Getting the right people on board to work towards a clearly defined goal can really set a professional company, smartup business, or a DIY band off on the right foot. More and more independent artists learn that a good, not necessarily commercial PR strategy can be critical to the success and reaching wider audiences with your music and message. After all, in this fast moving digital world and a flood of music around, good communications is crucial in letting people know that you even exist. Obviously, smaller bands and new arists don’t always get round to doing it properly. This is where independent PR companies can help. From getting artists in the press, to building online reputations of their new projects, they can help forget about time and resource limitations and distinguish them from loads of news battling for your attention. It’s not like it’s a competition, but there are certainly artists whose stories are worth telling. Not limited to a certain genre, THE CHAIN delivers a fine level of attention by creating ideas, advising, and promoting, and serves as an interesting example how you can dedicate your life to music, both as artists and as businessmen, without compromising your ethics and beliefs.
We sat down with Curran Reynolds (longtime publicist for Earache Records, BODY STUFF, ex-TODAY IS THE DAY, ex-WETNURSE) and got a lot of great insights on his backgrounds, his experience with bands, the path that led him to creating THE CHAIN with Justin Pearson (THE LOCUST, DEAD CROSS, Three One G Records), who recently joined us for a nice interview with Becky DiGiglio, and graphic designer and musician Brandon Gallagher (OLD WOUNDS), and some of the characteristics that make this project unique.
These three have made their mark on the current scene by creating music of their own and by helping the careers of other artists – world-touring musician, label owner, publicist, journalist, booker, promoter, and graphic designer are some of the roles they have played. Now, under the banner of The Chain, Reynolds, Pearson and Gallagher team up to launch a new collective vision, channeling their experience and passion into a music PR company providing next-level publicity and branding to clients they believe in.
Currect PR roster of THE CHAIN includes DEAD CROSS, THE NUMBER TWELVE LOOKS LIKE YOU, CULT OF LUNA, AXIS, GOD MOTHER, and more. The company cooperates with Three One G, Good Fight Music, and Benjamin Weinman’s Party Smasher Inc.
Hey Curran, thanks so much for taking some time with us! How are you buddy?
Karol, what’s up, hello from Brooklyn, and thanks for the interview.
Cool! Congratulations on your new website! I’ve been lurking around your work for some time now and I’m glad we can finally interrogate you and learn more about THE CHAIN. But before we dive into the details of this project, let’s go back in time and unveil some of your backgrounds. How did you get involved in PR for artists and how did you balance between this job and bands you were part of?
Junior year of college, I got an internship at Matador Records in NYC and they put me in the PR department. A couple years later I’d graduated college and I answered a want ad in the back of the Village Voice: “Indie metal label seeks publicist.” The label wound up being Earache Records and I got the job. I stayed there 5 years as the head of US publicity, working directly with bands like Morbid Angel. Eternal thanks to Al Dawson, the man who hired me and continues to run Earache’s New York office.
After 5 years there, I wanted to try to do things on my own so I left to do freelance PR. This was my main full-time work for the next decade – some clients included bands like The Red Chord, Kayo Dot, Graf Orlock, Trap Them, Jucifer and Landmine Marathon. Then in 2016 I teamed up with Justin Pearson and Brandon Gallagher to start our company, The Chain.
I’ve also been playing in bands nonstop since junior high. Mostly as a drummer. Too many bands to name! The two biggest ones were Wetnurse (2001-2010) and Today Is The Day (2010-2013). Then I moved from drums to vocals and songwriting and I started making music under the name Body Stuff. This is the project I’m still engaged in now.
What were your first campaigns for Earache? What were the biggest challenges and successes you’ve had back then?
One of the very first campaigns was for Decapitated’s Winds of Creation album in 2000. At the time the guys were teenagers and I got them a small piece in SPIN Magazine titled “Underage Foreign Death Metal Alert.” To get such an extreme, underground band a spot in a mainstream magazine like SPIN was very exciting to me, and that experience opened my eyes to how fun and rewarding PR work can be when you are going to bat for bands you personally dig.
