When you're in a band, whether you want to do it or not, the idea of selling merch eventually comes into play. --- We're not talking about your albums or cheap stickers; those are a given that almost every band with an album out end up making. But when it really comes to getting your name out there and having fans show appreciation, creating merchandise with your name or other band-related items on it is the way to go. And for most groups, the easiest and most effective way of doing it is with T-shirts.
The metal duo Cornered By Zombies took this idea one step further and, rather than just create their own line of items, opened up their own T-shirt company. Paper Street Shirt Co. will take whatever design you can come up with, turn it into a single-color print and throw that logo onto a shirt or hoodie -- all slightly inexpensive for both you and your diehard fans. Today, we chat with the musicians/printers about their band and forming the company, along with some thoughts on the music scene.
Jason Denney & Basil Eisenman
Gavin: Hey, guys.Ffirst thing, tell us a little bit about yourselves.
Basil: Coming from a small community like Moab, where Top 40 and modern country were the predominant styles of music, made it easy to love metal; enough to want to learn how to play it just to be different. With little else to do besides outdoor activities -- hiking, swimming, shooting, etc. -- or drugs, the only thing left to do was to start a band. During high school, Jason and I were in two of the three bands in town.
Gavin: How did each of you get into music, and what bands influenced you growing up?
Basil: I learned to play guitar from my mother at age 9, and having older brothers gave me a taste for metal -- Slayer, Metallica, Iron Maiden. With no TV for miles, it made guitar practice very easy. I wanted to know how to play all the songs that I loved.
Jason: I remember my friends all played guitar and bass and needed a drummer to round out their band. I had never played the drums before, but they put it on me to get a drum kit. $1,300 dollars for a basic set was a lot of money for a 15 year old to come up with. I had to ask my parents to chip in some money so I could buy a drum set. Luckily, they did, and soon enough we were playing Metallica covers. I was definitely influenced by '80s thrash metal -- Sepultura, Pantera, Metallica, etc. -- and over the years derived more influence from hardcore and melodic bands like Poison The Well, Hopesfall and Eighteen Visions. Before we could even drive, I remember us riding our bikes up the hill to practice at my house, carrying guitars and amps and whatnot. Music was what defined us.
Gavin: When did the two of you first meet each other and become friends?
Jason: We knew each other in high school, and being in two of the three bands around town, we always played the same shows, usually at the skate shop. Cornered By Zombies is the only band Basil and I have been in together, but we didn’t start that until we were in Salt Lake.
Gavin: What made you decide to form a band, and where did you get the name Cornered By Zombies?
Jason: I was in a band with our mutual friend Derek, which was the beginning of what would become CBZ. Derek had been in a band with Basil, who was between projects -- “band single,” we call it -- and it just made sense to bring him in. Eventually, Derek decided he needed more out of life than just being in an awesome band and joined the U.S. Army Special Forces. That’s where he is today and we hope he’s safe. Cornered By Zombies was the name of a song from one of my old bands. Coming up with a band name is a more difficult process than a lot of people realize. At some point, CBZ was mentioned and after some light Internet searches to see if it was taken, it became the official name of the band.
Gavin: Why did you choose to do instrumental metal, and how is it for you both working as a duo?
Basil: After attempting to have a frontman for a very short time, we chose to do instrumental music because not having someone screaming at the audience makes them listen to the music in a different way. Plus, we were the only ones who regularly showed up to practice anyways. We’ve had a lot of comments from people who say they don’t like metal, but still like us because of the absence of a vocalist.
Jason: Working as a duo can be both awesome and limiting. It’s less work for two people to set up at a show, show up for practice, do interviews, or have to take a night off work for a show. But at the same time, there are only two people writing the music, designing shirts, or saving up money to pay for album production. So sometimes, it limits the amount of output in the end.
Gavin: So far you've got one release out from a couple years ago. Any plans on putting out a new album or just playing gigs for now?
Jason: We currently have another album in the works. We’re shooting for a 2012 release. As soon as we get it mixed, and mastered, and blah blah, we’ll put it out and begin working on a third. We are working on some new material as we speak, and we gig constantly. We usually always have a show coming up.
Gavin: How did the idea come about to start up a T-shirt company? And why pick a Fight Club reference for the name?
