Chris Wrenn of Bridge 9 Data on Celebrating 25ish Years, Working a DIY Label, and Sully’s Model


The phrases “onerous work” and “blood, sweat, and tears” get tossed round virtually nonchalantly within the punk neighborhood, not essentially as a result of the phrases have misplaced their affect, however as a result of they’ve grow to be staples of what’s so nice in regards to the style. Ian MacKaye of Minor Menace and Fugazi was fairly spot on in describing punk as “taking part in music for music’s sake and being a part of a household for household’s sake.” Bridge 9 Data founder Chris Wrenn lived by this mantra in pouring the whole lot he had into backing the native hardcore acts he’d grown shut with. And after years of DIY promotion and artistic types of funding, Bridge 9 expanded to grow to be, not solely a staple of the Boston hardcore neighborhood, however a full-blown label touting a few of hardcore punks’ most influential names.

Diligent and untiring labels like Bridge 9, ones knee-deep within the very scenes they symbolize, have helped gas the style, I’d say, as a lot because the artists themselves, if no more so. Shaped in the summertime of 1995 in a university dormitory and primarily specializing in 7″ releases, Bridge 9 was a method for Wrenn to contribute to the flourishing and ever-motivated punk scene of Boston, MA.

“With DIY and hardcore punk, clearly there’s this drive, it’s a tradition of doing issues and contributing. It’s not lots of people simply watching from the sidelines, it’s folks that type of roll up their sleeves and say, “okay, I can do that, that is how I can contribute”. And for me, all my pals have been in bands, however I wasn’t in a band. So I wished a method that I might type of give again, but in addition one thing that I might do to make me part of the method.”

“So for me, it was beginning a label, however I didn’t even imply to begin a label essentially, I used to be serving to my pals put out seven-inches and having them pressed. As a result of in 1995, after I determined I wished to try this, it wasn’t a singular thought. There have been lots of people my age that have been placing out seven-inch information with their pals’ bands.”

However in pre-internet days, data for beginning a label, and even having information pressed, particularly on a smaller scale, was extraordinarily onerous to return by. Via the assistance of some friends-of-friends, Wrenn was in a position to study sufficient to place into motion what would ultimately develop right into a full-blown file label and a full-time profession.

“So, while you resolve like, “oh, I need to put out a seven-inch or I need to assist my pals do it”, particularly at the moment, data was fairly onerous to return by. It was pre-internet, so there was no “I’m simply going to Google this and learn how to do it”. You needed to discover anyone who knew what they have been doing or had completed it earlier than; I imply, there have been no actual directions on tips on how to begin a file label or press information. There have been books, however numerous them have been bullshit and so they weren’t actually on the stage that I used to be making an attempt to be at, which is pretty small.”

“I used to be related with anyone who had a label, a buddy of a buddy. I didn’t know him, however actually simply gave him a name and simply stated, “What are you aware? I need to put out a file, the place do I even begin?” And this dude was cool. He gave me a listing of contacts, type of walked me by it, and informed me the place I ought to get a file pressed.”

“So our first handful of information have been completed at a urgent plant in Nashville, Tennessee referred to as United Document Urgent. They’ve been round without end, I believe because the sixties at the very least, it’d even be older than that. I do know that they have been the primary urgent plant, I believe within the U.S., to press the Beatles information. So that they’ve been across the block 100 instances, pressed all kinds of information. Mainly, I simply referred to as them and stated “I need to press a file”. They usually’re like “Alright, ship us a DAC cassette with the audio, ship us the paintings for the middle labels, and a cash order for no matter variety of {dollars} it was on the time.”

“And we nonetheless work with them to this present day, they simply pressed one thing for us this 12 months. 28 years.”

And thus, Bridge 9 Data was born. The label’s early days have been outlined by seven-inch releases for native acts corresponding to Tenfold, The Belief, and Proclamation, with the label’s first full-length coming within the type of 1999’s “Taken By Pressure” by Proclamation.

Chris Wrenn working within the basement artwork division of Tower Data on Newbury Road (1999)

After shut to five years, Bridge 9 turned a nook. Wrenn joined forces with a bunch of shut pals, the founding members of American Nightmare, and was in a position to take the model throughout the nation and internationally.

