Stay Up to date with VRATIM
We're excited to announce that we are now an official shoe and clothing sponsor for PinUp Artist Management / PinUp Presents along with all things related to owner Joel Haston!
The fact we're able to further cement ourselves among the music community further and continue to reach more artists feels really good. It is an honor and a blessing to be working with so many talented individuals.
Head to our Partners page to find all the links to follow and read about PinUp!
For this month's endorsed artist spotlight, we spoke with Francesco Sguera.
Francesco is one of our international artists, hailing from Italy! He has been drumming for quite a few years now most notably playing with the gothic rock band, The Strigas. More recently he has been working on an entrepreneurial project called, Hooplug - a new plug 'n play system for drums/heads (scroll down to check out the video)!
Join us as we discuss drumming, music/life during this pandemic, and get some in-depth information about the Hooplug system!
What made you interested in becoming a drummer?
I started playing drums when I was 12 years old. Actually, it all happened a bit by chance. At that time I met some guys who had just started playing guitar (one of them was Andrea, the current Strigas guitarist), I had a brand new drum kit that my sister had abandoned in the basement and so we started a band called Dish of Beans. We immediately started doing covers of Nirvana, Offspring, Metallica and all that stuff everybody starts with. As time went by, what used to be a game became a passion, especially thanks to the discovery of my biggest source of inspiration, the amazing Travis Barker. Since then, I never stopped dreaming of doing what makes me feel good, listening to tons of music and imagining that one day I would play on the big stages.
This year (2020) has been very challenging for the music industry, how have you been adapting and handling these challenges during this time?
Problems in the music industry certainly didn’t start with Covid-19. The music world has been in trouble for years and the lock-down has only brought to light a difficult situation in an industry that’s already hanging in the balance. The sudden end of live activity and in person concerts has created a huge hole and I (like everyone) feel this lack both as a professional and as a consumer.
During the lock-down, I had the feeling that if I don't structure my day or think about some project, I could risk becoming inert. Every few days I would have drops in motivation and I had difficulty getting used to the new routine. Personally, I find it easier to work towards a goal and knowing for example that in two weeks there are rehearsals with the band and in 3 months a show or a tour, that helps me to find inspiration. Luckily, I had a lot of other things to work on, so after the first period of adjustment I started to work on my projects, and I started to adapt to all these changes. I can't complain about my everyday life, so I try not to worry too much about what is going to happen in six months, since I can't know anyway, so I go ahead and try to get the results I have set for myself hoping that this terrible situation will end as soon as possible. Moreover, if I think about the frenzy of life today, perhaps such a slowdown in the pace can be considered valuable that I hope to be able to maintain in the future, regardless of Covid-19.
In any case, the web today offers enormous opportunities for those in the music industry and what I'm doing is trying to make the most of the resources and possibilities that the digital world offers in these difficult times when personal relationships are diminishing. Luckily, during the first lock-down I had many other things to work on so after the first period of adjustment I started to work on my projects and I started to adapt to all these changes always looking for ways to overcome the problems without ever breaking down.
Your main band is The Strigas, what has been its focus during the pandemic? Have you been writing new music or planning any releases?
Right before the pandemic our main focus was to record our next album and to plan a new tour, then the lock-down came. Luckily Phobos, our frontman, finished writing all the songs right on time, so since we couldn’t schedule a new tour, each one of us focused our time on recording our parts in our personal studios.
Now that the rules for live shows haven’t changed much, we're still recording The Strigas' new album and we're about to record two new releases for our side project Inner Scar, which will be an EP of covers and an EP of brand-new songs.
Everything will be released as soon as possible; we hope in the next few months.
Touring is still a chimera right now, so we're discussing scheduling an online live show for our supporters.
Have you been working on any other projects?
Currently my main efforts are dedicated to my start-up and Hooplug, my patented product that we will be launching shortly on Kickstarter. We are working hard to increase our product's performance and suitability for the needs of as many drummers as possible. In these months we are renovating the first headquarters of the company that in addition to being the logistic, administrative and commercial base of Hooplug, will also be a creative center for the development of innovative products in the music field, with a professional recording studio and rehearsal room in which we will play live sessions and produce entertainment content for all music lovers and especially drummers.
