It's a Friday-night hardcore show at Club Q in Davie, and the inevitable pit standoff is in full swing. Some newbie has taken exception to the teenage skinheads' penchant for Tae-Bo high kicks and is doing his best to start a brawl. "Enough!" yells Trust No One singer Chris Coach. "There are no rules in the pit!" While Coach lectures on moshing etiquette, Trust No One guitarist John Wylie rolls his eyes and tunes up. He's seen this a thousand times before, both as promoter for bimonthly shows at Club Q for the past four years and during an eight-year hitch touring the world in five different hardcore bands (currently including Until the End). And those are just his hobbies. Wylie's main gig since 1997 has been running local punk-rock label Eulogy Recordings -- a Rock of Gibraltar in an unstable indie world. With 37 releases under its belt and seven more due by summer, Eulogy owes its success to the 27-year-old's monster work ethic, networking skills, and unflagging honesty.
Wylie's adherence to the straight and narrow in Eulogy's dealings is no accident. It stems from his absolute frustration with every record label he's ever dealt with. The tone was set when Culture, Wylie's first serious band, sent out demos and received an offer to do a single on microlabel Overshadow. "We were stoked," he recalls, "until they mailed us the records, asked us to make some Xeroxed covers, stuff them, and mail them back." When it came time for 1995's full-length Born of You, Culture hooked up with Michigan label Conquer the World, which produced the album's artwork without consulting the band. "It looked like it was done on a Commodore 64 greeting-card program," Wylie winces. Still Born of You was enough to propel the band out of the state and spread the word of South Florida's burgeoning hardcore scene.
After Wylie left Culture in 1996, he went back to Conquer the World with his new project, Morning Again. The resultant five-song EP, Hand of Hope, sold several thousand copies due to the band's tireless roadwork. Unfortunately Conquer the World didn't bother to pay the band royalties. "They kept claiming they didn't re-press the record," Wylie recalls. "But we found out differently, so we told them to fuck off." The band released its second CD, the seven-song Martyr, on Good Life Recordings.
While on the road with Morning, Wylie talked with enough bands and labels to convince him that he should strike out on his own. Out of his Dania Beach home, he launched Eulogy Records in October 1997 with the release of Self, Dare You Still Breathe? by militant Miami straight-edgers Bird of Ill Omen. Taking a two-pronged approach to promotion and distribution, Wylie first traded CDs with every label he could, then began promoting shows around South Florida. "If you have a label and a band going at the same time, it makes sense," he explains. "Not only do you make sure you and your bands have a place to play, you also have a place to sell your merchandise." After taking his traveling hardcore circus on a tour of South Florida's punk venues, Wylie settled on battered Club Q. "At every other club, when something got broken, there was a problem," he drawls. "But at Club Q, as long as you pay for the damage, there's no problem."
In the meantime Martyr attracted the attention of prestigious hardcore imprint Revelation Records, which signed Morning Again and bought plane tickets so the band could tour Europe for a month with New York hardcore mainstays Agnostic Front. Everything was hunky-dory until the band showed up at Good Life's office in Kortrijk, Belgium. Morning Again wasn't getting paid to tour and hoped the label would help with expenses. But when the band arrived, Good Life said no way. "We asked them how we were supposed to eat and pay rent," Wylie remembers, "and they couldn't care less."
Back home Morning Again quickly found out its label troubles weren't restricted to the old country. Revelation wanted to dump all its heavy bands onto a less-visible subsidiary label. "We had specific language in the contract saying they couldn't do that," Wylie says, "and we let them know it." After much badgering Revelation finally relented and in 1998 released Morning Again's first full-length, As Tradition Dies Slowly. But escaping the label's clutches was far from painless for Wylie. Burnt out, he refocused his energy close to home and began a retro-punk side project called Where Fear and Weapons Meet, before moving on to found hardcore-metal outfit Until the End in January 2000. Wylie took his chance on yet another indie when Until the End hooked up with hardcore giant Equal Vision Records -- "the only label other than mine I'd ever trust," Wylie declares.
Meanwhile Eulogy proved its own trustworthiness when a major label came courting the indie's biggest find. After releasing A New Found Glory's debut, Nothing Gold Can Stay, Eulogy let the MTV favorites go without a fight. "We love his label," says New Found Glory guitarist Chad Gilbert, "but [John] knew we wanted to be as successful as possible and did nothing to stand in our way."
Eulogy manages to move an average 6000 to 8000 copies per release for a diverse roster that, for 2002, includes an EP from Dashboard Confessional as well as full-lengths by Orlando pop-punkers Unsung Zeros and Louisville emo rockers Christiansen. The indie entered into an agreement with German label Alveran Records, which handles distribution and promotion in Europe. "We see the bands on their label as our bands and vice versa," Wylie says. Domestically Eulogy struck a deal with Lumberjack Distribution, which offers the security of not only getting records into racks but making sure the retailers pay. "They have so many bands and labels under their net," Wylie says, "it's impossible for someone to stiff them and get away with it."
Having excised more shadiness than that on an Agent Orange drop, Wylie and Eulogy have reduced the record business to the simple process of making records. The label keeps overhead low by retaining one full-time employee and paying bands with CDs rather than cash. "I make a living at this," Wylie affirms. "And any band on my roster will tell you they've been treated fairly."
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