Monday, March 26, 2012

Have you heard of...SinStar?

Hi all,

And welcome to another edition of “Have you heard of...?” In this edition, I am really excited to introduce you all to Sam Bell and Ryan Stripe, co-owners and founders of SinStar, a punk inspired brand, born and brought to life in Essex, UK, that infuses modern style, brazen grittiness and the anti-authority essence so beloved and outwardly expressed in the traditional punk attitude. I came upon this brand when I received an email from Jay (shout out to ya!) describing his friends’ brand and providing an opportunity to get to know it and them better. Seeing as this is part of what I do here, as a writer for WORD, I answered the knock, knock, knocking of opportunity and as always, delved into a research frenzy looking for as much information about the brand as I could. After searching, reading, and searching some more, two words came to mind to describe these guys...ROCK STARS!!! No really, they are, these guys are a band too! I dropped an email to Jay to let him know I was interested in bringing the SinStar brand to you guys and thus an interview was born. Not to mention the guys sweetened the whole collaboration by sending me an awesome t-shirt from their current collection, which by the way is on sale now! I have to admit this brand is different from others that I’ve interviewed before but I think you all will enjoy getting to know them as much as I have. So without further delay I bring you this edition of “Have you heard of...?” featuring the guys from SinStar Clothing. (And don’t worry if you start reading their answers with an accent, I did! *wink*)

And awaaaaayyyyyy we go.....

First off, introduce yourselves and tell me about your brand. 
Hi I am Sam - graphic designer and co owner of the brand. I specialise in creating T designs and branding. I am Ryan - I take care of the photography side of things and spend most of my time running the day to day business of the brand.

SinStar, definitely an interesting name, how did it come to be the name of your brand?
The name came about in a strange way to be honest - the idea of Sin and the whole rock star image so many aspire to; influenced to collaboration of the two ideals into the name SinStar!

So, I read in your site bio that you guys started out as a band, elaborate on this. Do you guys still perform?
Yeah basically we were touring pretty hard and things were going great but at around the same time as this we created the brand and things started to look really positive in terms of being able to run the brand and tour whilst supporting ourselves in both roles. Then I think people in the group began to resent what we had created and instead of supporting us they kind of turned it against us making it difficult to do both. In the end we cut ties with that and started a new group alone called ‘AVALANCHE!’ At the moment we have an EP coming out on April 1st and are looking forward to touring in the summer etc. We are also lucky enough to be going to LA in May to hang out at our manager’s place and get an action plan together for the rest of the year. This also gives us the opportunity to take some awesome shots for tees and inspire some new ideas artistically.

Did being in a band influence or inspire the decision to create a t-shirt brand? How so?

Well basically Ryan was a photographer and I was a graphic designer but whilst we were touring we didn't get to use these skills at all and we were literally touring with some amazing bands but getting paid lie a £5 a day each to live on. So we decided in our free time on the road to start designing t shirts and try starting the brand to help us survive. I had always wanted to run a T shirt company like Ryan as there’s so much you can do in regards to expressing your ideas and visions through graphics. Doing this both musically and graphically is amazing!
Have you found that either (the band or brand) has been a significant factor in the success of the other? If so, how?
Since starting SinStar, we have met and made good friends with more people we ever did being in the old band - I suppose if we had support from those boys we would have returned the favour but it kind of all went sour.. We have been lucky enough to have some of the people we have met so far support our vision with 'AVALANCHE' and now both the band and SinStar are sitting side by side. The band is no longer a means to write hits and make money whereas before certain members visions clashed with ours in terms of what was actually credible and real. It’s always been important for us to be real and honest with everything we do from designing and writing music because people can see through bullshit and you won't last in either industry if you’re out to make a quick buck and get your face in a magazine.

Having been in the retail industry for a couple of years, what has been the most challenging thing you have faced in the creation and development of your brand?
The most challenging aspect of it all was just doing it. It’s having the guts to commit to an idea and not second guess yourself or let someone else play with your ideas. The last band we was in would have been signed for 3 albums if we had have just listened to ourselves - instead we let someone else call the shots and fuck it up and that really was the catalyst to our failure and falling out over SinStar. I mean with SinStar we were making decisions and sometimes the wrong ones but you only learn from mistakes, there’s nothing wrong with failing as long as you can accept it and pick yourself up again. Fortunately we made a lot of good calls with SinStar and as the band lost the record deal SinStar started to really kick off!

Being based in the UK, have you found it difficult to create an international brand following?
People from all over the world have been buying our stuff and as we grow so does the following. It’s surprising how many people follow English blogs and magazines that we feature in so it's just amazing when we see a sale come through from places as far as Australia!  

Your brand’s message is “Armour Against Authority,” explain this and how it coincides with your brand.

This is an old slogan from when we first started out. The idea behind it was that authority is put in place to stop you doing certain things, that make your conform to how society dictates you should be/act etc. There are reasons for this we know and authority is a great thing and sometimes it can be a bad thing. From our clothing companies point of view the slogan represents our garments and by wearing them you are being non-conformist and in a sense against authority - individual. It’s the punk attitude that we grew up with and we don't see why it should change.