In the meantime I have also started with two other friends a small independent label / communication agency called "2+2=5 music" with the aim to support all those talented young artists who want to approach the music industry, by building a dedicated artistic path and managing all the necessary aspects to enter the market in a professional way.
Can you tell us more about Hooplug? What was the inspiration behind it and how has the development process been going?
Hooplug is an idea that changes the paradigm and maximizes the potential of the drums without limiting your creativity. It is the first universal system that turns the acoustic drums into an extremely versatile instrument. With Hooplug you can open your drums and keep the drumhead straight and tuned.
This way you can do a lot of impressive things:
While returning from a European tour with my band, The Strigas, I immediately started working on an idea that had been in my mind for some time but never had the chance to give real shape. I started to realize my dream trying to solve a need that I was experiencing myself but that I soon found out is a problem that affects most drummers: the transport of the instrument. Honestly, when I started working on this idea it was a moment of confusion and uncertainty in my life. I didn't know which direction my life should take. I was in the midst of a storm, alone in the middle of the sea...then, a glimmer of light... slowly approaching. I started rowing, by myself against everything and everyone, because I wanted to reach that light!
So, I started to research what solutions the market had to offer to solve the transport problem. I tried some of these tools and none of them really satisfied me. I knew more could be done. I began studying alternatives, I did a lot of research, a lot of tests and with the help of other passionate people like me I made the first prototypes, then I put together the puzzle until I reached the final product - what I have always had in mind.
Then, in April 2018 my project was awarded by the Puglia Region, the region in the South of Italy where I live, one of the most Innovative projects amongst others in competition. With the help of these funds I began the start-up, optimized the prototypes and created the Hooplug brand in line with my values and started to communicate this little big revolution to the world.
Unfortunately, the current resources are not enough to start production, that’s why we’re starting a crowdfunding campaign soon. We want to create a community of passionate drummers that can help me design a better Hooplug, give me feedback for improvements and understand the demand for this revolutionary tool. Hooplug is a transparent reality and is customer-oriented from these first stages. Your involvement, your support and your ideas are very important, and all the advice will be taken into consideration because the main goal is your satisfaction. I’m always in between dream and reality. This means that I’ll never abandon music, I will always try to follow a path of study that could give me broader skills to put my dreams to good use. Moreover, my father is an entrepreneur, so I have always lived in a business context and I grew up with the mentality of wanting to work independently without having to rely on anyone. All these aspects have led me to choosing my own lifestyle as opposed to someone else’s. And it’s the best choice I could ever make.
Do you have any words of advice for someone looking to develop a new product or how you find inspiration to develop new ideas?
Don’t let anyone else try to determine your path for you, especially when with regard to your dreams, passions and your future.
Always try to do what feeds your soul, but always respecting and listening to the advice of those who love you. You will probably face many closed doors. All the disappointments and defeats will guide you to clarify your ideas. Don't worry if you don't think you have enough money to make it happen, the thing that really matters is having an idea that works and solves a problem. There are a lot of people in the world who don't have ideas, but they have a lot of money that they would like to invest, so you have to try to get those people involved. If the idea is captivating it is not impossible to find a way to finance it!
Another piece of advice I can give is to not be afraid to talk about it with people who can help you, especially in the first phase when you need to share your idea to know how it is received by your target audience. So, don't be afraid that someone will immediately steal your idea. Most people don't take that risk and wouldn't really start the process to make something happen.
Creating a product is a very complex process and requires a lot of time and resources, but if you and only you really believe in it then you're going to have the right determination to move forward. If you do have a project or idea in mind, do not stop at the first difficulties! Persist and believe in yourself!
Any final thoughts you would like to add?
I would like to thank Thomas and all the Vratim staff with all my heart for the support and professionalism with which they work. Besides making fantastic products they are also musicians and wonderful people. I never expected to receive such attention from such a cool but geographically distant reality. You are there for me and I am there for you, friends! I hope we can meet soon!
