I can’t believe 5 weeks have flown by since I started the Indie Tee Spotlight! For the 5th edition of the Indie Tee Spotlight, I am more than happy to introduce Kyle Crawford and his clothing brand, Electric Zombie. Kyle has an eclectic style and works full time as a designer for Equal Vision Records and has previously worked at Warner Bros. Records. Many of the designs that he does for Equal Vision can be found at tee haven Hot Topic. Let’s just say that Kyle is no amateur, he is a seasoned pro, that is currently making a living for himself doing what he loves.Â
“You just have to adapt, and suck it up. It comes with the job. There’s a million designers, a million brands, all trying to be the best. Throwing in the towel really just isn’t an option.” – Kyle Crawford
I had the fortunate opportunity of interviewing Kyle about his brand Electric Zombie, his upcoming Halloween line as well as his taste in music. He currently has a ticker going on his MySpace and once that ticker hits zero, he’ll unveil his new Halloween line. He also provides unique insights, both positive and negative, regarding the clothing industry.Â
Coty: You used to work for a fellow indie clothing company, Rockett Clothing. How was your experience at Rockett and what made you leave to start Electric Zombie?
Kyle: Working with those dudes was amazing. They gave me such great opportunities. I probably would have never started band merch design if it weren’t for them. The first band designs I ever did were for Versus the Mirror. The thing thats crazy is I now work for the label they were signed to, crazy how things work out. Things on the other hand did not work out for Rockett and I because we’re just too different of people. It went from designing for them to being friends with them. They are so laid back and chill and I’m pretty serious about my work. When things don’t go a certain way I freak out and panic and become a real asshole. So I think after time it just became more grueling for the both of us. Other things led to the breaking of the relationship. As you can see by their product now, there’s nothing we really have in common anymore.
So due to financial problems, and those said differences I made a few calls and started printing the first EZ line in October of last year. Put it out in Decemeber and it’s been a pretty cool experience ever since. A lot of people, friends, and bands supported me and got me to do it. I’m pretty thankful for making the decision.
Coty: You’ve got a new Halloween line coming out this month (See the ticker on his MySpace to find out exactly when the line will be released). Tell us a little about the new designs.
Kyle: This to me is the best thing I’ve ever done, period. I know a lot of brands say that, just to get the hype. But I have 8 really strong pieces coming out. It’s been way stressful and yet exciting/rewarding at the same time. I hired out for half of the line because I’m not the only one who has the same passion for this holiday. I’m trying new things such as techniques to make the shirts look more vintage, as well as printing on a new type of tee. I’m just trying to go over the top, well as far up as I can handle and just make it fun for everyone. There’s some limited edition poster packs coming out, hand numbered and packed with a 8×8 sticker and some buttons and candy. Every order 2 shirts and under, gets their order in a pretty awesome box I put together with some of my work and 2 other artists. I have a massive contest. It’s just going to be amazing. I still have so much more work to do, I’m not even close to finished!
Coty: You spoke quite passionately on your blog a few days ago about companies that sell their tees for a premium of $30 to $40. Why does this make you so mad? How has this influenced how you operate at Electric Zombie?
Kyle: I mean I just don’t get it. I know how much things cost and I know how everything works. It just blows my mine that people charge that much. With me selling my stuff at the prices I do, I’m already making more than double my money back… I understand we all want to make money. But you also have to keep your customer happy. I run Electric Zombie as if I were the customer. I’m definitely not in it for the money. I just want kids to respect and rep my line. They’re are some lines that do deserve to charge that much, because they do massively custom products. But for someone to charge 28+ dollars for a shirt with a a 2 color print no bigger than 12 inches. It’s pretty insulting, but hey they get away with it.
I will say that my prices will go up a little more just due to the fact that I’m doing 8-10 color shirts now. Custom boxes, crazy extras, a new custom type of tee and just the time I spend getting all these things together. Lots of people and brands have help, I don’t have that luxury. I try and make it as fun as possible for myself. I watched 2 movies back to back while putting 500 goodie bags together. You just have to do it. I might not have the money or the funds to make my company blow up. I’m hoping that the hard work will make it happen.
Coty: Your designs have been featured by bands and retail stores like Hot Topic. Who are some of the bands that you’ve worked with? What’s it like for you to walk into a retail store like a Hot Topic and see your designs.
