think our strengths work best for artists who are just looking for that one time quick buck. You know? Capitalize on getting back together or doing a ‘final tour’ or final record or something. We’re really looking for those established artists that have a history of having a culture around them and being a lifestyle band. It’s not about one album or one song. Combining that with a desire to really learn and grow and not rest on the success that they had in the past. Yellowcard definitely fit that mold that we were looking for. The same with The Used. That’s why we picked up The Used. We’ve been approached by probably fifteen other artists that we decided not to do that are also established artists. 

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PropertyOfZack Label Talk : : Run For Cover Records

by Zack Zarrillo - Feb 21, 2012

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We kicked off our Label Talk feature over a year ago with Jeff Casazza, founder of Run For Cover Records, and we’re stoked to be featuring Jeff and the label once again on PropertyOfZack. Jeff went above and beyond in the fantastic Label Talk to discuss how the label has grown over the past two years, dealing with an ever-changing roster, the popular subscription series and Mixed Signals compilation, what releases we should expect to see in 2012, and so much more. This is by far one of the best we’ve ever had on the site, so be sure to take your time and read what Jeff had to say!

Run For Cover had a healthy 2011 with full-lengths from Basement, Seahaven, and Young Statues, multiple 7”s/EPs, and a large compilation project that went over incredibly well. Can you just discuss the year for the label?
2011 was cool. Lots of things changed and improved which I guess is all you can ask for. Our sales doubled from 2010, which is awesome. We got an office, and a staff, and a publicist which was obviously a huge change from working out of my bedroom, which at that point was so far gone. It just wasn’t possible anymore and hadn’t been for a long time, but I didn’t really have a choice until I graduated. I still can’t believe I graduated, I think about it every day. It still feels too good to be true after going part time for 7 years pretty much.

The three full-lengths you did put out were all debut releases for those bands. Are you happy with the amount of exposure they’ve gotten to this point?
Yeah totally. The Basement record surprised both them and us with how well it did. It makes sense because the record is truly awesome, but for our first real international signing, it went really well. Seahaven and Young Statues have only been out a few months but the reception has been great. Those three records are my favorite three records that came out last year, so all I can do is hope other people like them as well. 

I believe Run For Cover moved into its first official office as well and expanded its staff. I’m sure that’s something you ideally would have liked to do a long time ago, but how has that helped with the daily work flow and more at the label?
I can’t even really explain in words the extent it helped. I was putting out records for Title Fight, Man Overboard, Fireworks, Tigers Jaw, The Wonder Years, Transit, etc, all out of my bedroom, with just me doing the label by myself with occasional help from a few nice people. Thousands and thousands of records and hundreds of boxes would move through my apartment on a monthly basis. I don’t know what I was thinking. Someone who works for my building actually saw our hallway and my bedroom once, with a whole wall covered in shelving dedicated to hundreds of folded shirts and our 30 foot hallway completely lined with boxes of records. They were very weirded out. They told me I had to stop what I was doing, although I don’t think they really had any idea what was going on. 

A lot has changed in the past year for Run For Cover Records since we did our first Label Talk. Something that I found particularly interesting was that you mentioned the label couldn’t actually finance an LP prior to 2010, but that’s obviously changed greatly over the past two years. Can you just discuss the label’s continuous growth?
In 2009 we released the Fireworks - All I Have to Offer Is My Own Confusion LP on vinyl as a licensed release from Triple Crown, but we had never funded a full length release ourselves. I think I had put full lengths in general on some sort of pedestal because I was scared of the initial financial undertaking and was pretty terrified if we attempted to do one, that it would get fucked up and ruin the company or something. I think doing the Fireworks LP sort of eased us into doing more expensive releases. Obviously not having to pay for the recording made that situation a lot easier.  In 2010 we put out 7 or 8 full length releases, Transit - Keep This to Yourself, Man Overboard - Real Talk, Tigers Jaw - Self Titled, Tigers Jaw / Balance and Composure Split, Hostage Calm - Self Titled, The Wonder Years - The Upsides, Tigers Jaw - Two Worlds. That was a really crazy and scary time. I honestly didn’t know if it would work out because we were spending so much money. Even having that amount of money was so new to me, but almost two years later and pretty much every one of those records has had a part in defining who we are as a label.  Luckily all of those releases ended up doing pretty well and are still doing well to this day. We’ve been really lucky. 