“After about 4 years of simply placing out seven-inch singles with pals’ bands, I began working with American Nightmare. Once more, their first file was simply one other seven-inch single, I’d completed a handful of them on the time, however they have been the primary band that was keen to only hit the street, tour, and get out of New England. As a result of numerous the bands I used to be working with previous to that didn’t actually even go away Connecticut or Massachusetts, type of simply stayed native. They have been the primary band that was like “we need to go hit the street, tour in every single place”.”

“For me, it was a chance for them to wave the Bridge 9 flag and for me to wave theirs and for each of us to go throughout the nation, go over to Europe, and be ambassadors for what we have been doing.”

“So it was in all probability Summer time of 2000 when, as a substitute of simply being a neighborhood factor, youngsters all around the globe are beginning to decide up and get . It was nonetheless a number of years after that earlier than it was like “oh wait, I’ve to give up my job and simply give attention to this.”

With this spike in recognition and consciousness, Wrenn was confronted with a typical downside amongst any subsect of the punk neighborhood: lack of funding. Wrenn’s day job within the Tower Data artwork division was sufficient to make ends meet personally, however nowhere close to what was wanted to fund a label. Via an equally inventive and distinctive resolution stemmed, what I’d argue, is one among Boston’s most defining manufacturers. What originated as a label-funding marketing campaign fueled by bumper stickers and Yankees-hate merch, Sully’s Model has now flourished right into a celebration of Boston delight below the slogan “Consider in Boston”.

“It’s humorous trigger it’s by no means actually been like a full-time job for me, it’s by no means been an unique factor. I’ve all the time had different issues that I’ve completed on the similar time to make it occur.”

“Spring going into Summer time of 2000, I had signed American Nightmare, I imply it was identical to a unfastened deal. However they have been within the studio, had huge plans for his or her file and I wanted cash. I used to be working at Tower Data within the artwork division, making like $7.50 an hour. So I didn’t have cash to even cowl my very own payments, a lot much less push this band.”

“So pals of mine and I went to Fenway Park the place the Pink Sox play, it was like lower than a mile from our condominium. I used to be already making all these bumper stickers and t-shirts and stuff for punk bands, so I began making stuff for sports activities followers and would promote it on the street to individuals leaving the video games. Early on, it simply riffed on the rivalry with the Yankees, we might make Yankee suck merch, promote to individuals leaving the Pink Sox video games.”

“It was wild! You’ll simply be mobbed, simply buying and selling cash and stickers and t-shirts. Yeah. I imply, it was loopy, it was like drug seller cash with considerably much less danger.

“So it was initially simply a chance to go discover cash elsewhere and put it into placing out information. I had tried a few of the extra conventional routes on the time; my household wasn’t able to mortgage me cash, I went to banks and couldn’t get a mortgage as a result of I used to be contemporary out of school, couldn’t even afford my scholar mortgage, a lot much less one other mortgage. I had no collateral, no automotive, no something that I might put as much as assure one thing.”

“We simply had to determine tips on how to do it ourselves. After a number of years, we raised some huge cash doing that, I imply we might come again after each recreation, a thousand bucks money, and I’d go the following day and purchase cash orders and ship it to urgent crops and pay for journal adverts, all these items that the label wanted and issues that the bands wanted. We even purchased one among our bands, Terror, their first tour van with like bumper stickers.”

Summer time of 2000 Fenway Courtesy of Kate Bowen

Funds have been now taken care of, and the enterprise took on a lifetime of its personal. What was initially used as a way to gas the label quickly emerged as a proper model.

“After a number of years, I noticed this was a greater enterprise than placing out punk information and I wished to increase on it. So I got here up with the title Sully’s, began exploring different stuff that wasn’t primarily based on the rivalry with the Yankees, began specializing in Boston stuff and it simply grew into its personal firm. For 15, virtually 20 years, they simply type of co-existed in our workplace, one complete facet can be information and black t-shirts, and the opposite facet was all sports activities stuff. And after some time, I began to fulfill folks that have been Have Coronary heart followers, but in addition wore t-shirts from Sully’s; there was numerous crossover.”

Simply 4 quick years after gross sales first started on Lansdowne St. exterior of Fenway, Wrenn’s enterprise was gifted some main media protection with one among Boston’s favourite hometown heroes and a connection that stood the take a look at of time over 15 years later. Ben Affleck’s love for Wrenn’s DIY model ultimately led to important display screen time in “The City” [one of Nasty Nate’s all-time favorites], the Boston-set crime drama directed by, and starring Affleck.

