It was around September of 2001 and the band I was singing for called ESTEEM (Eulogy Recordings) had recently broken up. We had been together since 1997. The band, along with college, had taken up practically all of my time in some shape or form. Whether it was booking shows, tours, writing songs, recording, and promoting the band, I learned, even with a small-scale hardcore band, what needed to be done, not just from a band's standpoint, but also from a label's position as well. I had graduated college in May of 2000 and so with the band being broken up, starting my "real-life" career was not going to cut it as the only thing to keep me going.
My friend Charles, who went on to play guitar in MAKE OR BREAK (Florida), had been playing guitar for ESTEEM in the last phase of the band's existence. We were always hanging out and going to shows together. You have to understand, we were living in Florida, a state not known for kids actually listening to traditional hardcore. This was a time when all our favorite bands like Ten Yard Fight, In My Eyes, etc. were breaking up around the country. It appeared as if the cycle of great hardcore was dying down for a period and we were stuck in the middle of nowhere with even fewer kids who listened to the bands we loved.
A lot of kids, during this time said "fuck it." They put on their tight girl's pants, fetus-small t-shirts, and started saying the ever-so-popular hardcore drop out phrases like "It's not '88 anymore," or "I'm sick of this generic hardcore with the same three chords." Well, that was not us. In fact, we were definitely not sick of any of the bands we grew up with and loved. We weren't sick of hardcore and punk rock. While our "friends" were drifting away from hardcore and punk and joining obscure indie rock bands and playing bars to 30 people, we were set on doing whatever we could do to support and promote bands that felt like we did. Bands that wrote songs with substance, that had something to say, and who played fast, real hardcore/punk. The genesis of Think Fast! Records was born.
With very little funds, we had to start somewhere. We decided to put some cash together and compile a punk-looking CD of ESTEEM songs and sold it locally to raise money to help two bands with their upcoming demos. I've never aimed low in my life, but given the funds and understanding of how to actually start and run a record company, we did what we could. Charles and I started this band called FLAME STILL BURNS. We used the money we had raised to put out our demo and we helped another Florida band called FACE UP with their demo as well. So like many other indie labels, our first three releases were local (Florida) bands. Although the packaging might not have been glorious, it's no question that these releases were a stepping stone of what we were in store for in the future of running an independent record label.
We decided that we needed to find more bands and, in punk rock fashion, wanted to release some vinyl. We had already done some demos so we wanted to step it up a notch. We were pretty clueless on how to begin, but we were getting a lot of advice and help from people who had been putting out records for some time. John Wylie from Eulogy and Chris Wrenn from Bridge 9 helped us out a ton. Whenever we had a question, we would bother them, and they'd give us some guidance. I think it had to do with the fact that, at one point, everyone starts somewhere and they probably had some of the same questions starting out as we did.
This brings us to the Summer of 2002. Earlier in the year, we had heard a demo out of Connecticut from a band called NOT A CHANCE. Along with a split 7" for California's DIEHARD YOUTH and FLAME STILL BURNS, we decided that we would press the Not A Chance demo on a 7". Both of these 7"s (our first REAL releases in my book) came out in June 2002 just before NOT A CHANCE and FLAME STILL BURNS embarked on a short tour along with Far From Breaking to support the releases. This would prove to be another stepping stone for Think Fast! growing into some semblance of a record label. After the tour had finished, we stopped at the 2002 Posi Numbers Festival in Pennsylvania. We barely had any releases, but we wanted to sell what we had at the fest just to help get the bands out there. At the fest, we ran into a dude named Thorns, who was working for Revelation Records at the time, and would later go on to work for Bridge 9 and Earache. He was friends with DIEHARD YOUTH and told us that he wanted to have Revelation carry the split 7" and would take some Not A Chance 7"s as well. We were psyched to get our releases into Rev's store as another outlet for kids to buy our releases…especially since Revelation was based out of California and we were an East Coast label. We knew it was a small step, but at least our releases were going to be spreading out across the country.