We are excited to announce that we have a brand new collaboration with Destroy A Drum!
If you haven't checked out Destroy A Drum they are an awesome brand with a great story that is definitely worth looking into.
Be sure to follow both Vratim and Destroy A Drum on Instagram to get more details about the collaboration like when the item drop will be and a giveaway that's going to happen!
We had lots of people asking for wall flags and we were finally able to make them happen!
Decorate your drum room, add some style to your garage, or just show your support for Vratim!
Each flag is 3' h x 5' w (91.44 cm x 152.4 cm) light-weight polyester with grommets in each corner, so hanging the flags should be as easy as putting on a pair of shoes.
There's no hiding the fact that while we may look like a bigger, established company, we're still very small (like two full time employees small). That being said, it hasn't stopped us from trying to punch above our weight. When we started we knew we were going up against some big names, so we wanted to place an emphasis on building strong relationships with artists we endorse and our customer base. With that being said, we think it's important to be up front with our shipping - especially with some recent feedback on our international shipping times.
We will go over our shipping for both domestic and international orders so hopefully you all understand our position along with getting some insight on what many small companies deal with. It's also important to note that while typing this, the world is trying to work through the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and shipping times are not consistent at all.
Let's start with the domestic shipping services we offer. Currently for domestic orders we offer:
Free shipping: Just like it says - free shipping to you. This means we will choose the most cost effective method of shipping possible. Most shoes when packaged weigh around 3 pounds, but t-shirts often weigh less than a pound and thus we choose the shipping methods accordingly. It is up to our discretion for the shipping method chosen since no preference was purchased.
USPS First-Class Package: This is only available for orders up to 15.9 ounces. It's usually only about $3.00 USD, includes a tracking number, and normally takes about 5-10 business days. This is a great choice when you order a t-shirt or beanie!
USPS Priority Shipping Methods: Any order that weighs over 1 pound has to be shipped via Priority Shipping. This method usually takes 2-5 days and is the primary choice when shipping shoes. We've had great success with both Priority and Priority Express. They arrive quicker than UPS and at a cheaper price.
Here's a chart of USPS Priority Shipping costs (these are the same that are displayed at checkout and the same rates we pay too):
Unfortunately our shoes don't fit in a "Small Flat Rate Box" otherwise that would be our choice, but this is what it costs us usually every time we ship out a pair of shoes.
International orders get a bit more expensive, but the same basic structure is followed. For international order we offer the following choices (there may be some slight variances depending on your location):
USPS Priority Mail International Shipping Methods: This will be our new standard international shipping method as it offers more accurate tracking information, better shipping times, and more reliability when locating missing packages. Below is a chart with the pricing:
These will be the same prices displayed at checkout (unless the USPS updates the quotes).
While USPS Priority Mail International is more reliable and faster than the previously offered First-Class International Shipping, if you need your package within two weeks the best choice will be FedEx. The average cost to ship a pair of shoes via FedEx overseas is usually $150.00 USD or more, however you will have your shoes in your hands very quickly.
In conclusion, there is actually no such thing as free shipping and every year shipping prices go up. We have tried our hardest to absorb as much of the shipping costs as we can for customers, but it is difficult when you are a small company. The obvious solution is to have multiple distribution hubs like Amazon, but unfortunately we are not Amazon.
If you have any questions or concerns please feel free to contact us!
We are always happy to help as best we can!
To be as transparent as possible, we're providing and update on how the pandemic is currently affecting VRATIM.
View our previous statement here.
Business is still being conducted as normal as possible while still promoting wellness, safety, and physical distancing:
Our daily operations have been mostly unaffected. Personally, our staff have been carefully monitoring our social bubble and limiting it to only those we trust. We've been able to maintain our health and will continue to adhere to this practice. With this being said we will still be offering local pickup shipping option, but please do not come to our office/warehouse if you are sick or not feeling well.
As a reminder again, most, if not all, tours throughout 2020 have been postponed or outright cancelled. This includes everything from smaller tours to major tours and festivals. This not only affects the bands/artists, but also the promoters, tour managers, venues, associated venue staff, and even photographers, graphic designers, and recording studios.
