Starting with two simple questions: Who is RIVAL Records and why did you start that label?
Rival Records is just two dudes - Kyle Whitlow and Zach Harlan. We started this label to give a voice to a lot of the bands out there that have something to say, many of whom get overlooked because they don't have any "hype" surrounding them… There's too many good bands and good people that get overlooked these days because they don't wear the right clothes, or they have don't know the right people, or they have "beef" with the wrong people, etc. We wanted young, fairly unknown bands (for example Physical Challenge or Another Breath) to have a place they could call home, a label that would give them the things they needed to get out there and be successful as a band (not necessarily monetarily, but by getting their music out there and conveying some ideas to some people). We wanted to find some "diamonds in the rough", some hardcore bands that had some real messages in their lyrics, and some real heart in their live shows. We felt like hardcore was getting very, very routine, with bands just kind of "going through the motions" and managing to get all of this hype surrounding them without saying or doing much of anything. Meanwhile, there are great bands that go unnoticed everyday, who have a lot of great things to say and do, and all they need is a little help. We wanted to fill that void.
Could you please sum up the releases you've done and the bands you signed?
Here's a breakdown of what we've released so far, starting in August of 2003, and continuing through October, 2004 (we've only been around just over one year!)
RVL001 - Physical Challenge "Some Still Care" CDEP (later released on 7" format by Step Off Records in Germany)
RVL002 - Time For Living "The Cheat Is Not Dead MCD
RVL002.5 - The Damage Done 'City Of Hope" CDEP (their final release)
RVL003 - The Damage Done "City Of Hope" 7" (just recently released, one year after the CDEP)
RVL004 - Killing The Dream "s/t" 7"/MCD
RVL005 - In Control "s/t" 7"/CDEP (their final release)
RVL006 - Internal Affairs / Allegiance split 7" (split release with Malfunction Records)
RVL007 - Another Breath "Not Now, Not Ever" MCD (LP released by Assault Records in Germany)
RVL008 - Verse "Rebuild" CD/LP
RVL009 - Physical Challenge "I Quit" CD (LP released by Punchline Productions in Germany)
Rival #10 will be the debut release from Los Angeles's MORE TO PRIDE! This band is fucking awesome. They sound like a cross between Carry On, Floorpunch, and Internal Affairs. It's going to be a 6 song 7" and a 10 song CD. They just finished recording, and I'm so pumped on how it turned out. If people don't get into this band, I don't' know what's wrong with them. After that, we've got full lengths from ALLEGIANCE and GO IT ALONE coming up in Summer of 2005. Also, ANOTHER BREATH is looking to write and record an LP in 2005, and TIME FOR LIVING should be doing a new EP sometime soon, also.
You guys do CDs and Vinyls, right? What do you prefer?
Yeah, we usually try to do a CD and a vinyl version of each release, sometimes that means we license out the vinyl rights to somebody else (another label), it really just depends on a lot of things. Either way, it's important to us for there to always be a vinyl version of our records. I can't really say why, other than I just think that vinyl is an important part of hardcore's history, something linking us back to the "Salad Days" of hardcore, and I'd hate to see hardcore go to a "CD only" type of thing. I never want hardcore labels to just fully STOP doing vinyl, I think that would be a real shame. Which do I prefer, you ask? Well, I'm a record collector, so of course, I love doing vinyl and being able to hold a slab of wax in my hands that I helped create. On the other hand, I like CDs because I can listen to them in my car, burn them for people, and help kids get into the bands a little easier. So I don't know which I would say I prefer, because I like 7"s for their nostalgic purposes, but I like CDs for their practical purposes.
Some words about your newest signing: MORE TO PRIDE. What do you expect from that band?
I expect anything and everything from MORE TO PRIDE. They're a group of young kids that have been supporting the hell out of hardcore for years and years, and I'm hoping that the Southern California hardcore scene will return that love to them, now that they're in a band and trying to make their own mark on a scene they've been part of for a while now. If you haven't heard them yet, as I said above, they sound like a mix of Carry On, Floorpunch, and Internal Affairs, and me and my roommate John Eightclip (sings for Allegiance) are probably more stoked on this band than we've been on any new band for a long time now. It reminds me of when Carry On was first coming up and was so angry that no one in SoCAL would give them the time of day. Carry On just went out there and ripped shit up, playing every show to 30 or so kids, and finally people started to notice. I feel the same kind of vibe from More To Pride, and when I go to their shows, I can't help but feel the same way I did when I used to go see Carry On play at Headline Records or the Ojai Women's Club. MORE TO PRIDE just got done recording a 6 song 7" / 10 song CD for Rival, and it will be out in Spring of 2005. I hope everyone gives this band a chance, because I think that people are really going to like it.
