Interview: Solé On Fixies, Lifestyle Brands, and Hanging on the West Side

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Since 2010, Solé has been pumping out fixed gear bikes with a laid back SoCal vibe and the music to match. Their Fixtape (Fixies+Mixtapes) series has received praise from the blogosphere with artists including The Knocks, RAC, Classixx, Viceroy, Goldroom, Treasure Fingers, and many more. With tape #13 just dropping this month and a slew of new ones lined up, Solé looks like it’s the only brand that’s really using music organically as a marketing tool. What’s their secret? They’re fans just like us.

We decided to sit down with one of the boys behind the Fixtapes and talk about how they got such impeccable taste over the last dozen or so mixtape selections and what their plans for the future are. We also raged with them at a party in Santa Monica, and guess what? We made you a video. Check out the footage from the event and be sure to read our interview with Solé’s own Brian Ruben.

How long has Sole been around for?
Technically it’s been around for 3 years, but it only really took off in the last year or so. There were a couple of us that went to school in southern Cal and we just noticed that the [fixed gear bicycle] trend was really blowing up and at a school like University of Southern California everyone rides bikes. And, you know, we were just walking home from class one day and saw these fixies popping up so we pulled over these kids who were riding them and we were like “Hey, where did you get these,” and the answer was they built them for around $1,000. So we kind of looked at each other and just said fuck that, let’s make them ourselves for a fraction of the cost.

Interesting story. So you said you took off in the last year, but I’ve got to imagine entering into the bike business must have been difficult as it’s a pretty oversaturated market.
Since we started the company, I think we were really the first ones to commoditize the fixed gear market, where you can go out and buy a fixed gear at an affordable rate. What we tried to do was think outside of the box for ways that we could differentiate ourselves from other companies, besides just getting down to lowering the cost of the bike or changing the colors. We wanted to think of ways to share the brand and the lifestyle that is Solé.

If I told you five years ago that headphones were going to be a lifestyle brand, you probably would have laughed in my face. Now, there are so many lifestyle headphones out there that the market is totally oversaturated. Beats [By Dre] really paved the way, and now they’re not even a headphone company they’re a marketing company. There was never a bike brand that entered into the lifestyle space so that was why we were like let’s go for it.

Jumping off of that – let’s talk music. Dance music has become a serious cash cow in the last few years and everyone wants a piece of the action but there are only a few brands doing it right  – what has been your strategy in really embracing music as a pillar of your marketing plan?
It’s funny you say that, because there’s a lot of companies out there that we’ve noticed have really forced music integrations because everyone wants to jump on the bandwagon and surround themselves with this new landfall of money. For us, every month we release a fixtape and we’re very selective with the artists that we choose. We tried to choose a genre of music that showcases our lifestyle – kind of the careless, endless summer, feel good, poolside, no worries, work hard/play hard, kind of vibe – and that’s portrayed in a lot of the artists we’ve selected so far for the fixtapes.

How did the idea for the fixtape come around?
The idea for the fixtape sort of came around because a lot of people purchase our bikes for a simple commute – to work, to school, to get a coffee. These aren’t high performance athletes. They’re normal people and these commutes are anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour. So we thought to ourselves, what would be a great way to create a mixtape for these rides so people don’t have to fumble with their phones. A mixtape that’s perfect for riding.

quote 400x281 Interview: Solé On Fixies, Lifestyle Brands, and Hanging on the West Side

So we approached our artists and asked what they would want to listen to while riding one of our bikes. Create a mixtape that inspires you to move.

I love all the fixtapes. Is there anyone at your brand who is specifically behind your decisions for the artists on each one?
A lot of it is just that I’m just a huge music/blog junkie, but there’s a guy I met named David La Melza and he’s one of the co-founders of a music blog called Gotta Dance Dirty – and I don’t even remember how we met but he also DJs under the name Tropicool so we both kind of came to the conclusion that he should do our first volume. This is well before we knew what we were even doing with it, we didn’t even think it was going to become a series.

Then the fixtape started getting some decent press in the blog world so the next step was reaching out to David’s contacts from Gotta Dance Dirty. So we had Treasure Fingers for number two, then we went with RAC for the third one because they happen to be good buddies of ours. So you know we get talent that may not be a household name, but they just come up through us noticing sick songs and names popping up around the blogosphere and then approaching them. It’s really organic. We like to pride ourselves on good taste in music.

So your secret weapon is that you’re fans?
Yeah, if you boil it down to one thing our secret is that we’re fans.

You’re 13 Fixtapes deep at this point – can you give us any preview of what’s to come?
We’ve got some pretty cool ones coming up. Just to give you a little taste…we’ve got some of the French Express crew. We’ve also got some young brother out of the UK who are really blowing up. That’s all I can really say, but I can tell you that we’ve got Bondax coming up for a tape real soon. We’ve also got one coming from Snakehips for July.


quote2 400x202 Interview: Solé On Fixies, Lifestyle Brands, and Hanging on the West SideJust to finish up – you’ve got an event this Saturday in LA with Plastic Plates, Le Youth, Steffi Graff, Tropicool, and Treo.

Yeah, this is going to be our second event at V-Lounge. We’re going to try to do four each year on the west side. At our first one we had Goldroom, Moonboots, and U-Tern.

Yeah that was a great one.
You went?

Yeah I’m not missing a Goldroom show over on the west side. All the good music is always up in Hollywood.
That’s what we want to do with our events. We want them on the west side because we don’t want to make the $80 cab ride to Hollywood. Getting to Hollywood is such a pain in the ass. If I didn’t live on the west side I’d be at every Private Label event but it’s just annoying. So we throw our events close to home.