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IF ONE SUCCEEDS, WE ALL DO :: A CHAT W/ THOSE FOLKS

IF ONE SUCCEEDS, WE ALL DO :: A CHAT W/ THOSE FOLKS

By Alina Nguyen

Those Folks ain’t no jokes, local Venice homie locs,” muses Rick Klotz, artist and founder of Freshjive, at the end of an interview with Those Folks on their site. He continues,Them Folks are yolks, lock, stock, and barrel blokes, dem motherfuckers even feeding homeless folks.” And it’s true.

From the slogan proudly emblazoned on their site (“The truth is, if one of us succeeds, we all do”) to the brand name itself, it’s always been about the crew from day one, even before they were Those Folks. Richard Massie, the founder, was signed by Dogtown over a decade ago at the age of 13: “My friends didn’t believe me when I got sponsored! But I’d still bring them along every time and get them product.” Out of an injury during his time sponsored by Rogue Status that prevented him from skating, he started blogging, making stickers and tees, and in that downtime, he found inspiration and began Those Folks. We met up with Richard and his homies on Friday at the beautiful Venice Beach Skate Park for a photo shoot and interview. We opted not to shoot there because he said, “Colgate and shit shoot their commercials here,” echoing the bitterness of locals like him who grew up in Venice watching gentrification mar the culture and yuppify the face of their city day by day. He brought his friends along, saying he didn’t want to be in the limelight or be portrayed as Those Folks’ “poster boy.” “I consider my friends my family and Those Folks is my family of friends,” says Richard. “Yeah, we slang cotton but that’s not all it’s about.”

Through the hard work that Richard and his friends have invested and put into the brand, they’ve been coming up consistently since they started from their run of 50 T-shirts that they gave away for free in 2009. The Hundreds is very proud to announce that soon, Those Folks will be carried at our Santa Monica, San Francisco, and New York flagship stores. There’s currently a raffle held at THSM for a limited edition 1 of 2 Those Folks silver ring. It looks dope as hell, too. Half of all proceeds will be donated to Action Against Hunger. Klotz wasn’t lying when he said “dem motherfuckers even feeding homeless folks.”

On the Those Folks site, they proudly list the definition of the word folks as “the representatives of a traditional way of life” - “the originators and carriers of customs.” Out of Venice - the real Venice - this is them. This is Those Folks.

In your interview with The Corsair two years ago, you talked about putting all your profits back into Those Folks. Is that still the case today?
We were making a profit, but I wasn’t taking anything, you know what I mean? Everything we made went straight back into the brand so we could make more stuff. It’s still the same to this day. Everything that we make goes back into the company. I don’t take anything for myself and I feel like that’s the right thing to do. It’s more important to make money later than to make money now.

Can you tell us more about how Those Folks started and the people behind it?
Me and my friend Tiimo started the brand, we just recently partnered with Merf, who is a friend of mine that watched me grow up. He just stepped in as a business partner/investor. On paper it’s the 3 of us who own the brand, but then I have 2-3 other friends that help out with designs and whatever else they can. I wasn’t really planning on starting a streetwear brand. Initially I just wanted a blog to post the photos I was taking. The first thing I did was get a website in 2008, but we didn’t start selling product until a year after that. We sold our first product in 2009 I believe.

Was that around the time you got in that accident?
Yeah, in 2007 I hurt my knee skateboarding. And at the time that was all I did. I went from skateboarding all day, everyday, to not being able to do that at all. And that was kind of a depressing stage in my life. I didn’t know what to do, I wasn’t skateboarding. I started to get into photography. I had a couple different cameras and I was just taking a lot of pictures. At first I just wanted to blog.

I was sponsored by Rogue Status at the time and when I hurt my knee I was just hanging out there at their store. That’s when they were still building their brand, so I’d see the pictures they’d put on their blog. They’d even take pictures of me and my friends and put it on their blog, and I would just see the whole process of coming up with designs and printing shirts. I was sitting back watching them, and I felt like I could do that. It wasn’t like, that’s what I want to do, but I felt like I could do that, you know? I have tons of ideas and I really liked their blog. I thought, I’m gonna start a blog. I mentioned it to one friend, I told him, “I wanna start a website to post my photos. Do you know somebody who builds websites that could help me?“ I didn’t know anything about that. He plugged me in with Tiimo who is my business partner now. So we meet and he’s like, “So what do you want your website to be called?” I had NO idea what I wanted it to be called. So I was just sitting there thinking, we’re at the computer screen waiting to type in the domain to see if it’s taken and I’m just like uhhh...

So what did you do?
When I was younger my friends and I used to write “7 Day Weekend” on our skateboards. I heard someone say it before and we were so young, all we did was skate, so it was like, “We’re living a 7 day weekend.” So that was the original name that we wanted for the blog. I didn’t know it was gonna turn into a company. I thought that would be a cool name for a blog. Turns out, it was taken.

7dayweekend.com?
I found out later it was taken by a band. So I was sitting there thinking and I didn’t know what to call it. I could’ve named it anything. And then it just popped in my head “Those Folks.” And I was like, that sounds RIGHT. We typed it in and it was free, it was open. It just sounded right.

