YepRoc “Let’s just have everybody come here.” (10/11/12)

“Let’s just have everybody come here.”

Oct. 11-13
Cat’s Cradle
Carrboro, NC  (for a complete line-up)

Glenn Dicker should be used to light bulb moments by now. He’s surely had enough of them along the path that ultimately led to co-founding locally-owned Yep Roc Records with partner Tor Hansen. First and foremost, they are artist-focused and full of bands that they would listen to. Their collection of artists defies description. And they like it that way.

But this isn’t a story about how they got from there to here. It’s about celebrating the here-and-now some 15 years later. In 2010 when Glenn and Billy Maupin, General Manager of Yep Roc Records attended the first Solid Sound Festival in support of one of their artists, little did they know that it would strike a chord that would resonate.  Held in a most unlikely, yet synergistic, venue, the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art in North Adams, MA, Grammy award-winning band Wilco created and curated an unforgettable artistic event that let band members, and other artists, showcase a fusion of creative expressions … aurally, visually, and otherwise. 

Impressed with the thoughtfulness that went into such a successful, albeit ambitious, event, Glenn and Billy wondered aloud to one another whether they could pull off such a festival featuring past and present Yep Roc artists. I imagine it went something like “Man, we should totally do something like this for our 15th anniversary.”

In fact, it went exactly like that. Glenn gives huge props to Billy as he explains how it all came down.

gd:   Once the idea was hatched, we got really excited about it. Billy just took the ball and ran with it. He’s an excellent planner and has a great vision seeing things through. We started out thinking really big. Our original plan was much more grandiose, as you can imagine. We thought we’d take this thing on the road and do something in a number of markets, make it be a tour. Then we thought, maybe we’d just do something in NY, LA and here …and then we said, “let’s just have everybody come here.”  So we kinda brought it back down to some level of reality. Billy was asking really good questions from the get-go. What would you like to see? What would you like to have happen? Who would you want to have perform? How would you like to see the performances set up? He really just asked all the right questions. Above all we wanted a really unique experience. We wanted to create a scenario of collaboration where different artists would play together. We wanted the artists to have a good time, enjoy being with each other, and for them all to enjoy the good vibes.  And, we also wanted the fans to have an experience that was unique. 

dpm:  Did you send out a blanket invitation like a “hold the date” to all the Yep Roc artists?

gd:   No, the first two big things to decide on were when a good time would be and if there was one artist that was our anchor. We assumed not everybody was going to be able to be here, so next was deciding who would you really, really have be here in order to make it feel like you’re off to a good start. Nick Lowe was the one because he’s been a big part of what we do and he’s meant so much to the label’s career and trajectory. He was touring last year and we were doing promo stuff before his record came out. Billy thought since I was going to go out with him and basically ride around in a car taking him to do promo stuff, that maybe that would be the best time to ask him. Nick is so important to us that I want to go out and do these things with him and be there for him. During that time I was able to lay it out to him what we’re doing and he said “count me in.”  We talked about the timing and decided October would be a good time because he likes to come over to do the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival in San Francisco. Then we went out and asked everybody and, really, there are only one or two people who couldn’t come. 

dpm:  I’m going to show my age, but Labour of Lust was one of my favorite albums and I still have it on vinyl. The chance to see Nick Lowe after all this time got my attention. I got really excited when I began to hear about this project because it feels like the artists are embracing you back for everything you have committed to them, which was basically to let them be who they are without reining them in for the sake of the “single.”

gd:  I appreciate you’re saying that. That’s kind of a foundation point of what we do and certainly working with somebody like Nick Lowe. We not about to tell him anything, never would do that, and never have. I personally don’t feel qualified to be able to even do something like that.  We certainly operate in a different world from that, I suppose, but we feel like what we’re doing is providing a home for people. We believe that they’re making as good a music, or better, than they’ve ever made in their career, so that’s the level that we’re coming from. Maybe it’s because we’re fans as well. 

dpm:  So two years ago, the idea popped up and percolates for awhile. Then Nick Lowe says yes … how did it play out logistically from there.

gd:  Then we started talking to other people about it and started connecting the dots. 

dpm:  What would you say have been the biggest challenges in the planning process?

gd:  This is from my perspective only, I mean really, Billy is the one who’s been in charge of everything, but I’d have to say coordinating all the details.  We’re really trying to do a great job of being attentive to details for the artists and the people that are coming … from Australia, the UK, Canada, Germany, I think somebody’s coming from Turkey. We want to make this be an incredible experience for everybody. And it really takes super attentiveness to the details for it to be that way. Billy has a good view of the big picture and he really knows what we’re trying to accomplish. He has set all these specific areas of focus. He hired a stage manager, someone to be a project manager, and each person within the Yep Roc side of the business has a specific task to oversee. So everybody is involved and taking ownership of a certain section, yet still involved with the overall success of the whole thing.

dpm: Is there any one oh-my-God-what-if detail that you’re all still fretting over? 

gd:    There’s some little logistical stuff … like if someone’s flight gets delayed, or something like that that could screw things up a little bit, but I feel pretty confident that everything’s in pretty good shape at this point, so I’m not really worried. 

dpm:  Are there times set for each artist to perform each night?  With all these artists, can we expect to go until 5 or 6am in the morning?

gd:  Oh, it’s not like that at all. The goal was not to have these marathon nights. I think it’s over at 2am at the latest each night.

dpm:  I guess I need to make my apologies now for why I won’t be in on time that Friday morning, right? 

gd:   There’s no kind of order, and I don’t think there’s a set schedule per se. The idea is that we want people to come for the entire night,  There’s going to be different configurations of people playing with each other so nobody’s going to be coming up and doing a 45minute set. 

dpm:  Glenn, thank you so much, it’s been really fun talking with you and I can’t wait for the fun to begin.

gd:    My pleasure completely. Thanks for your interest and it’s so great to hear that you’re a fan.