ANOTHER BREATH have been on European-Tour this year (2004), and ASSAULT Records released their EP + the demo-songs on Vinyl. How did that come about?
Jan at Assasult and the guys in Another Breath had been talking about doing a CD or an LP or some sort of release on Assault. Two of my friends, Isaac and Carl, were on tour on the east coast with their band OUR TURN, and they brought me home this CD-R of Another Breath's 8 song recording. I really liked what I heard, so I contacted the band and all parties involved agreed that Rival and AB were a good match for each other. Since they'd already been talking to Jan, I didn't' want to screw up their relationship and act like I was coming in and "taking over", so we decided that I'd go ahead and handle the CD and Jan could go ahead and release a vinyl version of those songs. It worked out well for everyone, and Another Breath was able to tour Europe last summer (2004) and it went over really well!
ANOTHER BREATH was the first RIVAL-band touring europe, right? Correct me, if I'm wrong. Were they the most motivated band or for what reasons were they the first?
Yes, they are the first Rival band to tour Europe. And you're right, they probably ARE the most motivated Rival band. Actually, Another Breath and Go It Alone are tied for most motivated Rival band. haha. Lucas managed to nearly kill himself by falling off a cliff and breaking every bone in his body, so Go It Alone is rebuilding right now, but they'll be back stronger and more determined than ever, and I promise you that they're going to be a touring machine and will make it to Europe sometime in 2006, most likely. But yes, as for Another Breath, I couldn't be more pleased with the work ethic of these guys. They tour their asses off, maintain jobs and going to school, and are always willing to work for what they have. The other thing is - they're appreciative as hell for what we do for them, and that is so refreshing to have a band actually appreciate what you do for them and not just act like they are this bad-ass band that "deserves it". You know? It has been great working with them and they're going to continue to grow as a band and tour a lot and hopefully make an impression on lots of people.
Can we expect some more RIVAL-bands over here?
As I said above, expect Go It Alone over in Europe sometime in 2006. Also, we're working on trying to do a Verse / Allegiance tour in Summer of 2005. If you happen to know anyone (or anyone out there reading this!) that would be into helping us book and promote a Verse / Allegiance tour for about 4-6 weeks in Europe in August of 2005, please get in touch! We really want to make this happen!
Bands like VERSE, GO IT ALONE, KILLING THE DREAM slowly get a well-known name in europe and hopefully in american, too, and a lot of kids are talking about RIVAL Records. These "newer" bands are automatically connected to RIVAL Records, but bands like PHYSICAL CHALLENGE or ALLEGIANCE are not automatically connected to RIVAL Records. I could see that a lot of times. Do you think that you get more "famous" or why do the kids always combine VERSE, GIA or KTD with RIVAL Records?
I think the reason people connect most with Verse, Go It Alone, and Killing The Dream is because they have more melodic elements to them, and they are an "easier listen". Physical Challenge and Allegiance are both awesome pissed-off hardcore bands, with blistering live shows, and it can be harder to get someone into music like that. I'm sure if these kids saw either of these 2 band's live shows even once, they'd be more aware of them. People have really slept on PHYSICAL CHALLENGE, and that is a shame, because their "I Quit" LP is one of the best hardcore full lengths that has come out in the last few years, and it's a damned shame that very few people out there are really giving it the respect it deserves. The LP version was released in Europe on Punchline Productions in Germany, so people should be able to find that fairly easily. ALLEGIANCE's full length that they record for Rival in spring of 2005 is going to rip too, and hopefully people recognize it once it comes out.
I already interviewed Lucas from GO IT ALONE and he told about the problems they've been through. I think it's somehow hard for a band to withstand these problems, but in the end it helps the bands growing together. Surely, people were scared about that, but were you ever scared about the band?
