On first impressions the word 'Hopeless', as a name for a record label ,sounded a bit pessimistic to me. That was simply because the word 'hopeless'generally has a negative meaning rather than the positive one. Things are, however, never the way they seem at the beginning.

If you check out the Hopeless Records website on www.hopelessrecords.com you will find that the only thing that the Californian-based record label has been hopeless is in keeping the number of their releases down. That, to me, is only a very positive thing.

Hopeless Records has in the course of the 10 years since it was first established by Louis Posen in 1993 put out over 80 releases by a wide variety of punk bands. As the years passed, the label expanded, taking on more bands, including Atom and His Package, Thrice, The Queers, Against All Authority, Selby Tigers and many many more. In 1999 it even established a sister side project called Sub City Records which donates some of its profit to various charities.

This is shape of the label now but I was wondering how the whole project started and it evolved into what it is today - one of the biggest independent punk record labels in the world.

"Hopeless Records started in December of 1993." Louis Posen the founder and president of Hopeless Records, recalls talking to Pennyblackmusic. "I was working making music videos for bands. At that time I was directing a video for a band called Guttermouth and they were looking for a label. They were kind of joking about who could put out a 7 inch for them and they asked me if I would do it. So I just went and bought a book from a book store called 'How To Run An Independent Record Label',and just put out a 7" called '11 Hours' without really having a label or a business plan."

The explanation for the name of the record label 'Hopeless' is much more simple then I thought. "The only reason that I decided to call the label Hopeless explains Louis "was because it was the name of the first song on the 7". That made it easy."

As Louis has said, he established Hopeless Records without any real intention of going on to do on more releases after the first one. I have previously talked to other people who run independent record labels and noen of them have ever intended to put out any more than a few more releases. Even one record seems to be enough, however, for them to get hooked and a few years on they are still out there releasing more and more music.

"The 2nd and 3rd releases were very similar." Louis continues. "They were sort of single releases that I put out as a hobby. In 1995 I decided to do the label full time as I realized that it was probably better to go into music than continue on directing music videos."

Since 1995 Hopeless Records has expanded rapidly, putting out more and more releases. More and more people began to work for the label.

"Different people have come in different ways" says Louis when I ask about who the people are behind Hopeless Records. "They came either through the reference of a friend or a colleague or just by submitting a resume."

Another challenge came in 1999 when Hopeless Records launched their sister label Sub City.

"We realized how many people we were reaching with Hopeless" explains Louis. "We put out 'Hopeless Devoted To You Too', a label sampler, in 1998 and sold over 100 000 copies! We then realized we were really reaching a lot of people, thjat there were fans of our bands and the label, and we should do something positive about that and try to make a difference for the amount of people that we were reaching."

"Another good reason for launching Sub City" Louis adds "is that 5% of the retail price is donated to non profit organization." There are various charities that the label sponsors such as Crittenton Service, H.E.A.R., Art City, Diana Price Fish Foundation and many, many more. That is very much positive thing as well."

The number of the bands that have appeared on Hopeless Records and Sub City is quite stunning. It will be definitely enlarging still further in the future.With countless bands out there looking for a record label, Hopeless Records and Sub City can, however,only put out releases by a few of them. The question is how to decide which ones to go for.

"That's always a tough decision" admits Louis. "We treat it kind of like any relationship. First you get to know each other. You do some dating and you exchange what your principals and values are and what your goals are and hopefully after that process is done you realise that you are on the same path and it would work together."

Once the label decide they want to work with a band and the band are interested as well the label comes up with an offer.

"In general we sign bands to multiple record deals" rveals Louis. "Each deal is similar and we try to treat all the bands the same, but there are sometimes differences as some bands have different goals then others and some are in different places with their careers."

Hopeless Records's bands get lots of support from the label and any advice or help they need. "We have an outside booking agent for our bands" says Louis. "So any of our bands can just hook up with a booking agent and they will organise a tour for them. Bands mostly tour in US, but come over to Europe as well at least once a year."

Bands that "sign" to Hopeless Records are always given full control over their releases. That applies not only to music but also designing the artwork for their releases. "We will give our bands suggestions based on our experience" explains Louis. "But they are the ones that are making the ultimate decision."

Being a employee of a record company can be very exciting, but it can also involve a lot of hard work and you always don't get time to go and see your favourite bands. "I used to go to tours with our bands more than I do now" Louis admits. "I love going to shows. I do go to all our local shows though. The bands are there they are counting on us to be here and sell and market the record and that's our job."

"Except, I am definitely more of a person behind the scene" he adds. "I feel much more comfortable to be part of the process."

All the effort that Hopeless Records staff put into their work pays off and, considering the number of fans all over the world, is certainly something to be proud of. "Absolutely!" enthuses Louis when I suggest it. "There is nothing like going to see a band when we first sign them and there is 20 people at their show and then a year or 2 later and there are 1000 people singing along to all their songs. There is nothing like that feeling."

Hopeless Records are definitely still interested in new bands and hearing more great music. "We are always looking for new band" confirms Louis. "We don't want to over extend ourselves with what we can live up to with our commitments, but we always want to grow and hear new music. You never know what you are going to come across."

As regards forthcoming releases, Hopeless have a lot for us to look forward to. "We have a CD, DVD and VHS compilation called 'Cinema Beer Buddy'coming out July 8th." Louis reveals. "It's got a great line-up. It has Jimmy Eat World, Midtown and Thursday, Thrice and Taking Back Sunday and bunch of other that's going to be really good!"

"We also have a new band, Melee, that we have just signed. Their debut EP 'Against The Tide' is coming out July the 8th as well. They are going to have a following in early 2004."

"On September 9th we have Take Action Vol 3, which is a compilation series that we put out on Sub City which benefits the whole National Hopeline Network, 1-800-SUICIDE and that will be a double CD with probably over 30 bands and much more!" he concludes with great enthusiasm.

A lot of things have have happened in the 10 years since Hopeless Records was founded. There have been many successes in the past. Finally, after founding out so much about Hopeless Records, I wondered what Louis has valued the most in the last ten years. "Survival." He laughs. "I think it's never easy. While some things may become easier others become more difficult. You always have to be proactive and coming up with new ideas and improving. You should never get content in where you are or you fall behind."

I think Louis's last words sum up our chat perfectly and also answer many questions about the success of Hopeless Records. I have no doubt this record label is definitely "hopeful" for the future.

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