It was also during the 2002 Posi Numbers Fest where we ran into the infamous, Ryan O. He was doing a popular webzine at the time called xRyanx.com, very similar to xMulletx.com, all the while he was barely 17 years old. He was probably the first person to get our 7"s and review them on his website too. Anyway, he was giving out a demo for his band at the fest. He was singing for this band called OUTBREAK. Up until this point, Charles and I were having random people help with our website but no one was 100% behind it, which sucked. During the months following the fest, we continued speaking with Ryan and he decided to help us out with the TF! website. Gradually, over the next year, Ryan started taking on more of the everyday label tasks, which has been the best thing to happen to the label.
Since that summer, Ryan has toured extensively throughout the world with OUTBREAK. He has booked almost all of their tours on his own, promoted the band, and released records on Bridge 9 Records, Think Fast! Records, and Western Front Records. He has booked shows for local and touring bands in Maine, where he resides. He has built band websites and other hardcore/punk-related websites. But what he brings to TF! is irreplaceable. He understands what needs to be done from a band's standpoint as well as what is to be expected out of a record label. Plus, many of your favorite Think Fast! releases were made possible by his hard-work and tenacity.
From the time we released our first two 7"s, the label had steadily grown. We decided to take on a couple more vinyl projects, but this time they were a little different. Not only were the bands on a larger scale, but both of the releases were being licensed to us from Eulogy (who was doing the CD versions). These ended up being a double 7" for UNTIL THE END and a 7" for WHERE FEAR AND WEAPONS MEET. I had known the guys in both bands for quite a while from going to shows. John, from Eulogy, played in both bands and we both felt that taking on these two bigger projects would help TF! and we were right. A little bit later down the line Think Fast! took on the task of it's first real CD release. It was a full length for a band from Canada called MILES BETWEEN US. We loved the band, but they broke up around the time of the CD's release date which ultimately brought sales to a halt. Similar circumstances were in store for us for our next release (another CD) for a band from Massachusetts called POLICE BEAT. We were bummed (and so was our bank account) but we have to admit that it was a great learning experience and a good introduction to how easy it is to lose money when you are first starting a record label.
In 2004, our good friend Charles moved on from the label, which was sad. Think Fast! was just made up of Ryan and I at this point and remains that way to this day. Although TF! had gone through some changes, 2004 ended up being an exciting time as bands such as YOUTH ATTACK and HAVE HEART made their way to the label. Both bands hail from Massachusetts and have made their mark in their own ways on the hardcore scene. Be it the out of control antics of YOUTH ATTACK or the intensity of HAVE HEART, who is recognized as one of the biggest bands in hardcore today (2006), both gained exposure worldwide as did Think Fast!. And in similar fashion, Think Fast! continued to expand in the following year. In 2005, we looked across the globe when THE GEEKS signed with the label. This band is the first straight edge band from South Korea. They are led by their singer, Ki, who puts American hardcore kids to shame due to the fact that he has traveled across the world for shows that some kids were too lazy to drive 30 minutes to. TF! re-issued the impressive OUTBREAK EP called "Eaten Alive" in 2005 and if that wasn't good enough, the label was licensed by Jade Tree Records to release a double-LP of TURNING POINT's Discography. What seemed to be a non-stop year for TF! also awarded the label with bigger opportunities.
As the TURNING POINT release, YOUTH ATTACK full length, and a new release from THE DISTANCE was getting ready to drop, Think Fast! landed an exclusive distribution deal with Revelation Records. From this point on, TF! releases had the opportunity to be distributed worldwide on a much larger scale than ever before. This was a huge step for us. EXPIRED YOUTH, WAKE UP CALL, and BETWEEN THE WARS (featuring Tim Shaw from Ensign and Bill Henderson from Thursday) were some of the first bands to reap the benefits of this deal as 2005 ended and 2006 began. We finally had proper distribution to offer bands, which clearly helped solidify our next releases.