Lucas is one of my closest friends (Zach's too!). All 3 of us have been very close for 5 or 6 years now. So needless to say, we were devastated when we heard about Lucas falling off that cliff, breaking his back, his pelvis, shattering a vertebrae, destroying one of his arms, etc etc. Shit, he fell 500 feet off a cliff! Zach and I were both scared for his life and what might happen to him even if he did live. As for being scared about the band itself, I honestly didn't give much thought to it. I thought that there was a good chance that Go It Alone would be finished, simply because those guys would not continue doing that band if they couldn't have Lucas as a drummer. But this wasn't really an issue for me, I was more just worried about my friend. Luckily, Lucas has made an amazing recovery and the band's first show back is December 18th, and Zach and I are flying up for that. I do think that this will only make GIA stronger, having to deal with all of these problems, but I know that it is very frustrating for them, having a 15 song LP written for over one year now, and not being able to record it! But barring anymore nonsense from Lucas, we will finally see this thing recorded in May of 2005, and will have it out to the world by late summer 2005. This LP is going to be awesome.
Do you think the bands you sign are somehow "different"? In my mind, they are. Definitely.
Yes, I think they are completely different than what most label's rosters look like. If you look at the Rival roster, what you'll find is mostly bands that had never put out ANYTHING before their debut releases on Rival. With the exception of Allegiance, Verse, and Go It Alone, we've found these bands that are young, "label-less" bands that just struggling to be heard, and we've helped them get out there and have some success as a band. This has created a real sense of loyalty, and a huge sense of trust between everyone involved here. Also, most of these bands are very angry and frustrated with the way things have turned out in hardcore (and the world in general), so most of them have some sort of pretty angry/frustrated message that they're trying to get across, and I think that makes Rival bands different from a lot of the other stuff that is more just "go through the motions mosh-core" or something. I think that makes us a different in a lot of ways, and it's helped create a really sense of family at this label, with the "older" bands helping out the younger bands by taking them out on tour and getting them contacts in other cities and things like that. For example, when Verse's van broke down and lost all of their equipment in South Carolina, I flew them all the way across the country to California, where they met up with Killing The Dream and Physical Challenge. KTD and Phys Chall made it possible for Verse to continue their west coast tour with no equipment, no van, no money. Or, when More To Pride came up the SF Bay Area to record, John from Allegiance took them under his wing, went to their recording sessions, helped them out with decisions, showed them around, took them out to eat, etc. Just small things like that make our label different than others, I think, and I'm really proud of what we've created in just over a year.
Did you even reach one of your goals you set before starting RIVAL? And what are some goals/dreams for future?
Yes, we've far surpassed any goals that we originally had for this label. We just wanted to do a hardcore record label that could make a difference in the lives of a few young bands and help them when no one else would. We've done that time and time again, and all the hard work that the bands have done, and that Zach and I have done, has really paid off. Seeing a slab of wax that I've helped create, or seeing these bands play a show where 300 kids are going off for their band, that in and of itself is reaching a goal right there. Shit, just being able to do a hardcore record label with my best friend of 20-something years (Zach Harlan) is something I'm so stoked to be able to do. It sounds cheesy, but it's a fucking beautiful thing sometimes to actually see something you've put your heart and soul into really develop into exactly what you had envisioned. I couldn't ask for much more with this label, honestly. As for the future - I wouldn't change much. I want things to continue just the way they are. I want this label to feel like a family, something that I am extremely close to and extremely proud of, and also something that helps me and the others involved GROW - both as people and as label/bands. I guess some concrete goals would be things like - send all of our bands to EUROPE! That would be awesome! haha.
Became RIVAL a full-time-job for you guys? I see your label growing from time to time and it seems like you have a lot of work to do. Haha! So…. Do you think you could ever live on it? And do you want to live on it?
I get asked this question a lot. I'm really not all that interested in doing my record label for a living, even if the opportunity presented itself, and I say that for a couple of reasons - 1. I went to college and got a degree in computer systems and have a "career" type job that I wouldn't ever feel comfortable just "throwing away" because I worked hard for it, I really like my job…. and 2. I wouldn't ever want the pressures of being "forced" into putting out a certain amount of records per year or putting out a certain kind of band that would "sell well" so that I could pay my bills. That would ruin everything that I'm trying to do here and it just wouldn't be much fun for me anymore. But you're right, this label is growing and growing and it has gotten to a point where it truly is extremely time consuming and there's so much work to be done each day. It's hard for me to get everything done when I'm working 40+ hours per week at my job. I don't think people understand how time consuming it is to run a record label if you want to do it "right" and do anything and everything for your bands. I think if the label ever gets to a point where I can't do it anymore and it's basically requiring me to quit my day job and do Rival full-time, I'll try to find someone out there whom I trust and hire the first Rival employee to manage some of the day to day stuff, and I'll continue doing all of the business/accounting stuff. That way I could keep my day job and the label could continue to function at the level that I'd like it to.
