By: Tyler Evans
We're accustomed to our OC bands leaving the nest to migrate to LA . But it rarely happens with our record labels. Recently, Fearless records made a leap up north to open up shop in LA on Jefferson Blvd. from their office in Sunset Beach as they continue to grow the label. We're happy to hear about Fearless' expansion (their mostly known these days for churning out Warped Tour-caliber bands like Motionless in White, Pierce the Veil and The Color Morale). We were also a bit bummed to hear they moved and also curious as to what the new digs were like. So they offered to give us the grand tour of the new office.
The label, which began in Westminster in 1992, started with founder Bob Becker humbly hocking records on consignment. That was a step up from selling records at local shows (which he did), but also much different from his previous gig selling precious metals like gold and silver to wealthy businessmen before starting the label full time . He called it "Fearless," because it was how he felt at the time when it came to starting his own label that would eventually help put OC's alt-rock scene on the map.
The new LA building sits inconspicuously in a hive-like business park a stones throw from Rodeo Drive. As far as offices go, it's still a pretty no-frills operation. There's a large television (featuring an interview with Eric Clapton on my visit – odd considering they're a label with an audience 20 or 30 years shy of Clapton's), in the back is a kitchen, complete with a pool table.
On a recent Wednesday afternoon, Fearless is busy, humming, hard and post-modern–complete with concrete floors– like a factory, but serene, like your high school on a Saturday. Everyone has clear, glass walls, and they look like teenagers brooding in their bedrooms, too engrossed in what they're doing to even look up. There are posters, records in every nook and cranny inside the offices, accentuated with a simple desk and computer in the middle.
Label owner Bob Becker, who says he still does have an office in Orange County, walks by. Becker doesn't carry himself like a record executive from the movies, much less a label owner. He's casual, wearing a t-shirt and blue jeans, unassuming. Of course the label's office walls lined with gold and platinum records and press tell us he's a bigger deal than he lets on. Though the bedrock of their product is mid-aughts metalcore, Becker says there's still more room to grow.
"We've expanded our sound a little bit," Becker says. "But we did something a long time ago that bigger labels still haven't totally adapted to," Becker tells me. "We really embraced the internet and all things digital."
Whether accidentally or on purpose, Becker one day realized that social media platforms provided an unprecedented opportunity for his label to build an intimate relationship, unfiltered and direct, with the kids buying his music. It also means that Fearless became as much a part of the conversation as the bands they sign.
As radio continues to became unnecessary; the playing field is now leveled. And fans aren't hanging out at clubs as much anymore, they're hanging out online.
"We took full advantage of it," Becker tells me, "We still do."
Even now, after having smash hits like "Hey There Delilah," with the Plain White T's, they're still trying to keep things even keel. What some might consider cash-grab efforts, like the incredibly popular "Punk Goes…" compilations – which Becker jokingly admitted to me wasn't very punk — are used, ultimately, to create maximum exposure for artists that they truly believe in.
The spirit of what made music alive and tangible still lives in that office and in the heart of Becker, who is still a big teenager, with a love and admiration for the industry that has made him outlast the competition. But he doesn't want to become the biggest label in the world, he wants to help guide fellow indies and majors on the path back home.
Through all of the years, the triumphs and tribulations, it turns out that Becker is still the same guy running a label out of his garage- but now, the garage is a lot bigger.