Jason: ALL bands need merch! And we figured, why spend $1,000 bucks on a couple runs of shirts when we could buy everything we needed to make shirts ourselves for around the same price. Eventually, we started having ideas of other non-band shirts we’d like to make just for the hell of it, which was the inception of Paper Street Shirt Company.
Basil: Being a DIY band and making your own shirts we likened to the guys making soap in Fight Club. Whenever we are going to make some shirts, we refer to it as making soap. I guess we just draw inspiration from some of the principles in the story. I’m sure you wouldn’t have to look too hard to find other people who do, as well. Shirt Company is very similar to Soap Company, and in all likelihood we were probably watching Fight Club when we were trying to think of a name.
Jason: Also, our whole setup for screening, printing, and drying shirts is set up in the basement, for now. We’re trying to free up more space to move out of the basement and make it easier for us to do our thing. If anyone has a space they’ll let us use for free, let us know!
Gavin: What were some of the first shirts like, and how many did you end up doing focused on your band at the start?
Basil: Our first shirts were simple and to the point. The design was just the band name with a picture of an M16 machine gun under it. The band shirts were the only shirts we thought about making in the beginning. The shirt company idea came about later on.
Gavin: When did you start getting requests from people to do custom shirts, and what was it like turning it around from being just a promotional tool to a small business?
Jason: Anybody who has ever gotten hold of us and wanted us to make shirts for them has never followed through on the request. We’ve never rejected the idea, but it is a bit of a process and some people don’t realize it. Not that it’s hard to do, seeing as how there are a ton of people here in Salt Lake who have silk screens and are probably making shirts for someone at this very moment.
Basil: In our opinion, our shirt company is still in its infancy. We are working on a website for marketing our products, but outside of that we just sell them at shows, or in person. We hope to have our operation up and running by sometime next year.
Gavin: What's the process like for you both when making a new shirt and putting it out there for sale?
Basil: Pretty much we just bounce ideas around until we think of something cool, then we make it happen. Maybe someone else will think it’s cool and want to wear it.
Gavin: You're not working with any local shops or online retailers; everything is sold in person or via email. What made you decide to go that route rather than market yourselves?
Jason: Being lazy! We just haven’t gotten around to anything big picture yet. We are working on a website, but until we get everything up and going, we just try to sell them at shows or in person.
Gavin: For anyone interested in getting a shirt made by you, what do they need and how do they get hold of you?
Jason: If anyone is interested in buying something , I guess hitting us up on Facebook or e-mailing us at email@example.com is a good method. That, or just go bother Basil at work! If they have an idea for their own shirt, I would say they need a little cash, a design, and a good idea of how they want it to look. Hopefully, they like it simple. Simplicity is kind of our motto.
Gavin: Going back to being a band and focusing on local music for a second, what are your thoughts on the local music scene, both good and bad?
Basil: I think the good would be that there’s a scene at all! The bad is that some people can be cliquey and stay for one band, or only for their friends' band, or that they won’t go to certain venues at all. People need to get over their shit and support the local scene. There are only a handful of places for most of these bands to play.
Gavin: Is there anything you believe could be done to make it more prominent?
Basil: Free earplugs, wet T-shirt contests and free booze. Haha. Maybe if there was a way to get all ages into these places, like they used to do at DV8, where people could drink upstairs or have bracelets to denote who can and cannot drink; some way to get more people to show up and still let the big kids get a drink.
Gavin: Not including yourselves, who are your favorite acts in the scene right now?
Jason: Eagle Twin, Gaza, Oldtimer, Huldra, God’s Revolver ...
Gavin: What's your opinion on the current airplay on community radio and how it affects local musicians?
Basil: Community airplay is good as long as you have an in with someone at a station to play your music. I think the effect is positive. It's definitely another way to help get your music out there to be heard.
Gavin: What can we expect from both the band and Paper Street over the rest of the year?
Basil: More shows, more shirts, and the second album!
Jason: Maybe we’ll get off our asses and get the website in gear and try to sell some stuff.
Gavin: Aside from the obvious, is there anything you'd like to promote or plug?
Basil: Keep your eyes open and your ears to the ground. Get out and support your local acts. Don’t be scared of a little noise. Bring some earplugs! Stay for the whole show. We’re all a part of the same compost heap.
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