During this difficult time, more than ever, it is important to support your favorite artists and venues. Even if you cannot contribute financially, streaming music, sharing your favorite local venue’s GoFundMe, and other simple things like that can be beneficial to those affected.
Hopefully we will all be able to safely be back at shows soon.
Please take care of yourself and loved ones. Stay healthy and stay safe!
If you have any further questions or concerns please don't hesitate to contact us.
-The Vratim Team
Welcome to the first endorsed artist spotlight!
We're kicking things off with long time Vratim artist, Travis Orbin.
Hot off the heels of his 'Finite: Complete' and 'Silly String Redux' releases, we discussed life in quarantine, career highlights, and his newest solo LP 'Finite III' out today!
Be sure to check out the full album stream of 'Finite III' on YouTube as well as Bandcamp!
You started drumming a pretty young age, but when did you really know you wanted to pursue drumming as a career and it wasn't just a phase? Did you always know or was it something that as you played more you wanted to get more serious?
The first time I sat down on my own drum kit, I knew that I wanted to play for the rest of my life. Figuring out how to do it as a profession has morphed over the years, but I'll always be learning, playing, and challenging myself.
Any words of advice for those seeking a career in drumming or music in general?
The two abilities that have been of most benefit to me, both artistically and professionally: knowing how to read and write drum notation, and how to play to a click.
What was one of the hardest skills for you to learn as you were progressing with your drumming/music career?
Unfortunately, I spent a really good chunk of time practicing and playing sans click. When I got 'married' to it, as I like to say, it was a difficult transition. However, the first recording that I made with a band after I had some time with it under my belt was a magical moment; I felt like a professional for the first time, which might be an odd sentiment to read - but it's how I *felt*. Elation!
You've had quite the career so far, what's one of the highlights or achievements that sticks out to you most?
That's a tough one, I'm always kinda taken aback when the spotlight is shone on me more deliberately. There have been some fun tours, some really great records that I've been fortunate to have contributed. Perhaps my first Modern Drummer interview, since that had such nostalgic value as well as intrinsic artistic clout. I'm sure the bigger highlights are still to come, but I'm too busy working to think about that stuff.
You're known for writing some very intricate and progressive drum parts. You also have a rather unique drum configuration described as "minimalist, quasi-open-stance," how and why did you decide on it? Was it developed in conjunction with your development as a musician?
There are a host of factors that led to the evolution of my setup, and they are all detailed in a video that's going on a decade old at this point (yikes!): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jCd3yWXKyEo
A lot of drummers these days put out videos, but few compare to the amount and quality of the content you upload. What made you decided to document the songs you work on so in-depth?
When I built my home studio up to the point that it was 'tracking-ready', at first I dabbled in interpretations of Sky Eat Airplane tunes (my band at the time), videos to showcase parts I had written while in Periphery, and other miscellaneous things. When I began doing sessions regularly, I simply took that concept/work process and applied it to the session work; I didn't really think twice about it. I remember asking Hayato Imanishi of Cyclamen, "Hey, do you mind if I film the session?" and that was that!
With touring at a stand-still and the music industry being mostly on hold, I imagine you've had some additional time on your hands. How have you been staying busy during the lock down due to coronavirus (COVID-19)? You just released "Finite: Complete" and "Silly String Redux," was that your primary focus during lock down or can we expect more releases?
Life in quarantine is honestly not much different than 'regular life' for me, I've always led a fairly monastic existence. The big indicator for me is that my last tour took place in January, so everything after is kind of a swirled whirlwind of creativity. In no particular order: I've done session work for numerous artists, tracked bass and basic iPad synths for an EP I've been picking at (for which I am now currently writing more songs to add to and will probably turn into an LP), composed an LP, finished work on 'Finite III' and 'Silly String Redux', mastered both of those records along with 'Finite: Complete' with my friend Taylor Larson, did a solid week of video production to promote those three records (along with doing the album art, ordering CDs to be pressed, submitting for copyright, blah blah blah!), and I'm now currently rehearsing the next solo LP (which is the aforementioned one that I composed while in lockdown). I'm probably forgetting some stuff, haha.