In my five years there, I handled campaigns for Morbid Angel, Hate Eternal, Deicide, Cult of Luna, and many more. I’m proud of the work I did for these bands. There was no US publicist at Earache directly before me so I was never trained, I figured out the job as I went.
How do you compare the older tools with the plethora of digital solutions available for agencies and promoters today?
The process of executing a PR campaign is smoother and more efficient now. In the old days, we were mailing out hundreds of promo CDs. A drawback of our modern times is that most people don’t value things like they used to. As a publicist, it can be an uphill battle to get editors and writers to care about a new album when they’ve received 100 other new albums that week.
What is the biggest piece of advice you can offer to independent PR newbies?
Represent bands you personally believe in. That way, you’re putting your time and effort toward a cause that is real to you. Be engaged in the music scene in various ways so that you’re known and respected as someone who is making a real contribution, beyond the one role of publicist. Give people a reason to want to listen to what you have to say.
By the way advices and tips, after all these years, are there other specialists and personas you look up to in the industry?
Within the industry, I look up to musicians mostly. Having turned 40 recently, I look up especially to musicians who are a bit older than me and have devoted their whole lives to their art. It’s fun to see how a person’s art develops over an entire lifetime. There’s bound to be peaks and valleys, that’s all part of the story.
Ok, so here you are, after all these years, developing another undertaking that’s obviously growing and getting more active as time goes by. What motivated you to create THE CHAIN?
After leaving Earache, I did 10 years solo as a freelancer and I loved the freedom of it but eventually I wanted a team. The Chain came together very naturally. JP and Brandon were two people I already knew and liked.
I met JP when I was playing drums in Today Is The Day and we toured the UK with his band Retox. And I’d been a fan of his band The Locust for 10 years before that. JP is someone I look up to as being creative and fearless, always working on something new, always collaborating with cool people. He’s been making his mark since the ’90s as a musician, label owner, actor, and author.
I met Brandon when I was booking shows in NYC and I booked his former band Old Wounds. I went on to become Old Wounds’ publicist and I worked closely with Brandon through all that, as he was essentially the manager, doing all their business, booking, and artwork. I always loved working with Brandon – super motivated and talented dude, and he’s yunger than me so he brings the younger generation’s perspective to the table, something I value.
Over the course of a year I had separate conversations with JP and Brandon about teaming up and eventually it took shape and became The Chain.
What are its objective? How does THE CHAIN fit in the picture of independent labels, promoters, bookers, and other agencies? What sorts of solutions do you bring to the table?
The Chain is a music PR company. Right now our clients range from bands like The Sword and The Number Twelve Looks Like You, to bands on labels like Party Smasher Inc and Three One G, to amazing new underground bands that we are introducing the world to for the first time.
As a publicist, I am the person connecting my clients with the media. Bands and labels hire me to help them get the best possible press. I work closely with my clients every step of the way to create effective campaigns. And in the process I am helping the media do their job too, by feeding them ideas and providing them with new content I believe to be worth their while.
The main thing I hear from bands is that I deliver a level of attention that other publicists don’t. I’m in contact with my clients on a daily basis, fielding questions, brainstorming ideas, advising them on how to do things when necessary, and reporting results back to them.
A few other ways The Chain differs from other PR companies:
First off, JP, Brandon, and I have all been involved in the music industry for years, on various different fronts. We are not only publicists at desks, we have the perspective of having been musicians touring the world, bookers of shows, and published writers. JP’s a label owner, Brandon’s a graphic designer, and so on. Through all this, we have a deeper understanding of things, and more dynamic relationships within the industry, than if our experience was limited to only PR.
Second, we rep bands we believe in. I keep my roster small and selective, so at the end of the day I can look at my roster and be proud of what I’m doing.
Third, The Chain is a brand of its own. A lot of companies out there are pretty faceless. When the three of us teamed up, we all agreed we want our company to reflect who we are. At the core is the friendship and shared vision of the three of us who are real rock n’ rollers who have dedicated our lives to music, both as artists and as businessmen.