Mixed Signals and the subscription series were two other large undertakings in 2011. How far in advance were you planning both of those?
Mixed Signals was very, very far in advance. The early planning stage started sometime in 2010. I had a list of bands I wanted to ask taped to my wall in my bedoom, some circled, some underlined, some not. Nearly everyone who entered my bedroom in the past two years saw it and asked what it was.  When I first came up with the idea I knew how I wanted to do it, but hadn’t decided on how to approach it musically. I think it could have gone in a poppier direction or a darker/heavier direction, and it ended up being a pretty dark release I think. I at least hope it wasn’t exactly what someone would expect in a RFC compilation. 

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PropertyOfZack Label Talk : : Rise Records

by Zack Zarrillo - Jan 6, 2012

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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.

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PropertyOfZack Label Talk : : Pure Noise Records

by Zack Zarrillo - Sep 29, 2011

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We’re a big fan of Jake Round and Pure Noise Records, so we’re stoked to be featuring the label in our brand new Label Talk feature. Jake and I discussed the way that Pure Noise has evolved in the past two years, their current roster, successful releases like Under Soil And Dirt, future releases, and much more. Read up and enjoy!

Pure Noise’s first release was in 2009. Two years later, the label has slowly grown from the ground up with big releases from Handguns, The Story So Far, and Daybreaker, among others. How would you put 2011 into perspective as we’re nearing its close?
2011 has been the best year of my life. It’s that simple. Pure Noise is far from a huge label but it’s been amazing to see what started off as a little idea turn into my full time job. I’m so proud of my bands and how hard they’ve worked.

The label did start in 2009 and really got its first break with the Transit and Man Overboard split. Do you feel like 2011 has really established the label though, compared to just one single “bigger” split release?
I only put out two records in 2009. The first was a full length for my dear friends in No Bragging Rights in March. In December, I was fortunate enough to release the MOB/Transit split. That split really gave me a better idea of where I wanted to go with the label. It took me about a year to feel that out but I’m happy with where I’m at now.

Pure Noise has made its way with limited signings, but with ones that have counted. What are your thoughts on quality versus quantity when it comes down to signing bands?
I only try to sign bands that I REALLY like. I put a lot of time into each release and have really focused on trying to turn my little bands into bigger bands. I’ve been fortunate enough to have all my recent signings do several records with me which really gave me a chance to help them grow. It takes a couple solid years of work to really see much progress.

And to push that question further, how do you make decisions about who to bring into your family and how to market them with the industry struggling the way it is?
Like I said before, I just really have to like the band.  Additionally, the band has to be willing to help themselves through touring, online promotion,  etc. The music industry is figuring itself out, I feel like if the jams I release speak for themselves then the record sales will follow.

What’s your regular day like at the label? It is it more managing how your roster is doing as a whole and prepping releases, or is there a lot more to it that most people wouldn’t think of?
Until very recently I had a day job and would try to answer emails and stuff like that from work when I could and get home and do mail order and stuff like that at night. Now that I’m doing it full time it really allows me to focus on each release, making sure artwork is delivered on time, my distributor has everything they need, and that the release is properly promoted. There is a lot of organizing that goes on, especially if you take an interest in the touring your bands are doing. For the smaller bands, I act a little bit like a manager because they don’t have anyone else. I do my best to set up tours and make sure everything they do is the best it can be. I do some of the art stuff myself with some help from my close friends.  From time to time I’ll even book shows for the bands. I’m pretty involved and proactive, I think every band I have is awesome and just want to see them do well.

Are you the sole “employee” at the label, or has your team grown over the past year?
It’s just me right now. Once I get settled into my new office I’d definitely like to have an intern or two. Charles Vincent, drummer of The American Scene, helps out with a lot of tour art and graphics. 

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PropertyOfZack Label Talk : : Doghouse Records

by Zack Zarrillo - Sep 20, 2011

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PropertyOfZack had the chance to speak with David Conway from Doghouse Records and Working Group Management just a few weeks ago for a fantastic Label Talk interview. If you’re not familiar with the label, Doghouse started by putting out records from The Get Up Kids and Hot Water Music, among other classics, but has now shifted their focus and has bands like A Lot Like Birds and With The Punches. David and I discuss the new direction for the label, management, and a whole slew of other great points. Read up and enjoy!