What inspires or influences your creative process when designing a shirt for your brand?
Music is a strong influence. When I hear lyrics or an emotional song that digs deep into some sort of feeling I like to represent that graphically. Sometimes it might just be a really vague picture with and an awesome slogan - sometimes the graphic just looks good and as I said sometimes it’s just a feeling and you just want to start designing there and then. Also, influence is a hard thing to come by without copying, so we steer clear of looking at other T shirt labels and let our thoughts and ideas grow organically - that way we know it was us. Our 'Heaven can wait' tee was inspired by a tattoo my brother had put on his chest after surviving a pretty horrific car crash which claimed one of his legs. That tee was a bright colourful tee shirt filled with summer and basically was saying I'm too busy to die lol! Anyways I was in this store the other day, a well known branded store and they had put the slogan on one of their graphic tees - this is like 8 months after our design - I was so pissed but hey! We thought of it first - it was real and it came from something real and it was us!

What is it about SinStar that separates it from other brands? 
I suppose it’s our background and where we have come from. I feel like everything we have done musically has driven us here and also our families - our Dads own their own businesses and we always grew up thinking we would do the same. We never wanted to work for anyone but us. In regards to our clothes and designs it stems from exactly the same thing because we only create what we like not what we are told to - we only create designs and garments we would wear and that’s why our background of touring and growing up in bands is so important to the brand identity.

What is the ultimate goal you guys have for your brand?
We have some pretty big ideas but for now we plan to grow steadily and make sure we get this right. We have made lots of mistakes in the past - I'm sure we have lots more to make but at this point we need to be careful. We would love to have flagship stores but we are a long way off from that right now. I think we’re going to get a bus and go tour the brand around festivals or something crazy like that. Maybe put a container on a lorry with a portable club - free drink and that. We have too many ideas right now lol!

If you could put together your version of a “dream band” with anyone (alive or dead) who would they be and why?
I think someone like Taking Back Sunday or Blink 182 would be amazing. There is so many other amazing people - Nate Barclow from Finch but probably Blink because they’re the reason I picked up a guitar when I was 14 and why Ryan started drumming so yeah it would be awesome to just have a jam, see what happens. I think we’d be arguing about who gets to sing what though. 

Name one thing you can’t survive in this big bad world without? (Mine would be my family…I know, I know, awwwwww. Am I a sentimental sap? GUILTY!) 
I think I would agree - without our families we wouldn't have had the support over the years in the band and doing the brand and we certainly wouldn't be doing this right now without them so yep we'll join you on the soppy side!

(Thanks guys, glad to be in good company!)

What are some of the differences and similarities you see or have seen in British t-shirt styles/trends and American t-shirt styles/trends?
I think Americans tend to have less photographic tees going about - that’s pretty much it!

If I gave you the keys to a magic time machine (a black Delorean comes to mind) and you could travel to any time period, past or future, where would you go and why?
I think we'd go back to the days when dinosaurs existed. That would be epic or maybe the Victorian days, hang out with Sherlock Holmes and see the industrial revolution.

Hit me up with some of your favorite British slang terms. Do you have any favorite American ones?
I think being from Essex there are lots because of the way we speak. A lot of our favourite sayings involve swearing. My favourite is 'spot bullock!’ That’s slang for ‘spot on’ - cracks me up when me dad says it.

What is one place you guys frequent, that you would recommend to anyone visiting, totally off the tourist grid?
We don't have time for breaks unfortunately! But Ryan’s brother did go Madagascar which he said was epic - for a month with no mobile phone just the wilderness - the brand would go under if we did that!

What are some of your favorite Indie brands?

Now it’s time for a quick round of “this or that,” ya ready?

Crew neck or V-neck 

Hip Hop or Dubstep or Rock (threw a third choice in there, it’s a first)

Sci-Fi or Horror

Vinyls or Digital Downloads 

Football or Rugby 

Vodka or Whiskey 
Until JD does vodka, then Whiskey 

Distressed skinny jeans or Classic khaki chinos
Distressed Skinnys

Vintage or Modern

Chicken fried steak and fries (a Texas culinary classic) or Fish and chips 
Chicken Fried Steak, that sounds awesome!

Plain M&Ms or Peanut M&Ms

Vans or Chuck Taylors 

OJ or Milk 

Any Shout Outs?

Additional info you want to include?
Thanks for taking the time to complete this interview. 

Check out our latest video from our adventure to Berlin.

And big thanks to you Erika for the support and wicked questions.

There you have it, another edition of “Have you heard of...?” Be sure to check out SinStar now for up to 50% off current collection styles (while they last) and be on the lookout for their new Spring/Summer collection launch coming in April!!


I also want to say that you guys are so very welcomed for the interview and thanks for the great tee!

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