Ben Affleck in “Killin With Schillin” Sully’s Model tee,
c. 2004

“Ben Affleck wore one among our shirts again in 2004, which was cool. It was through the run for the World Collection. And he was, you realize, type of exhibiting it off within the image.”

“After which in 2009, he was directing a film, that film “The City”. Their costume division reached out to us and stated “Hey, we purchased a few your shirts from a neighborhood retailer and we’d like to make use of them on this film.” I didn’t know something in regards to the film or what the potential was for it. However I used to be like “yeah, you’re welcome to, I’ll signal no matter. And whilst you’re at it, check out our web site and if there’s anything, let me know. They faxed me like a four-page handwritten listing of the whole lot they wished. It was identical to, holy shit. It was like eight of each shirt, like two totally different sizes.”

“So I drove them right down to the costume division after they have been filming, hit it off with the girl who was the costume designer, and we principally turned their print store for the whole lot. We ended up having, I believe, six of our t-shirts within the film. One among our Consider in Boston shirts was on Ben Affleck in a scene, we had this shirt that stated Irish Pub Boxing that was on Jeremy Renner, we made the hockey jerseys on the finish after they all exit on the ice.

“It was like Christmas for some time as a result of all these individuals, they wished to purchase the shirts that the actors have been carrying and so they received them from us.”

From their early days of placing out native New England hardcore seven-inches to a couple quick years later being featured in main publications and a couple of function movie, Wrenn’s DIY strategy and motivated work ethic have been frequent themes that allowed the label to develop to rather more than a neighborhood model. Wrenn’s devoted mentality and laborious observe not solely helped additional punk rock’s grassroots popularity, but in addition served precious in preserving Bridge 9 and Sully’s Model afloat.

Labels are sometimes the primary to be neglected when it comes to the affect COVID-19 had on the music neighborhood. Artists and venues have been on the forefront of consideration when catastrophe struck, culminating in months of canceled excursions and restricted gatherings. Nevertheless, even companies corresponding to Wrenn’s, one’s having fun with mainstream success, weren’t invincible. But once more, in true punk rock vogue, Wrenn was unafraid to get his fingers soiled and set to work, using the identical DIY, inventive strategy that had confirmed profitable over 20 years prior.

“A few of my finest concepts have come when my again’s been in opposition to the wall, and with the pandemic and the whole lot that got here together with it, everybody’s again was in opposition to the wall, it was type of like a do-or-die scenario for lots of people and numerous companies. And for me, you realize, you simply get inventive. DIY has been fostered within the punk scene because the starting. And, you realize, I got here into it wanting to make use of my fingers and get entangled. I believe individuals in punk and hardcore are a bit of extra, resilient, like they’re simply keen to work tougher, at the very least in my expertise.”

“The pandemic was fairly robust as a result of we needed to let most of everybody go, quickly at the very least. I had Sully’s, a display screen printing enterprise and Bridge 9, all three companies have been in the identical area, and actually in a single day, we needed to ship everybody dwelling. It was a month, two months, we trusted mail order.”

“Fortunately, we had a pretty big stock of stuff. So we began doing thriller bins and had like these cheap, however good worth mail order gadgets that folks might try to assist assist us. And we have been simply type of on this actually low autopilot for some time.”

“All the things that Sully’s does as a model is said to tourism and sports activities and each of these have been gone. So I used to be identical to sending packages to individuals, like simply making an attempt to get a buzz. So I appeared up Ben Affleck, despatched him a number of shirts with a card that simply stated “Hey, it was the tenth anniversary of “The City”, it was actual sick that you simply included us in your film and we’re nonetheless stoked about it. Right here’s some stuff from Boston and thanks”.”

“And he wore all of that. Like each day he went out on these pandemic walks along with his girlfriend carrying our shirts. Like that was actually, actually cool. And so we arrange a number of extra issues over the following 12 months or so, and he was repping stuff from Bridge 9 and from Sully’s, which was very cool.”

Ben Affleck Sporting Sully’s Model “Consider in Boston” Tee Throughout COVID (2020)

Though enterprise slowed for Bridge 9 and Sully’s model through the 2019-2020 shutdowns, the COVID-19 storm was weathered and Wrenn was in a position to look ahead. Each manufacturers continued enlargement and a brand new storefront location emerged, one significantly better suited to Wrenn’s aims.

