Nate: Ok, here's the standard preliminary stuff, who are you, where is vagrant located, how many people work there and what type of office is it?
Rich: Rich Egan. I co-own Vagrant Records with Jon Cohen. Vagrant is located in the city of Los Angeles, CA. Currently 12 people work here. What type of office, hmmm.... you mean architecturally? I'd say deconstructionist. We bought a big empty warehouse in the ghetto and we built our own little punk rock paradise. It rules.
Nate: Vagrant has a reputation for having gotten very big very fast. This might be because you signed some bigger bands that already were pretty well known. Who did you first sign and how was this possible?
Rich: It's odd because we have been around for 8 years now, so "very fast" doesn't feel so fast to us. However, I would say our growth in the last 3 years has been anything but stagnant. Before that we kind of laid low, we didn't have much choice, we were broke. The first band we signed was the late, great Boxer. They were an explosive punk rock band from Boston that was just incredible. In 1997 I read an interview with the band in Punk Planet and they described their sound as Face To Face meets Lifetime meets Gameface. I was intrigued so I called them and they sent us a demo and it kinda sucked. For the first 3 songs that is. Then the fourth song was a stellar, stunning tune called Georgia. Jon and I couldn't stop listening to the song. We called them up, and asked them if they would like to come out to LA and make a record. They said yes and turned in the landmark (in my mind anyway) record called the Hurt Process. Then they promptly broke up. Which sucks because they would have been a very important, influential band. Anyway, I would say that record marked the beginning of a certain direction that our label would take in the years to come.
Nate: Currently Vagrant is showcasing some of their most popular bands in the Vagrant Across America Tour. Obviously this wasn't an easy thing to put together. What were the hardships you faced and what was the goal for this tour? Where did the idea originate and will this become an annual event?
Rich: There weren't many hardships really. Our bands are all really good friends and they were more than happy to tour together. Logistically It was kind of a nightmare just organizing everyone's schedules--there is 10 bands playing various legs of the tour (Saves The Day and Dashboard Confessional are the only bands on the whole tour) in various parts of the country...but other than that its been a dream. The goal of the tour is to offer kids an alternative to standing out in the hot sun all day having to sit through thirty bands to see two you actually like.
Nate: What led you to start a record label? How did things begin?
Rich: I kinda woke up one day when I was 19 and decided this is what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. Things began with a whole lot of trial and error. It took me about 3 years to get my act together because I had absolutely NO idea what I was doing. After 3 years Jon became my partner and our first release was a 7" box set that featured Face To Face, Down By Law, Seaweed, J Church, Samiam and a bunch of other bands we liked. I called them up and asked them to record a song for my comp. To my amazement they all said yes (for which I am forever grateful), I sold 1,000 copies through the mail in a single month. Then I released it on CD and sold 5,000 copies through various distributors, most importantly, Caroline Distribution. Caroline was very supportive of us from day one. We were so lucky to be involved with a distributor who got records into stores and paid us on time. Revolver distribution was also so honest and reliable. We stayed with Caroline for 7 years until we more or less outgrew them last year. But without them, we would not have lasted six months.
Nate: What's your typical day at the office like? Is It a casual, laid back kind of environment, or is everyone running around in suits and ties with phones ringing off the hook and people yelling out stuff?
Rich: Laid back is not a word I would use to describe our office. Semi-controlled chaos is a more apt description. Lots of phones ringing, some yelling (mostly Jessie and me---probably because neither of us has learned to use the intercom yet). It is so much fun though, I can't believe I get to go work there everyday. As for the wardrobe, if someone ever showed up in a suit it would be an all day ragfest. There is a fair amount of hazing that goes on. Slip up once and you don't hear the end of it for a loooong time. It's like a big dysfunctional family. We are pretty ruthless on each other sometimes, but we ALWAYS look out for each other, and we have one another's backs.
Nate: How does the planning take place for the operation of Vagrant? Do you plan far ahead in terms of marketing, touring, etc., or is it a plan as you go approach?
Rich: It's a combination of the two actually. In a perfect world, we do plan releases and marketing campaigns about 4 or 5 months before the record comes out. But we are constantly adapting, tweaking and changing it as needed. Sometimes, like with the Dashboard release for example, we don't have the luxury of set up time. We signed him, recorded and released the record in a span of 6 weeks---but everything turned out fine. The spontaneity is part of the fun. We are constantly trying out new ideas and promotions.
Nate: Obviously Vagrant is a bigger operation then a lot of other indie labels. In what ways would you say you're the same?
Rich: Money is always tight, deadlines are always missed and when it's all said and done, we just do it for the love of the music.
Nate: In some ways Vagrant is right in the middle, bigger then most indie labels, but smaller then a label like Epic or Interscope. Is this a place you want to be at or are you looking to grow further?
Rich: I honestly just want to be able to put out great records and sell as many as we can so that our bands can making a living doing something they love. That is our goal whether we have 2 bands on the label or 200.
Nate: In becoming a bigger label, do you feel that you still are able to keep an interest into as many of the details as when you first got started?
Rich: Well, I'm kind of a stickler for details, so I don't think that will ever change. I obsess on some seemingly insignificant stuff, but luckily I have a great staff of people who are equally as obsessed with things being done correctly. There is no way I could watch over all the details that go into running this label...and frankly, I don't even try.... I just trust in the people who work here.
Nate: What tips or advice would you give to smaller labels as far as growing and becoming a stabile and reputable?
Rich: Always put your bands interests ahead of your own.
Nate: With the amount of growth that Vagrant has had in such a short amount of time, where do you expect to be in the next five years?
Rich: I have no idea. I try not to project that far into the future.
Nate: How about some fun Vagrant facts? What release has sold the most copies? How many hits a day does the web-page get? Who gets the best tour bus?
Rich: 1) The Get Up Kids "Something To Write Home About". 2) I have no idea. 3) P. Diddy.
Nate: What has been some of the trials that Vagrant has gone through and what have you learned because of it?
Rich: Not many trials really (well, there is one TRIAL but I can't get into it). What have I learned? Trust your instincts...if you wouldn't invite somebody to your house, don't get into business with them.
Nate: I'm sure that Vagrant has a lot of critics that would say that Vagrant bands are sell-outs only in it for the money. How would you respond to that?
Rich: I wouldn't bother.
Nate: What indie labels are catching your eye? What non-Vagrant band has really impressed you?
Rich: It's hard to say what labels are "catching my eye" because I am not really up on new labels. But I can tell you that the labels that I have always admired and modeled Vagrant after (business-wise) are Dischord and Fat. Other labels that I admire for one reason or another are Jade Tree, Big Wheel, Kill Rock Stars, and Merge. Non-Vagrant bands I am impressed by...hmm.... I am currently listening to the Explosion, Lawrence Arms, Dropkick Murphy's, Cadillac Blindside, the new Seville record, American Steel, and then all the old reliables...Jawbreaker, Johnny Cash, Bob Dylan, The Replacements, Husker Du, Fugazi etc.
Nate: If Vagrant had a mascot, what would it be?
Rich: A pug.
Nate: Who is the hardest working employee at Vagrant and what do they do?
Rich: Oh come on...you think I'm actually going to answer that?? Ok I will...me.
Nate: As owner of the label do you get a special parking spot?
Rich: Yeah, right.... I'm lucky if I get a cup of coffee from the morning's first pot. It's kill or be killed around here.
Nate: What can we expect from Vagrant in the near future?
Rich: If I only knew....
Nate: Any final comments or questions?
Rich: Yes, try to make a difference. There is no reason you can't.
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