We’re doing this interview to discuss Doghouse Records, but you work on an incredible amount of other projects as well. Can you just give a description of everything you do to begin with?
I’ve been with Doghouse since 1999 or 2000. I started as an intern in Boston. I was also running my own label really horribly out of my parent’s basement, but that had a couple bands, which was good. I did the first Senses Fail and Halifax records and I did a terrible job with it. I pressed records at the wrong resolution. So I was doing that and went to Doghouse to intern and then started working for Doghouse 6 months later. I went to college at night and worked at Doghouse during the day. Then, I left Doghouse and worked at Atlantic doing A&R and totally hated that and called Dirk who owns Doghouse and asked him if I could have my job back at Doghouse and I also told him I wanted to start a management company and for some reason he said yes. So we started Working Group probably in 2007 and starting signing, that’s when Doghouse had a deal with Warner Bros and Atlantic, so we were doing stuff with them and starting Working Group. So those have been my two main focuses for the past long while. Doghouse has kind of morphed a bunch over that time period. From having a deal with Warner where we were just like trying to find bands that we thought could up stream to Warner Bros, so it was kind of like the dark ages in a way. It was a label that had so much culture in the late 90’s and early 2000’s and then when the All American Rejects blew up and there was the buzz of anything blowing up when they sign with Jay, we did our deal with Warner Music and it was like, “Shit, let’s find stuff that we think can be pop stars and can be huge.” The business model became like, let’s find stuff that we can up stream, instead of what it probably should have been, which was more nurturing and still try and keep a genre for the label and a scene in place. It was pretty random for a little bit. Right now we finished our deal with Warner Bros. We up streamed Meg & Dia, The Honorary Title, and we did at that time too, but none of that stuff really took off on that label so we don’t have that deal anymore. We did a deal with Red and we’re kind of in the middle of re-launching the label right now in a totally different way that I’m really excited about, like the way that the business is structured and the bands that we are bringing in. So that’s different right now and then I have maybe 5 or 6 bands that I do through Working Group and the same staff for Doghouse and Working Group, there’s about 8 of us total; A bunch out here and two guys in LA right now. So it’s kind of weird. Same staff, new company, and we are just trying to do stuff that we’re proud of. We wanted to build a company that people wouldn’t hate. We’re still learning every day and trying not to be shitty.
 
Looking back at it, do you guys kind of regret the whole up streaming nature of just trying to find bands that could potentially blow up on major?
Yeah, it just wasn’t a healthy way for us to be a label. I don’t know. Yeah we just signed a lot of stuff and maybe the thought process was wrong. A lot of labels are doing that. At that time there was a lot of bands getting signed. We became kind of the pop scene to the major labels. At that time I just didn’t know anything about radio or pop or what that stuff needed to be so I think a lot of that stuff wasn’t right for the deals that we had made. We kind of figured out what stuff we should do on the managing side that we understand, and then created a lot more streamlined kind of model for Doghouse so that we can work with bands and have the same expectation and exceed on the business and creative level.

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PropertyOfZack Label Talk : : Topshelf Records

by Zack Zarrillo - Jul 12, 2011

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It’s been a little while since we’ve had a new Label Talk interview, but we’re stoked to be releasing our brand new feature with Topshelf Records! Topshelf Records is the home to Pianos Become The Teeth, My Heart To Joy, and Empire! Empire! (I Was A Lonely Estate), as well as many other great bands. Seth Decoteau, one half of the label, and I discussed how the first half of 2011 has been for Topshelf, recent releases, the music industry, the future of the label, and a whole bunch more. Read up and enjoy the whole thing, it’s a great interview!

We’re already halfway through 2011 and Topshelf Records has been pretty busy so far. How would you describe the first half of the label’s year?
The first half of the year has been great. I’d describe it as insanely busy and very rewarding. We’ve been able to work with a lot of new bands and some old friends.

By Surprise released their debut record, Mountain Smashers, in early-April. Has the reception to it been what you guys had hoped for so far?
The response has been awesome to their new record. There have been a TON of very positive reviews on the record recently, which is great to see. We’ve been fans/friends with the guys for a while and it’s been great to see the general excitement for their new album.