It was Summer time of 2020, we had been on this similar constructing for 14 years, and our previous landlord stated he was promoting the constructing. So we have been in a interval of uncertainty, we have been type of looking for one thing new. And the brand new landlord is available in and principally says “I’m going to double your hire”.”

“I imply we had some good instances there, however I wished one thing new. So by the pandemic, we needed to let everybody go, discover a new constructing, after which principally renovate it and get it up and operating. And, so the previous couple of years have been a few of the craziest, hardest working years I’ve had, but in addition a few of the finest as a result of we’ve landed in a a lot cooler spot.

Wrenn exterior of the brand new Bridge 9/Sully’s Model Headquarters

“It’s superior, it has this huge retail area up entrance. So we have now our personal file retailer, it has an enormous warehouse in again that we’re going to begin having bands play, and it’s proper on the principle road in this type of quiet, North of Boston city. It’s type of bizarre to be promoting Useless Kennedy’s information alongside Bridge 9 releases and Minor Menace and Slayer LPs, however right here we’re.”

“We received the keys on a Friday after which two days later, like on Monday, we get a cellphone name from a location scout for a film. And it was for this film referred to as “The Tender Bar” starring Ben Affleck. They usually’re like “we need to use your constructing for background in one among these scenes. So Ben Affleck got here like two weeks later and filmed a scene in entrance of our constructing, which was only a loopy coincidence.”

“It’s type of like “Oh man, the universe possibly is exhibiting me that we’re on the precise path.” We received an opportunity to speak with him briefly, thank him for repping the model. After which his assistant requested us to design a t-shirt for him as their wrap reward. So, we ended up designing a shirt, it had his signature on the within of it and we printed like 500 of them for anyone that labored within the movie And that was cool, full circle second.”

Via the entire pleasure, from backing native bands in early Bridge 9 days to taking the label worldwide, from promoting bumper stickers and “Yankees Suck” merch exterior Fenway to establishing a reliable model that’s been displayed in motion pictures and main publications, Wrenn’s label was in a position to attain, and surpass, its Twenty fifth 12 months of manufacturing. 25 years of operation holds a lot to look again on and Wrenn had problem selecting only one spotlight.

“[Celebration for our 25th] was presupposed to be 2020. We have been going to do a complete bunch of cool stuff, however clearly, that each one received type of blown up. So we pushed that off to the thirtieth.”

“One of many cool issues about doing a label for me has been discovering new bands, bands that I get enthusiastic about and I need to assist different individuals to know and be capable to hear. And we’ve been ready to try this with a bunch of bands, the earliest one in all probability being American Nightmare as a result of these have been guys I lived with. That they had a demo, they wished to file one thing, and with the ability to be there on the floor stage was very, very cool, realizing their potential and type of serving to them notice it.”

“Nevertheless it’s additionally actually cool, and I discovered as only a music fan, to have the ability to work with bands that I favored earlier than I even began the label. H2O, for instance. I imply, I used to be an enormous H2O fan earlier than I even began Bridge 9. By no means thought after I began the label that I’d ever have an opportunity to work with them, and now we’ve been working collectively for 15 years. Or after I labored with Slapshot for the primary time, I used to be a Slapshot fan in highschool, going into faculty, after which to have the ability to put out a Biggest Hits file for them. That was 20 years in the past, final fall, and to have the ability to proceed to work with them over time, it’s simply, it’s cool.”

With 25 years within the rearview mirror and the thirtieth shortly approaching, Wrenn reveals no indicators of slowing down with both model. Through the COVID shutdown, Bridge 9 shifted their sights away from signing new artists and geared toward Twenty fifth-anniversary reissues.

“So we’ve had, I believe 9 totally different LPs that we’ve put out with like silver jackets and silver vinyl, type of leaning into the Twenty fifth anniversary coloration.

Chris Wrenn (middle, holding signal) and members of Boston’s hardcore-punk scene peddling “Yankees Suck” merch at Fenway in the summertime of 2000

With shutdowns and restrictions a factor of the previous (hopefully for good), Bridge 9 has been in a position to shift again to a give attention to signing new artists. 2023 noticed the signing of two new artists, Heavy Hex and Incendiary System, the discharge of 5 information and seven unique variants, in addition to assurance that rather more is bound to return.


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