It's a Friday-night hardcore show at Club Q in Davie, and the inevitable pit standoff is in full swing. Some newbie has taken exception to the teenage skinheads' penchant for Tae-Bo high kicks and is doing his best to start a brawl. "Enough!" yells Trust No One singer Chris Coach. "There are no rules in the pit!" While Coach lectures on moshing etiquette, Trust No One guitarist John Wylie rolls his eyes and tunes up. He's seen this a thousand times before, both as promoter for bimonthly shows at Club Q during the past four years and during an eight-year hitch touring the world in a succession of five hardcore bands. And those are just his hobbies. Wylie's main gig since 1997 has been running local punk-rock label Eulogy Recordings -- a rock of Gibraltar in an unstable indie world. With 37 releases under its belt and seven more due by summer, Eulogy owes its success to the 27-year-old's monster work ethic, networking skills, and unflagging honesty. "I make a living at this," Wylie affirms. "And any band on my roster will tell you they've been treated fairly."
Wylie's adherence to the straight and narrow in Eulogy's dealings is no accident. It stems from his absolute frustration with every record label he's ever dealt with. The tone was set when Culture, Wylie's first serious band, sent out demos and received an offer to do a single on microlabel Overshadow. "We were stoked," he recalls, "until they mailed us the records, asked us to make some Xeroxed covers, stuff them, and mail them back." When it came time for 1995's full-length Born of You, Culture hooked up with Michigan label Conquer the World, which produced the album's artwork without consulting the band. "It looked like it was done on a Commodore 64 greeting-card program," Wylie winces. Still, Culture was enough to propel the band out of Florida and spread the word of South Florida's burgeoning hardcore scene.
After Wylie left Culture in 1996, he went back to Conquer the World with his new project, Morning Again. The resultant five-song EP, Hand of Hope, sold several thousand copies due to the band's tireless roadwork. Unfortunately, Conquer the World didn't bother to pay the band royalties. "They kept claiming they didn't repress the record," Wylie recalls. "But we found out differently, so we told them to fuck off." Morning Again then rereleased Hand of Hope on a Belgian hardcore label called Good Life. For the next 18 months Morning Again racked up van mileage in both the U.S. and Europe. All five members moved into the same apartment to save money: "It might seem cramped to some, but it had more room than the van."
While on the road, Wylie talked with enough bands and labels to convince him that he should strike out on his own. Out of his Dania Beach home, he launched Eulogy Records, which boasts one full-time employee -- Dan Mazin, who does a little bit of everything.
In October 1997, Eulogy released its first product: Self, Dare You Still Breathe? by militant Miami straight-edgers Bird of Ill Omen. Taking a two-pronged approach to promotion and distribution, Wylie first traded CDs with every label he could, then began promoting shows around South Florida. "If you have a label and a band going at the same time, it makes sense," he explains. "Not only do you make sure you and your bands have a place to play; you also have a place to sell your merchandise." After taking his hardcore traveling circus on a tour of South Florida's punk venues, Wylie settled on Davie's battered Club Q. "At every other club, when something got broken, there was a problem," drawls the workaholic. "But at Club Q, as long as you pay for the damage, there's no problem."
While the home cooking was good, Morning Again experienced wanderlust. Their second CD for Good Life Recordings, the seven-song Martyr, attracted the attention of prestigious hardcore imprint Revelation Records. The label signed Morning Again and bought plane tickets so the band could tour Europe for a month with New York hardcore mainstays Agnostic Front. Everything was hunky-dory until the band showed up at Good Life's office in Kortrijk, Belgium. Morning Again wasn't getting paid to tour and hoped the label would help with expenses. But when the band arrived, Good Life said no way. "We asked them how we were supposed to eat and pay rent," Wylie remembers, "and they couldn't care less."
When they got home, Morning Again quickly found out their label troubles weren't restricted to the old country. Revelation wanted to dump all its heavy bands onto a less-visible subsidiary label. "We had specific language in the contract saying they couldn't do that," Wylie says, "and we let them know it." After much badgering, Revelation finally relented and released Morning Again's first full-length, As Tradition Dies Slowly, in 1998. But extricating himself and his bands from the label's clutches was far from painless for Wylie, for whom the damage had been done. Burnt out, he refocused his energy close to home and began a retro-punk side project called Where Fear and Weapons Meet. Meanwhile, Eulogy released A New Found Glory's debut album, Nothing Gold Can Stay. Both bands got an immediate reaction, but New Found Glory quickly wound up engaged to a major label who'd picked up the record. "John is our friend," tells New Found Glory guitarist Chad Gilbert. "We love his label, but he knew we wanted to be as successful as possible and did nothing to stand in our way."
In November 1999, Wylie left Where Fear and Weapons Meet and began hardcore-metal outfit Until the End the following January. In May 2000, Until the End hooked up with hardcore giant Equal Vision Records -- "the only label other than mine I'd ever trust," Wylie declares -- and released a self-titled EP. He entered Eulogy into an agreement with German label Alveran Records, which handles distribution and promotion in Europe. "We see the bands on their label as our bands and vice versa," he says. Domestically, Eulogy struck a deal with Lumberjack Distribution, which has simplified matters and offered security, Wylie claims: "They have so many bands and labels under their net, it's impossible for someone to stiff them and get away with it."
Having excised more shadiness than an Agent Orange drop, Wylie and Eulogy have reduced the record business to the simple process of making records. In the absence of drama, Eulogy has thrived; an average release sells 6,000 to 8,000 copies. As the company pays its bands with CDs rather than cash, its overhead is low. Eulogy's diverse release schedule for 2002 includes an EP from Dashboard Confessional and full-lengths by Orlando pop-punkers Unsung Zeros and Louisville emo rockers Christiansen. To celebrate the new year, Wylie is hosting the two-day, 12-band "Eulogy Fest 2002" at Club Q. "It's amazing how the same people who won't go out to see a local show will show up to anything if it's called a festival," he smirks. "Every band is "local' somewhere."
Get the Music Newsletter
Keep your thumb on the local music scene each week with music news, trends, artist interviews and concert listings. We'll also send you special ticket offers and music deals.