It’s always a risk releasing new music from new and young bands that haven’t necessarily “proved” themselves yet. Is it always nerve-wracking to release a debut record or EP?
It’s definitely risky when you are investing in a new band. That’s just part of the business, even working with bands that have “proved” themselves is a risk — what if people don’t like their new album? But yeah, we do a fair amount of this and I like to think that we have a pretty open-minded base of supporters that embrace or at least check out the lesser-known bands we decide to work with. When we release records for newer bands it’s hard not to have one hand behind our back, fingers crossed and hoping that it goes well. Some records don’t do as well as we hope, while others have far succeeded our expectations. However, at the end of the day and regardless of the success of a record we’re very proud of what we release and stand behind each album and band.

With the industry struggling the way that it is, how do you make decisions about who to bring into your family and how to market them?
We’ve been able to always work with bands that we love and that is something that won’t ever change regardless of how the industry is. We’ve never been after “what’s hot” or worried about the genre of music a band is. We make decisions on who to work with based on how hard working a band is, what we think of their music, and if we will physically be able to help them. We’re just two guys and we can only handle so much. We try not to take on too much so that we can give each release the amount of effort it deserves. Decisions on marketing are based on how active a band is and if the release is an EP or an LP then based on our budget for the release.

What’s your regular day like at the label? It is it more managing how your roster is doing as a whole and prepping releases, or is there a lot more to it that most people wouldn’t think of?
Well, Kevin and I both have full time day jobs in addition to the label. So life is normally very hectic with us juggling a lot of things. We both have normal, ongoing day-to-day tasks that include most of the stuff people might expect (Kevin handles pretty much everything involving our web presence, social media and the site itself and I deal with processing orders, inventory and PR). Beyond that we have to order supplies, order merch, deal with all of the mail order, deal with our distributors, and make sure that everything is in place for a release from production to press on each album. Finally, everyone who runs a label has to deal with problem solving when shit hits the fan and that’s just…well, usually a pain.

Pianos Become The Teeth seem to be becoming Topshelf’s largest band with the brightest immediate future. How has it been watching them grow over the past few years?
Working with those guys has been such a pleasure. We honestly cannot wish them anything less than the utmost success and they without a doubt deserve it.

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PropertyOfZack Label Talk : : American Dream Records

by Zack Zarrillo - May 25, 2011

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Our Label Talk series has taken the backseat for a month or two now, but we could not be more proud to release our brand new feature with American Dream Records. American Dream opened the doors this year and have already pressed The Graduate’s Only Every Time and I Can Make A Mess Like Nobody’s Business’s Gold Rush and have no plans to slow down anytime soon. Joe and I discussed the process of starting the label, the reasons for bringing it to life, recent pressings, future pressings, and more. Read up below and enjoy!

American Dream Records is for all intents and purposes new, but how long have you wanted to create a label for?
I’d thrown around the idea for a few years, it had just never been practical to actually try to put into place.

You’re not new to this “scene,” in fact you’ve been here longer than most but in a different capacity. What made you finally want to jump to the other side of the fence?
A couple of things. I knew I wanted or even at times needed to do something else. I wasn’t sure what it would be, but I had gotten to the point where being like the kid from Almost Famous wasn’t cutting it anymore. If I had to pinpoint the real “decision” or whatever to start a label, it would be earlier this year when there was a thread on AbsolutePunk.net about some kids who were wanting a record to be pressed. It was a record I wanted to own as well, but it was really frustrating to see people sitting around and only talking about something instead of doing something to make it happen. One thing led to another, and I just said fuck it, I’ll do it myself.

Was it easier or more difficult than you expected?
Some elements have been more difficult than others. Communication is a huge factor, whether it’s trying to get in touch with somebody in the first place, dealing with somebody you’re already working with or trying to work with, and then getting information to all the people who have already made a purchase and keeping them up to speed on things. Needless to say it takes a lot of time. And tape.

It’s not just you behind American Dream, so can you explain the other member behind the label and what role each of you play?
The other guy involved is Ryan who lives in Arizona. He was in the same thread where I had the “eureka!” moment about getting something out on vinyl. We hadn’t talked much before that, but we were very much on the same page about things so we decided to team up. He has a lot of West Coast contacts and helps keep up with the financial aspect of things, and whenever I’m working on something new or have an idea I always throw it at him and see what his opinion on it is. I didn’t want to get into things entirely on my own and be blinded by my own vision so he’s a great person to be working with.

For those who know you, your music tastes and ideals aren’t too hard to guess, but for those who don’t know, what’s the mission behind the label, and your reason for starting it?
Primarily to help out as many bands possible get out vinyl releases. There have been so many records that have not been put out in that format, and to me, it’s a shame because I think it’s the best format you can own music. If you buy something digitally, what do you actually own? Vinyl is a great way to have something tangible, be it the music or the art.