For everyone that preordered an item from out VRATIM X APAHM Line, thank you for your patience - we're happy to announce all items will be shipping today!
Thank you all for helping us support The John Vietnam Education Fund.
If you weren't able to preorder an item, we still have some in stock and will continue to donate proceeds from each sale as the items sell!
Some of you might not be aware, but Vratim is actually a minority owned and operated business! Two of our owners, Nguyễn Thị Bích Ngọc and Thomas Trường Filbert (mother and son respectively), are Vietnamese. Our shoes and some of our other products are even made in Việt Nam too. Additionally, one of our artist reps, Tyler Saczawa, is actually Korean with his birth name being Seung Won Li 승원.
Because of this we wanted to do something special for Asian Pacific American Heritage Month here in the United States. We will be releasing a special new line with 20% of each sale being donated to The John Vietnam Education Fund which provides education for the poor children and college scholarships for the young students in Vietnam.
Check out the new Vratim X APAHM line now!
Below is a letter written by Ngoc, to all of our friends, family, customers, and supporters offering some more insight:
During the Tet Offensive in 1968, the North Vietnamese were taking over my hometown. My grandfather decided it was best that we leave town and go to the safe haven called Con Phung. We left with just the clothes on our back, barely enough money or food, walking all the way, and taking the back roads sometimes ditches. Along the way we met many kind strangers who shared their food and shelter with us. One even gave my grandfather an umbrella to keep him cool under the hot sun. Even though I was a child at the time I've never forgotten their kindness. For some time, I have been thinking of a way to return the kindness back to my countrymen and found this great opportunity to do so.
The war has been over for almost three decades. Viet Nam has rebuilt itself - life for many has improved tremendously, but there are still many more Vietnamese lives in poverty. Some live with no running water, in thatch roof houses, and barely enough food. Most of these people that live in remote cities earn their living by selling anything from food to various merchandise or working as laborers, servers, farm workers, and other various low income jobs. The average income for these people is little more than $100 a month to take care of their family, oftentimes including elderly parents who are living with them. In Viet Nam there is no program to help senior citizens, single mothers, or scholarships for young students to enter college.
Here in the United States, May is Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. We would like to take this opportunity to help the charity, Children of Vietnam, which began in 1998 by Mr. Ben Wilson and Ms. Luong Thi Huong, two friends who started out bringing food, medicine, clothing, etc. on a scooter to the poor children and their families in the Viet Nam countryside. Today Children of Vietnam is a well established organization providing care for children with disabilities, education, housing, nutrition along with helping single mothers to be self-sufficient. One can even travel with them to Viet Nam and see their program at work!
Part of Children of Vietnam is The John Vietnam Education Fund which provides education for the poor children and college scholarships for the young students. John “Vietnam” Nguyen was a young Vietnamese rapper from Uptown Chicago who passed away in 2012 while saving a friend’s life. John Nguyen spent his life promoting a positive attitude, peace, and inspiring youth to achieve their goal. He also donated the proceeds of his CD sales to the Children of VietNam organization helping the vulnerable Vietnamese children. We are inspired by John’s example and will be donating a portion of the proceeds from these t-shirt sales toward his education fund.
We appreciate your support and thank you for working with us to help those in need!
-Ngoc / The Vratim Team
We hope everyone is staying healthy and safe during these times.
As we all do our best to practice social distancing and staying home, we know that sometimes it's still necessary to go out for essential items like food...and toilet paper. We also know it's been getting more difficult to find masks to wear when going out for essential items.
We were able to purchase some extra masks and will be giving away a mask with each order along with our normal stickers and coupons.
We know it isn't much, but hopefully it comes in handy.
Also, if you don't need the mask, we encourage you to give it to someone else that might need one!
Here's to working together so we can all get back to touring, going to shows, and being around friends!
-The Vratim Team
P.S. If you desperately need a mask, please send us a message/email and we'll help as best we can.