In establishing the brand, graphics are of course essential and I give Brandon 99% of the credit here. Brandon is a sick graphic designer and he’s devoted countless hours to The Chain. He designed our website and all our social media, for starters. I see various labels copying the style of our Instagram graphics now – the sincerest form of flattery!
How do you measure PR results?
In measuring results, I prioritize quality. I’d rather set up 10 pieces of press that make a true impact than 20 that no one will care about.
No publicist can guarantee specific results ahead of time, all you can guarantee is the work you will put in. The client is paying for the publicist’s time and effort. So I make sure my clients are aware of what I am doing for them every step of the way.
Can anyone work with you guys? What are the rules of a potential cooperation with THE CHAIN?
We want to work with bands and labels we like. Bands and labels whose stories are worth telling. We are here to help that story get heard.
There is no limit as far as genre. The three of us have history in the metal and hardcore scenes so we have a strong base there, but we are each passionate about a wide range of music and art. We tailor each campaign to the specific client we are working with.
There is no limit as far as the size of the band either. One of the coolest things is taking an unknown band and helping them get their first wave of recognition. I worked with bands like Trap Them and Landmine Marathon in the very early stages of their careers and I’m proud of that. As we speak I’m working with a new band called Vitriol and I think they could become one of the next big extreme metal bands. On the other hand, it can be really exciting working with established bands like The Sword or labels like Party Smasher Inc, owned by Ben Weinman of The Dillinger Escape Plan. These are experienced guys who have already made a mark and I am proud to work with them and help them accomplish what they need to do.
Personally, what drives you to push all of this out to the public? What is it about this job that fuels your soul? How do you keep yourself from burning out?
It feels good to represent art I think is cool, and to help these artists make their mark.
I was reading Rolling Stone Magazine cover to cover at age 10, I was playing in bands a year later. Rock music has been a driving force in my life for all these years. I feel lucky to be a contributing part of it still at age 40, and on my own terms.
Finally, when it comes to THE CHAIN, what do you wake up looking forward to? What’s next for this project?
Collaborating with JP and Brandon itself is motivating. It rejuvenated me after many years solo. The sky’s the limit. This team is strong and I am excited to see in which ways the company evolves.
Ok, so lastly, tell us a bit about BODY STUFF. You’ve just released a new moody track ‘On the Run’ and it’s obviously teasing another chapter of the band. Give us some more details on that.
Body Stuff is the solo project I started about five years ago, toward the end of my time playing in Today Is The Day. I’ve put out two EPs and I’m working on the third. I posted one new track this month, called “On the Run.” My friend Ryan Jones helps me record and perform all the Body Stuff music – Ryan played with me in Today Is The Day and Wetnurse, and now he’s in Mutilation Rites.
What influences your creativity in terms of composing and developing this band.
I am trying to make explosive rock music that combines all the elements I love most. I think there’s naturally a late-’80s vibe to it because that’s the era when I was a kid first getting really rocked by what I heard on the radio. Billy Idol, Bon Jovi, U2, Tina Turner – these are a few of the artists that were influencing my young ears in 1987. And on top of that, I think it bears the stamp of all the different music I’ve loved throughout my life since then, from Jeffrey Lee Pierce to Napalm Death to Wu-Tang. Some people have said they hear New York City in the music, and I like that. I’ve lived here in NYC for about 20 years. But nothing’s planned, I just hear melodies and see where they take me.
Lyrically, I’m going for realness and confessions. Figuring out oneself and one’s place in the world. The new song “On the Run” is a good representation – it’s a song about moving through the world as an outsider, yet also recognizing the oneness of all things, a recognition that suggests there are no outsiders or insiders.
Thank you so much for the interview, Curran. Is there anything you’d like to add or say? Feel free to add your final words and take care! Cheers from Warsaw!
Thanks for all your work, Karol. IDIOTEQ rules. Cheers!