At this point American Dream Records has released two vinyl presses and is soon to launch a third, but would you ever consider actually signing an artist?
Definitely, but we are still focusing on getting ourselves to that point. We have numerous things we are interested in doing, but for now being able to put out as high quality of a release as possible is what is most important. There are still a ridiculous amount of records out there to press, so until I’ve knocked out a handful of those I probably won’t want to get too involved in other aspects. It could happen though. There are opportunities.

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PropertyOfZack Label Talk : : Hopeless Records

by Zack Zarrillo - Mar 17, 2011

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Our Label Talk series is only continue to grow and we are extremely proud to be introducing our next feature in the series with Louis Posen, the founder of Hopeless Records. Hopeless Records has been one of the most influential labels in its lifetime and can certainly be recognized for signing Thrice in the beginning of their career. 2010 ended with the label signing bands like The Wonder Years, Yellowcard, and Silverstein, among other great bands. Louis and I discussed the these signings, the business side of the label, his thoughts on the music industry, and the future. Read up and learn more about one of the best labels in this scene!

Modesty aside, 2010 was an unbelievable year for Hopeless Records in the eyes of music lovers in this scene. Putting aside releases from We Are The In Crowd and Anarbor, the label inked The Wonder Years, Yellowcard, Silverstein, For The Foxes, and Divided By Friday. Can you go into detail about how you view the past year?
A lot of things have been the same as they always have and there have been a lot of changes. In a nutshell, we’ve always been a company that’s been about artist development and finding opportunities that are the best ways to develop artist’s careers. We’ve been fortunate enough to make some adjustments that have made us not only survive, but grow in the past few years in an industry that has been declining. I think we also really hit our stride with being together long enough so our flywheel is really spinning so now we know what each other are doing and what each others strengths and weaknesses are. The length of time that the team has been together has definitely hit a stride over the last few years. Last year was also the third year that we had our international infrastructure in place and they’ve also started to really hit their stride. A lot of our bands are doing better than ever outside of the US. The percentage of our business outside of the US has been higher than it ever has in seventeen years.
 
The Wonder Years released The Upsides just a year ago via No Sleep Records and it was announced just five months later that they had signed to Hopeless. When did talks with the band start, and how quickly after the release did they catch your eye?
That’s a good question. We were in touch with each other well before The Upsides came out. It was from communicating with Chris at No Sleep and seeing what the timing of things was going to be and when everyone thought it would be the right time to get involved with the band. I think we knew for a while that we wanted to work together. It was a question about where Upsides would be released and if we would rerelease it or do the next record. Those conversations took two to three months.
POZ: Would you say the reissue was a success?
Louis: Definitely. We feel like it got new legs after the rerelease and sales have definitely increased. It made a lot of new fans at a higher and faster pace. It’s helped us transition from this record into the debut Hopeless release a lot easier because we’d been working hand in hand with the band on the rerelease.
 
Yellowcard’s return absolutely stunned an incredible amount of people, but what was interesting to many was that they signed to Hopeless instead of a major label. How proud are you to have Yellowcard at the top of your roster and family currently? And how did all of that come together?
Super excited about it. I’ve been a huge fan of the band for a long time. We’ve worked with the band over the years too and I think that’s part of why they felt comfortable here. We’d had the band involved in Take Action compilations before and at point we were offered to put out an EP for them when they first signed to Capitol and they were going to have an indie put out an EP for them. We’ve had bands out on tour with them. There’s been a relationship for years with their camp. It felt good to us. So far we think it’s been great. The record came out amazing, so we’re very excited for everyone to hear it.

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PropertyOfZack Label Talk : : Mightier Than Sword Records

by Zack Zarrillo - Mar 11, 2011

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As our Label Talk series continues to be one of our most intriguing features, we wanted to do our next edition with RJ Crowder-Schaefer of MIghtier Than Sword Records. Mightier Than Sword may be best known for their blink-182 vinyl represses, but 2011 will see them emerge as one of the favorite indie labels in this scene. RJ and I discussed the past year for MTS, managing bands, blink-182’s next vinyl repress, and the music industry, among many other things. Read up and enjoy, RJ has a lot of great things to say!

