Unlike most young adults fresh out of college, Jamie Mandel has a plan. As Colonel John "Hannibal" Smith demonstrated to TV audiences and the rest of the A-Team time and time again — that's important.
At 22, Mandel has a unique vantage point enabling him to look back on an already long list of accomplishments while simultaneously setting his sights as far down the road as his earnestness and Xavier-issued liberal arts degree will take him. The self-proclaimed "suburban Punk rocker with an activist streak" is all about getting his hands dirty, because, as the saying goes, "If you want something done right ..."
Maybe you've heard of Nice Guy Records, or seen or heard Jamie's old band, The Scrubs, or his new band, Caruso. Maybe you've checked out upcoming show listings at www.cincinnatishows.com (a site Mandel voluntarily maintains) or, better yet, even attended a show he's promoted through Nice Guy Productions (he's worked with at least a thousand great Punk bands and counting, so chances of that are pretty good). If so, great. If not, we've got a lot of ground to cover.
While all of Mandel's endeavors could easily exist independently of each other, it's safe to say his primary focus — and the glue binding them all together — is the label. Initially started as a means to release material by The Scrubs, it wasn't long before Nice Guy Records sprouted legs of its own.
A couple of compilations and a series of releases from national and international artists like the Fonzarellies and the Travoltas helped Jamie and the label outgrow their Cincinnati britches real quick. Now in its third year, the label is precariously straddling that fine line between local success story and national contender. With an impressive roster of bands and a full slate of releases scheduled for the coming year, it's safe to assume that Mandel's time, energy and bank account will be working overtime. But as he stressed in a recent interview with CityBeat, come hell or high water, he's ready to make a go of it.
CityBeat: So you've graduated from college. How do you think things will differ for Nice Guy now that you're out of school?
Jamie Mandel: Well, the time I spend per week on Nice Guy has varied because my life is crazy, but it's usually between 30 and 50 hours. Some weeks I was busy with school, now I'll have no excuse. Come January I'm gonna try and do the label fulltime — give it a crack. The worst that could happen is I'll fail miserably and have to start over in a couple years, but I'll have a college degree, so I'll end up somewhere. If I could just spend a few years doing something I absolutely love and want to do more than anything, then I'll be happy. That's probably more than most people get to do. I mean, I'm going to Japan on a Rock & Roll tour! (Jamie accompanied Nice Guy recording artists Bottom Line on their Japanese tour supporting fellow Pop-punkers, Midtown. Needless to say, in the days before his departure he was understandably excited.) How cool is that?! I have a feeling it will be pretty wild.
CB: What are you concentrating on right now as far as the label goes?
JM: Well, in case you haven't noticed, Bottom Line are kind of the heart and soul of Nice Guy right now. For the past two years now it's just been me and them hammering away. People always say, "How did Bottom Line do this?" or "How did they get on this show?" They worked hard — they earned it. I can't manufacture a band. Bottom Line are a bunch of 17-year-olds, and they're out there playing the Warped Tour and doing Japan and stuff. Cincinnati has a warm place in our heart, but we've always had a national focus. Like, I'm releasing this album from a Boston band called the Anchor Set. It doesn't make a lot of sense for me to do it financially, because no one knows who they are, but I feel so strongly about the record that I really think it needs to be out there. I think people will like it, but if they don't "get it," at least I can know and be proud that I put out a quality product. I've got a general good feeling about things though. Sales are up, so of course spending is up. Advertising, making posters, making stickers, sending out promo copies ... it all costs money.
CB: Where do you envision Nice Guy going in the future?
JM: Ultimately, I would like to build the label into a nonprofit organization. I don't know if I'll ever be making enough money to actually do this, but I have no desire to just accumulate money. My two biggest passions in life, other than the people in my life, are putting out Punk Rock music, and I have this activist streak. I've always wanted to combine the two. Sub City Records, for instance — they do really cool stuff. They tell how much money exactly they're donating to charity. Epitaph just launched a charities project where they're donating $50,000. Well, if I had 50 grand I'd donate it, too. But why not take it a step further than Sub City and Epitaph and make the label a nonprofit organization? If I'm making enough money to put out the CDs and do all the advertising and run the label, I'd take a salary for myself that's enough to live on. I obviously don't need anything outlandish. And if my bands are making enough money ... they don't need anything outlandish or they wouldn't be in Punk bands. Maybe people would be more involved and care more if Punk Rock and the causes that Punk rockers claim to care about were more fused together. Ideally, I don't even want the label to be big enough to where I have a bunch of employees under me, 'cause I'm not interested in controlling people. If I could just farm out things like distribution, that would be great.
To find out more about Jamie Mandel, Nice Guy and all the bands he's worked with, check out www.niceguyrecords.com. Bottom Line plays Bogart's on Saturday.