Kyle: The whole band merch thing is way crazy. I can’t believe how popular it’s been for me. I seriously only like about 15% of the work I do. When I think back to when I graduated high school all I did was play around on Photoshop, backyard wrestle and go to shows. Music was pretty much everything to me from high school and on. Some of my favorite bands are now friends of mine. It’s super weird. I would have never thought in a million years that James Dewees would ask me to be Hungry Bear on tour, or that he’d call em up to talk about his cd art and doing merch for his final tour. Or Chad from New Found Glory calling me up randomly to ask for EZ shirts and to tell me how well their merch I designed is selling. I’m still just a fan boy. It’s just insane.
The first real band job that I got that wasn’t associated with Rockett was, Avenged Sevenfold. I remember getting a phone call saying they loved my art and wanted some merch designs done. They bought 3 of my designs which went to Hot Topic. Ever since then they were slowly going in there. Hit The Lights was the next, then From First To Last, H.I.M, it just kept growing and growing. I still can’t believe it.
To me it’s like an every day thing, it’s part of my job here at the label so it’s not as exciting.Â I go into Hot Topic at least once a month to see how many shirts are in there and to see what everyone else is doing. I see a lot of Skull With Hair, Cobra Starship Stuff.
It was way overwhelming at first, but now it’s just so common. Still an amazing feeling though!
Coty: You currently work for independent record label, Equal Vision Records. What has that experience been like for you? Explain to us a bit about what you do at Equal Vision and what that experience has been like for you.
Kyle: I had been an Employee of Warner Bros Records at the time when the whole EVR thing happened. My contract was expiring with WB and they wanted me to move out. I even had the apartment secure, all my stuff was packed and everything just fell apart. Such a huge entity like WB, they have so many people involved. Lawyers, contracts, negotiating, on and on and on. I was over it. I had been freelancing for EVR for about 2 years. They also helped me and provided me with a lot of the Hot Topic work. I would just touch base with them and be like, you know my contract is expiring. You know I wouldn’t mind moving. It was on going for a few months. They finally flew me out in January and I was blown away. With the label to the scenery, it’s awesome. The seasons are changing now, the colder weather and leaves and what not. Man it’s so great! HA! but back to the question at hand. Basically what I do here is merch design, go figure right? I do most of the ads for publications for the label. Believe it or not a lot of Hot Topic stuff comes from here, so I’m basically the Hot Topic designer here, which is why I was so nonchalant about it. So basically 9-6 every day of just shirts. It’s a really cool laid back place to work. The people here are nice. It’s like a tight knit family. I feel lucky to have been given the job.
Coty: Since you work at a Record Label, I am sure that your taste in music is quite eclectic. What bands/groups are you currently into?
Kyle: Oh man this is such a good question. I would have to say my favorite albums this year are definitely (in no order of course):Â Dead and Divine, Misery Signals, The Faint (album of the year for me), A Static Lullaby, Underoath and Weezer. I’m super weird and I have different tastes of music in different times of the year. Once summer ends, it’s like goodbye Angels and Airwaves, hello August Burns Red and Deftones! I have a nice mix up, poppy to hard breakdown driven to dance, like chromeo for example. Such a good band. I have a pretty wide range but it’s also a very picky one.
Coty: I usually end these interviews by asking what bit of advice you’d give to an aspiring indie tee designer. I’m going to change it up a bit for you and ask you something different. What keeps you motivated to keep on working on Electric Zombie despite the negative aspects of the merchandise world?
Kyle: When you love what you do and are passionate about something, there’s nothing that can stop you, especially from your dreams and goals.
There’s times when I’ve felt like giving up, I think everyone has. But you just have to look at the big picture. I feel so lucky to have the success I have. I think sometimes your best work comes from when you’re the most down. Like you have something to prove. So I welcome the negativity, it matches my attitude and I thrive on being challenged. I like that I design for a shitload of bands, I like that I’m the Hot Topic guy. I’m stoked at the popularity of EZ. If you want things like that to continue, you just have to adapt, and suck it up. It comes with the job. There’s a million designers, a million brands, all trying to be the best. Throwing in the towel really just isn’t an option.
I thank Kyle for taking some time out of his busy schedule to talk a little bit about tees and music with me! I am sure that this is not the last that I’ll be writing about Kyle or Electric Zombie. If you’re interested in learning more about Kyle be sure to check out his website and blog or if you want to purchase some of his tees then be sure to check out his online store!