Is it a problem to be a two-man-label? I could imagine that you two sometimes have different opinions about releases.
So far that hasn't been an issue at all. We both like the same kind of stuff, and we both can appreciate new and different things that maybe we weren't all that into before. We've known each other for so long, we went to grade school together. At this point, we can almost read each other's minds and we've gotten pretty good at being able to understand each other. I don't see us ever having a problem agreeing on whether or not to release something… If there ever was some sort of dispute over what to put out, I think we'd just lay everything out on the table and discuss the positives and negatives about the band and then come to an agreement about whether or not to put out that band's release.
Do you think about releasing a european-band? Are there any problems you could get?
Right now that's probably not something I would do, just because knowing and communicating with our bands is so important. I talk with one of the members of most of my bands on the phone almost once every week. I get to see them play live either locally or when they're on tour. There's just so much interaction that goes on between me, the band, and between the bands. Right now, I just don't think I would feel comfortable putting all of my energy into a band that was so far away and that I had never seen play live. Of course, if tomorrow I heard a band that totally blows me away, my opinion might change because I liked the band so much! I guess my answer is "who knows"! haha
Okay. Some plans for the year 2005?
More To Pride 6 song 7" / 10 song CD out in February or March 2005
Allegiance full length CD/LP in Summer 2005
Go It Alone full length CD/LP in Summer 2005
Another Breath full length CD/LP in late 2005 or early 2006
Time For Living - a new EP in 2005
What is "Hardcore" in your eyes and what means "Straight Edge" for you?
Hardcore means something different for everyone involved. But at its main core, it should be something along the lines of "being angry/frustrated with how things are in the world around you and using hardcore as an outlet for that aggression/frustration in hopes of changing things for the better". I think that is the reason most of us came here in the first place, and it should be the thing that we hold most important in this scene. Friends, fun, going to shows, having a place where you finally "fit in" - all of that are important parts of hardcore that keep people around, but I hope people remember why we came here in the first place and that this is much more than just "good times with friends." As for Straight Edge… Straight Edge is a personal choice that a person should make for themselves, and I've never seen it as a "movement", whereas hardcore to me as a whole is definitely a movement. I think people should do what is right for them, and not be persuaded into some sort of "movement" to be sober. I think that most things in life are just fine in moderation, and aside from the "policital aspect" of drugs/alcohol (i.e. the shitty Alcohol and Cigarette manufacturers and their advertising to suck kids into thinking it's "cool" - that part of straight edge should be addressed much more!), I don't think that straight edge should be anything more than a personal way of living your life. If you're super into straight edge for political reasons, I really commend that because I think there are some things to be said there that haven't really been discussed in hardcore lyrics enough. But as for the personal issues and thinking that straight edge is "right" or that you are better than someone else for being straight edge, I don't agree with any of that at all. Hell, I know a lot of non straight edge people who are much stronger functioning members of society than a lot of straight edge kids I know! haha. I think often times straight edge kids get "drunk" off being straight edge and they don't think very clearly about it, whereas some hardcore dudes who drink in moderation seem to "get it" a lot more and see the horrors of alcohol and hate them just as much as the straight edge kids… But they seem to handle themselves a lot better than 90% of the straight edge kids who end up moving on from hardcore and straight edge and turn their lives up-side down. Like I said above, most things in moderation are just fine, it's usually one extreme or the other that gets you into trouble.
That should be all. I really appreciate your label and I hope you keep going that way. Your bands are great, your releases are great, your work is great and you guys are great. You have the final say.
Cool, well thanks for the interview man. If you know anyone out there wanting to help with tour promotion in Europe for Rival bands, please get in touch - almost every single one of our bands has a goal of trying to make it to Europe at some point during their band's life! Any help is appreciated. Thanks man.