Interview: Chris Envy of Dodgeball Records
CHRIS ENVY OF
Chris Envy (who many will recognize as the front man of the pop-punk band Showoff) announced just yesterday (5/20/20) the official relaunch of his Dodgeball Records. We had the wonderful opportunity to catch up with Chris about relaunching the label, what he’ll be doing different this time around, what type of bands he’s looking for, how he is hoping to foster a strong community within the label, and much much more!
1. You recently made it public via your Facebook page that your Dodgeball Records is relaunching. What about where the music industry is right now made you say that this was the right moment for the label to make its comeback?
It really didn’t have much to do with coronavirus or where the music industry is as a whole at this moment. It is more of a personal decision, and as things are moving pretty slowly for everyone, I thought I’d love to help some bands get their stuff out there a little more.
2. As we mentioned, it’s a relaunch of the label you originally ran in 2017. You worked with artists Amuse, Decent Criminal, Attic Salt, etc. Have you reached back out to any of those artists, and if so, will any of them be back with the label this time around?
I haven’t reached out to any of those bands at this point. I’m open to having them back of course, but I think we’ve all moved on from where we were. I accomplished what I wanted to the last go around. I was able to move the needle on each band to some degree. I think I will be going forward with new acts at this point.
3. On the business end, you also included Mike Felumlee (Smoking Popes, Alkaline Trio) with the label in the past. What was his role with the label in 2017 and will he be a part of the relaunch?
Mike helped me find bands like the ones you mentioned above. He had a lot of experience running his own label back in the day and we’ve been in a band together at one point, so having him along for the start of the new label seemed like a no brainer; But I was actually paying him a small amount to be at the label full time. Adding in expenses like that was a mistake, especially starting out. I think I tried to grow too big too fast and ended up spending too much money to do it. This time around I am just going to go forward on my own. I can hope I will end up getting some help somewhere along the lines, but I’m not going to get into a hole like that again financially. It’s smarter to start getting stuff together and then if there is enough success, start adding other people in. That said, Mike lives here in Milwaukee so it’s possible we could work together on some stuff.
4. Today’s way of doing music business is much different then what guys like you and I are used to when you’d record a demo, put a stamp on it, send it to labels, and hope for the best. In what unique ways do you plan to use today’s technology and way of doing business to help make Dodgeball Records acts thrive?
Good question, but I can tell you there aren’t really any unique ways to be a success. Certainly not formulaic keys to success in the music industry, because if there were, everyone would be doing it and it wouldn’t be a secret or unique for very long. The same principals that were once around still are - tour, tour, tour and network with as many other bands as you can. Put out interesting, fun content on mediums like YouTube, TikToc, Instagram, Facebook, etc – and do it often! That shows your bands unique characteristics and personalities. You have to spend money on advertising on those mediums too. I think the best thing a label can offer their artists is guidance. You are acting as a marketing firm, sometimes (if you can help in that way) booking agent, PR firm, management, etc. You are really putting on a ton of different hats, and in the end, you don’t have the money to compete with major labels or even super large independent labels. But if you and your bands constantly work toward pushing each other’s brand, as the band grows, so does the label. As the label grows, so do your bands. So, I hope to foster a community within the label. I am not sure that worked the last go around, so I will be particularly focused on that more so than any other factor I can think of.
5. Are you looking for just any type of music that hits you right when you’re selecting artists, or are you approaching this with the old school label mentality of having a defining sound ala Fat Wreck Chords, Lookout, Epitaph, etc.?
The last time I was focusing on any music genre that hit me right. That won’t be the case this time. I had some bands that I thought were fantastic and really had some great music. This time though, to foster that sense of community as much as possible, having bands that have similar type of music will make that much easier. Punk and pop punk styled bands are what I am focusing on. Of course, there are wide ranges in both of those categories, but I love old school dirty punk and clean newer school pop punk and all things in between.
6. Live shows (when they happen again), music videos, the amount of streams and downloads, or just a gut feeling because you dig the tunes – What will you be looking at the most when making a decision to talk with a band versus passing on them?
That is one of the hardest things to do. Sometimes, it’s that the music is just not talented enough. Other times, it’s that the people are difficult to work with and you can’t stand the attitudes of those involved. But most of the time it’s just that it doesn’t hit me. I’m not looking to be a rich person off this; almost assuredly I will be losing money from it. That’s part of how you choose the people you work with. I had some great bands on the label before, but you have to lower almost every bands expectation. I used to give bands money for videos, put them on the radio, get them other things that quite honestly are awful wastes of money. Music videos can be super helpful, but they aren’t cheap and should really come into play after the band is showing success. It will be a slow build. I want bands that are capable of doing things for themselves, so being in it together is a big deal. Finding bands that want to be part of a team is a massive part of whether I will work with them.
7. People will recognize you as the front man of the pop-punk group Showoff. What lessons learned from your time in that band will you bring into how you help nurture a new act today?
It all goes back to the same things you need to do to run a record label right now. I think networking is a big part of that; you helping someone, and them helping you. I don’t know that being in Showoff gives me anything but a tiny leg up in understanding what happens during tour, which is how we built our following ourselves. Really just seeing things from an artist’s perspective.
8. Artist run labels in the punk rock world are not a new concept; Joe from The Vandals with Kung Fu Records, Dexter from The Offspring with Nitro, and the list goes on. Having been part of a major label in your career, what attributes do you feel an artist run label can bring to a band that a boardroom of suits can’t?
I think you can just see where the artist is coming from with their opinions about how things should play out. You’ve been in their shoes, so you get what it means to them. You have an appreciation for the music and the work involved that other people who have never been there might not have. I also think you invest emotionally in the artist rather than investing from your bottom line like some labels might. Many of the major labels have people working at them who are super passionate, caring people who do a great job of finding talent. Often though, the bottom line is what matters most to the people above them and even those awesome folks don’t get treated with the respect they deserve. They have no choice but to cut loose artists they love and know can do great things because the businesspeople at the top are looking for money now.
9. If bands are reading this Q&A with you right now, what is the best way for them to submit their music to you and which format do you prefer they do it in?
10. We’re all about helping the next generation at allageszine.com, so we always end all our Q&A’s with this question. What one piece of advice would you give to someone who is just starting out with their music today?
There are a million cliché’s I can say here, but in the end, network with the people that will help you achieve whatever amount of success you are looking for. Remember that anything worth having will take time to accomplish and if you reach for the stars and miss, it’s a long way down… but the view is fucking spectacular.