Ryan and I were really excited about the success of 2005. TF! had come a long way from cutting stockpaper at Kinkos for layouts. As I am writing this, it is August 2006, and this has been the most humbling year to date for TF!. We've been honored to work on releases of two of our favorite bands of all time, IGNITE and SICK OF IT ALL, courtesy of Abacus Recordings. We released the LP vinyl versions of their 2006 full length CDs, and to top off a busy summer, we released the vinyl version of the OUTBREAK "Failure" LP, licensed from Bridge 9.
Also in 2006, the label expanded it's merchandise capabilities for customers and for our bands by hooking up with Merchnow/Equal Vision Records. As TF! had operated as a two-man show, it became increasingly difficult to ship orders in a timely manner due to the volume we were receiving. Teaming up with Merchnow/Equal Vision Records gave us a chance to provide more merchandise options for all of our bands and to ensure that orders were received, processed, and shipped faster than we were able to do on our own. Since it was not feasible for us to have a warehouse and a staff to do this directly with the label, Merchnow's operation served the same purpose.
In late 2006, two notable releases that hit stores were the release of the AMBITIONS "Question" EP (a band that featured three members of With Honor) and a full length from California's BULLET TREATMENT (featuring Matt from The Bronx on vocals). This brought the label into the new year of 2007 which saw the return of THE GEEKS to the U.S. for a tour to promote their full length "Every Time We Fall." The reaction this band received AGAIN on their 2nd stint in the U.S. proved that there was hope for us all. When the sincerity of a band runs as deep as it does in THE GEEKS, it's hard to ignore the impact that the band had on every stop on their tour. Arizona's HOUR OF THE WOLF emerged with their 2nd EP and TF! debut called "Waste Makes Waste" in mid-2007 followed by a 7" from AMBITIONS and a Split 7" featuring ONLY CRIME and OUTBREAK. It was an honor to be a part of this release as you would imagine due to the band history of the members of ONLY CRIME which included Descendents, Good Riddance, Black Flag, Gwar, and time with The Lemonheads. Also in 2007, TF! welcomed FAR FROM FINISHED from Boston. This band continues to be one of the hardest working punk acts in the country. Despite hardships they've dealt with along the way, they've pulled through and released "Living In The Fallout."
That brings us to 2008…A time in which the label has more active, touring bands than ever before. SMARTBOMB punks from Massachusetts released an EP and later a full length in 2008 and did some touring, at one point teaming up with FAR FROM FINISHED. TF! continued to have more of a presence out west while working on a SPLIT with HOUR OF THE WOLF and LEWD ACTS and even ventured to the Northwest. There the label signed WAIT IN VAIN (featuring members of Trial, Champion, Sinking Ships), a band who continued a tradition of inspiring straight edge hardcore from Seattle when they released their debut full length "Seasons." Also, TF! joined forces with the touring machine known as GRAVE MAKER for their debut full length "Bury Me At Sea." Even prior to the band joining the label, they had already toured extensively throughout North America and even into Central America. The last piece of the puzzle in 2008 was found closer to home…the southern home of TF! in Florida…with the signing of NO HARM DONE, a young hardworking band who has grown up on the road and continues to strive to make sure their music is heard in every nook their van will take them too.
As our final releases of 2008 are getting ready to hit stores we welcomed a new staff member to the TF! team, Jenny Jensen. Being the Marketing Director at Revelation Records, we have had the pleasure of working with her for a couple of years now and she has helped us expand our promotional opportunities. She has brought so much experience, again, with her time at Revelation Records as well as with IndieClick and Sidecho Records/Playback Distribution. We look forward to even greater things to come with her assistance with some day-to-day label operations.
Written by Larry Scott (owner):
Think Fast! Records set out, from day one, to support quality hardcore/punk bands. Our catalog is proof that we've stayed true to that goal. In a scene that seems filled with countless bands that lack substance, TF! has steered clear of the flavor of the week trends proving that with hard work and a vision, the kids will have a label they can trust.
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