It’s been a good year for Mightier Than Sword Records with a few new signings, some great releases, and vinyl pressings. How would you describe the last year?
Hands down, 2010 was the craziest year for Mightier Than Sword in the five years I’ve been running the label. Not only did we announce the release of our first blink-182 vinyl re-issue at the end of 2009, which carried us into 2010, but we went from releasing four to six records a year to releasing over ten records in 2010. Looking back, I think its fair to say that 2010 was the defining year for the label and has set us up for an extremely successful 2011.

Last year I learned so much about running a small business, and what it takes to stay on top of things; focusing on business goals and the big picture, while managing your time so you can take care of the necessary day-to-day workload. 2010, for me, was full of sleepless nights and countless to-do lists, but I wouldn’t have had it any other way. 2011 will be even better.

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PropertyOfZack Label Talk : : Tragic Hero Records

by Zack Zarrillo - Mar 3, 2011

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Our Label Talk series has been a great success for PropertyOfZack after interviews with Jesse Cannon (Producer/Manager), Chris Hansen (No Sleep Records), Jeff Casazza (Run For Cover Records), Craig Ericson (Rise Records), and Fred Feldman (Triple Crown Records). Now we are beyond thrilled to be releasing our new Label Talk chat with Tommy Lacombe , the founder of Tragic Hero Records. Tommy and I discussed how the shift in the music industry has yet to hit the label, thoughts on the industry in general, The Morning Of, and the future for Tragic Hero. Read up and enjoy, it’s one of our best! . 

2010 featured releases from The Morning Of and Called To Arms among others. Would you call it a successful year for the label?
2010 was actually our most successful year in terms of money made and tour sizes as well as video games. 2010 was probably our best year so far.
POZ: Is that kind of shocking considering the climate in the industry?
Tommy: I believe it is, but I also believe that the climate that is perceived doesn’t affect indies in the same way that it affect the majors. When you don’t have the overhead that the major labels have, you don’t have a lot of the do or die situations and you don’t have a lot of the financial burdens that come with the record industry. There’s also a degree of job security that you don’t have being an indie, but at the same time, I think the benefits offsets the negative aspects of being involved in the music business. The music business is still very much alive and it is even more so for the indies. The majors just have some recalibrating and reconfiguring to do, but the indies have a wide-open game. There are lots of labels like Craig at Rise that are not experiencing any drawbacks or dips in sales or anything. I think they’re still both growing exceptionally well and it’s just a sign of the times.
 
Last year marked the fifth anniversary for Tragic Hero Records. Is it hard to believe that so much as changed in such a short time?
Definitely. When we started, we were very fortunate to start with a very successful band. That took us from having no distribution to having independent distribution. Our experience with that distributor was not very positive and they are now defunct and we lost a lot of money. All the money we made from CD sales for the first few years of being a business we never saw until the very educated and forward thinking people at Warner Music Group picked up the label and it really allowed us to start doing stuff in the physical market. Now that market is dissolved and gone. I think we’ve seen a couple life spans die out these last few years being in independent distribution and in the birth of social networking. It’s changed drastically, but this is a very competitive, evolving business. I don’t think any business that doesn’t change for twenty to thirty years is going to continue to be profitable for that long. I think you’re always going to have to change and adapt.
 
You of course entered into the label business as things were very quickly starting to change in terms of digital media. Do you think that gives Tragic an edge in terms of not being stuck with the ways of the old system?
Yeah, I definitely think so. And also, personally, I came into the business with no history or background in the business. I think that also lends itself to positive growth. I’ll be very blunt in saying that a lot of the music I distributed is a business decision. Not having any sense of the music industry was actually a benefit to me now, looking back at it. It allowed me to not discriminate early on and to see that any option was a good option at that point as opposed to the money-making options, which is always adopted by labels.
 
