In this month’s Label Spotlight, we talked to Mike Nobrega of Volcom Entertainment, home to bands including Pepper, Valient Thorr, Year Long Disaster, Turbonegro, and more…
They’ve had a busy year so far with some great releases like Torche’s Harmonicraft, Riverboat Gamblers’ The Wolf You Feed and the latest on the roster, Turbonegro’s highly anticipated Sexual Harassment.
Without further ado, here’s Mike Nobrega!
Can you give us a brief overview of the label and its history?
It was Ryan Immegart (now VP of Marketing for the brand) and Volcom founder Rich Woolcott, who launched the label in earnest back in 1995 around Ryan’s band TheLINE. Ryan was a wunderkind snowboarder when he was a kid, the first sponsored snowboarder for Volcom in fact, and over time (and injury), he redirected his energy more and more into his band and they decided to just go for it and put a record out themselves. That’s pretty much the Volcom style, especially back in the day. You just went for it, and with the introduction of theLINE’s CD to the lifestyle surf/skate/snow community, the label was on its way.
If you’re old enough to recall, CDs were a popular item back then and around 1999, with the exposure on MTV and Jackass, Volcom Ent had put out 20,000 copies of the cKy record, pretty much without any major traditional record distribution. I came in shortly after cKy blew up and the major labels were sniffing around. By that time Volcom Ent had also already established itself onto the Vans Warped Tour. The label bands who were granted a “few shows” on the tour turned into a guerilla stage set up, which became “The Locals Stage” till it was finally fully dubbed the “Volcom Stage,” as it was known for around 10 years. It was primarily staffed and produced by the label team and the bands. In the early years, if your band got a slot on the stage you actually had to set up and break it down every day. No room for p*ssys, you had to REALLY want to be there to play, and knowing how to drive a forklift didn’t hurt either.
The label has always been a hybrid, long before the idea of “Bands & Brands” was an industry buzz-term and marketing plan bullet point.
What is the most challenging thing about running a record label and what makes it all worth it?
Our label is a bit unique in that, while autonomous, we’re part of this big action sports brand. For us it’s balancing the passion for the music and bands we really love while staying relevant and keeping our brand identity intact. We’re a really small team (4 people) so we all handle a lot of different things day-to-day and it’s hard to make everybody happy all the time… What makes it all worth it for me personally are days like this year’s Free Beer Party at SXSW: our whole extended family of bands, friends, musicians and artists all in one place enjoying the music scene. Seeing it all happen on stage, in real time, that’s what it’s all about.
Name a tool you cannot live without.