I spoke to Fred Feldman at Triple Crown Records just recently about East/West and what it has done for his label regardless of the fact that he left the company in December. Can you talk about what East/West enables Tragic Hero to do in an easier way and if it’s truly beneficial?
East/West has done a lot and it’s cool that you bring up Fred because Fred was the guy that actually found me. I wouldn’t even be in East/West if it weren’t for Fred. Seeing Fred go was a tough pill to swallow because he’s been my point of contact ever since I’ve been introduced into that world. I remember the first time I went to New York in the East/West offices and it was crazy. I was on tour with a band at that point in time and it was just impressive. But East/West as a whole have totally allowed us to grow. It’s a very unique situation and Warner is a forward thinking company. They are very catering to the independent music model. When you sign lots of labels and empower them then you don’t have to pay a bunch of other employees to do that stuff even though they give me a great bank of resources in regards to publicity and marketing and everything and stuff that we can do. This would never have been possible. I definitely encourage young labels starting out to seek big business opportunities and to seek working with major labels. As with all things business, be careful and make sure you work out a deal that makes sense and allows you to grow as a company and something that’s beneficial for your bands and ultimately something that if you play your cards right will offer you some kind of job security down the road. I don’ work for East/West and probably never will, but it definitely makes the work load easier, for sure..
 
You’ve cited Fred to be a mentor in many ways to you. What have you taken away from him in terms of running the label?
Well, you don’t to ship returns [Laughs]. If he ever reads this, he’ll probably chuckle. You don’t want to ship returns, be wary of slippery slopes, meaning don’t paint yourself into a corner. It’s hard when you’re young and enthusiastic and you see a band you love and you don’t fully understand how the business works and you’re thinking about something that would be very difficult to make profitable for yourself or for your company. Basically, I think the best thing that you can do and one of the best things that Fred told me is not to worry about what other people are doing and don’t try to learn what people are doing, just learn what not to do and stay away from that. It’s a very fundamental and sound statement and it really sounds simple, but it’s one of those things that are so simple it’s actually hard. If you own and operate a business and stay away from things that cause businesses in the same industry to fail then you know, if things don’t go your way you were either the product or result in some new phenomenon we hadn’t seen yet, or it wasn’t in the cards for you. Either way, you can’t hold yourself responsible.
 
Regardless of being under East/West, giants like Universal can, essentially, manage lower sales for their bands and artists because those names are more likely to sell out larger arenas like MSG or Staples Center in LA. How do you, as a smaller label, handle the same issue of decreased music sales?
Basically, you’ve got to look at your deals with your bands. Now you have indies like Rise going out and getting these larger bands. There was a lot of surprise in that. “How are they getting these large bands?” “That’s a great pick up for that label.” From the business side I think people are actually shaking their heads and saying, “How are they going to do that with sales going down? There’s no way bands can keep up.” That’s kind of going in the opposite direction of what Fred taught me though. For me personally, I look for younger bands that we can get at a ground level with. I don’t do the 360 deals.
POZ: Would you ever consider a 360 deal?
Tommy: I would if my company was bigger and I could offer more. Financially, of course a 360 deal sounds great to everybody, but hopefully if you interview any of my bands, I don’t really do this to make money. I don’t have any deals now or in the past that have ever been unfair deals to my bands. I’ve had some of the highest royalties, to one band in particular, that no one else is doing and I’ve done lots of joint-ventures and 50/50’s. I think that’s the way. I think you find younger bands that need your help. There’s no point of signing a band and taking all of their publishing and merchandising rights and promising them that you’ll make them superstars; that’s not fair. There are guys that do that kind of stuff. That’s just not fair to the bands. You’re playing with people’s lives at that point. You do find young bands that you know you can fulfill their needs and at the end of the day you can rest assured that you put in a good days work. My bands are all bigger today than they were yesterday in some shape or form and we’re doing the right thing. We’re fighting the good fight. I think that’s very much what has worked for me. I’ve had lots of young bands with first time records coming out this year. That’s typically a very high-risk year for a label because bands break up and records don’t perform well and all other sorts of things, but I feel very well about it. I’ve tried hard to grow my relationships with all my bands and their managements and booking and I think everybody knows we’re on board to play and we’re going to work real hard this year and make the most out of it.
 
What’s your regular day like at the label? It is it more managing how your roster is doing as a whole and prepping releases, or is there a lot more to it that most people wouldn’t think of?
For me, there’s more. I don’t have a staff. I have some very great guys that I’m privileged to work with in terms of either retainers or monthly fees that do specific jobs to help me and basically they’ll do whatever. There’s a certain degree of work delegation that I do. My days are pretty unorthodox probably.  I’ve had an office for the past year and a half and I haven’t made it there too much. My wife and I had a son a couple years ago and he’s been the light of our life and he’s been sick lately and we’ve moved, so it’s an unorthodox situation. I’m a younger guy and these are all things that happen and they’re not necessarily conducive to waking up and doing the normal run of the mill routine. My hours aren’t really defined. I’m up before most of my bands, but my bands don’t stop at business hours. It’s come and go. Right now I’m in a heated routine of soliciting new releases, getting lots of set up information and track listings and talking to publicists. Right now is a tough time, but once things are out and the people are deciding what’s popular and what’s not, then the job shifts to micro-managing like going through the band roster and giving everybody a call and checking in and trying to stay on top. It’s always something new every day.
 
With the industry struggling the way that it is, how do you make decisions about who to bring into your family and how to market them?
My mantra on that has changed over the years. When I first started, we were a niche label. My first band was very successful, so I just followed it. We kept going down that hole. Then it changed when I signed The Morning Of and I really got into them. Then I was like, “You know what? I’m just going to sign bands that I really like that have really good music.” I had a string of bands and lots of them were fan favorites, but those records didn’t sell like the other stuff. I guess our mark had already been made and we couldn’t change that. I decided at the beginning of last year that it was time for us to go back to the niche market. Within the niche we’ll start shifting and moving and try to slowly turn the corner on some releases. We’re not in a spot where we can afford to have a blow off release. I envy some guys that are doing very well that have a couple big artists on their label that really allow them the freedom to go out there and sign bands that are just awesome, like Craig with Sharks. I think those are great signings. I’d love to sign bands like that, but for me right now, with a family and everything, I got to put money on the table. We’re going to stick to the things that are safe and make sense. I’m sure lots of people are like, “What ever happened to The Morning Of? They’re like the best band ever.” The truth is, people can like you all day, but when the record sales aren’t there and you don’t have the hype to turn the corner, that’s what’s going to dictate your career.
POZ: There have been many rumors regarding whether or not The Morning Of have called it a day, or if they’re in the middle of recording a new album. Can you clear that up?
Tommy: They’re not calling it a day. I think the manner in which they operate is going to change drastically. I was actually talking to Justin yesterday. I’m not going to spoil anything, but he has some stuff that he wants to talk about and let people know and all that. I think it’s going to be well received. Will the next record be with me? I don’t think so. I’ll be the first to say it, it’s not the best fit. I really beat myself up over that band and I was like, “This is my fault. This record is phenomenal. Their last record was phenomenal.” And I really don’t know what it is. I’m not just playing dumb. It’s just one of those things. This was not the perfect storm. This was not one of those things where we happened to be in the right place with them and everything else. Sometimes it happens. They are writing some new stuff, I’m not going to spoil that either. I think that they need to stick with their more mature sound. They’re better than what a lot of people consider to be indie-pop right now, but a lot of kids aren’t into that anymore because it’s become oversaturated and whatnot. They’re going to do The Morning Of style, and they’re going to do it their way. At the end of the day, they do it their way. I’m going to help them however I can and wish them the best for sure. Hopefully they come out on the other side of it.
 
That being said, does Tragic have any announcements regarding signings in the near future?
We will be having some. My publicist probably wouldn’t like it.
POZ: Mike’s a good guy.
Tommy: Mike is a good guy. I just started working with Mike last month, but he’s awesome. He has the capability to let people know what’s going on. We need to make a home for our band and I’m really excited that Mike decided to step into this world and maybe Craig’s to blame or thank for that depending on how you look at it. But yeah, we do have some new signings. This is really a rebranding year. It may not make sense to do that after your fiscally most successful year, but we suffered some hits. We lost our flagship band in Confide. They were poised to take it. Their presence is still felt a lot. They gave us a wish list of management and between all of us, we got it all. Sadly, guys like me, our lives are dictated by the moves by young 20 year old rock stars. They can just walk away. Guys like us, we just can’t walk away. We have more new signings and tons of new releases. I hope that we can live up to it and that kids continue to support our bands. All jokes aside, not buying records is really just hurting the bands. It’s true. I don’t drive a Mercedes or have a mansion. I’m not getting rich from bands and I’ve had many people consider my roster to be a great one. I’m a great starting point for lots of bands. We’re a great home for guys like that, but we’re not making millions of dollars. My bands make money, and then I make money.
 
To close things up, what releases should we be on the lookout for in 2011?
Everyone Dies In Utah, We Are Defiance, Armor For The Broken, Lions!Tigers!Bears!, and that’s all I’ll do right now. We have a steady flow and a lot of stuff. I don’t want to do Mike’s job for him. That’s enough to perk some ears.

Ernie Ball