It sounds like with Those Folks and even with 7 Day Weekend, the brand has always been about the crew. Has it always been about your group of friends and never about just you?
Yes! That’s what it’s always been about. I was into photos, but I was never taking pictures of myself, I was always taking pictures of my friends and what we did on the regular. Who we are and what we were into. That’s originally what I was into. I didn’t know what I wanted to do, but I knew I wanted to do something that would benefit my friends and would create opportunities for me and my friends. Something that would make my family happy. I really didn’t know what I was trying to do. Still to this day, it’s not about me. I don’t even like to post pictures of myself on the blog. That’s why earlier, I said, “Yo, I don’t like to be in the limelight, it’s not about me. It’s about US.” That’s why when you guys were coming to meet me, I said I invited friends. I thought that was better. I’m kind of weird when it comes to that, I don’t want to be the poster boy of Those Folks.

Those Folks is a collective.
That was the whole idea of me starting this. When I was growing up I knew all my friends were talented. Some would skateboard, some made music, and some of them are just great artists. Whatever it is, I wanted to build something that would push what we were all into. Something that would tie us all in that we could do together. That’s what it’s been since the beginning, who we are and what we’re about. This is us, this is just a part of our life. I want to shine a light on who we all are and the culture that we live.

The homie Chris jumping in the canal. Richard said he’d give him “some product” from their new Spring line if he’d do it (good choice of words, Richard!). The guys were telling a story about a time when they were just chilling here on the bridge and some old lady came through backstroking. Rocko: “That shit was shady!” Richard: “You need to jump in a pond of holy water after that shit.”

You’ve mentioned that it’s not about streetwear. Can you tell us more about that?
I’m not a huge fan of streetwear nor do I follow it very much. I hate to label it as that or even as a clothing line. Like, yeah, we slang cotton but that’s not all it’s about. We’re just making a living off of our hobbies. Yes, we sell t-shirts, hats, sweatshirts, sunglasses, etc. but that’s not what Those Folks is tied down to.

What brands are you a fan of?
As of recently, I really like Staple. Jeff Staple is dope. My friend Jimmy Gorecki has a brand called JSP. He makes sweatpants, I’m really into his brand. My brother Spanto has a brand called Born x Raised and I love his brand. I’m a huge fan of Peas & Carrots. Anwar and all of those dudes are my homies. I fuck with them. There’s not a lot, you know what I mean. Oh, I like Rare Panther too, they’re a solid brand. There’s a really small amount of people/brands I like. It’s what the brand is about and who the people are. That’s the most important thing.

I’m glad you mentioned Born x Raised because I wanted to ask you about streetwear brands on the up and up from Venice. I love how Born x Raised’s whole thing is about camaraderie and loyalty and OG Venice. What it was before everything changed. Do you feel like your brand is tied deeply in the same way to Venice?
I grew up in Venice my entire life. I’ve been here since I was two days old. So I feel like, no matter what, my brand is gonna reflect the person that I am because I started it. So of course we’re really deep-rooted in Venice. This is our backyard. This is where I grew up, and this is where the brand was born. I want to keep that. I feel like there hasn’t been a brand like us that’s come out of Venice. I hate to label Those Folks as a streetwear brand or “urban clothing brand.” I feel like there’s not that many brands that have come out of Venice that people are hyped on. Even to compare it to skateboarding, not many skateboarders have come out of Venice. People that have come from here, not all the time, but for the most part, are frowned upon. A lot of people respect Venice-the real Venice, and the culture that really comes from here, the background, and the history. But now most of that is gone, so I think a lot of people don’t really care. It’s not what it used to be and they don’t care, so I want to keep what it used to be alive. I feel like those Folks SHOWS what it used to be. Born x Raised SHOWS what it used to be. And I’m happy to be one of the few keeping that alive.

The sticker reads: “VENICE. NICE PLACE TO VISIT, DON’T MOVE HERE.” with a TF logo.

When you say you’re trying to preserve the original Venice, what would you say happened to it? You’re referring to the gentrification?
Most definitely. It’s the gentrification that’s going on-that’s been going on-and it’s only getting worse. I feel like they are wiping the table clean of the people that were born here and made Venice what it really is. They’re trying to build the new Venice. There’s a lot of transplants of people that are really wealthy. It’s become the playground of the rich. It’s terrible and I don’t like it. Basically every other day I see a new house being torn down and a new two-story home being built. It’s disgusting to watch. All these new stores opening up. Like, I hate Rose Boulevard. I would never eat or spend any money at ANY of those new spots. Abbott Kinney as well. I would only eat at Abbott’s Pizza and Glencrest Bar-B-Que, which is no longer there. They bought the people out at Glencrest and opened this place called Pork Belly’s and I would never in my life step foot in there.

I feel that.
Never. I grew up eating Glencrest Bar-B-Que. When I would take my little brother to the beach, I would take him there. I wanted him to see the Venice that I saw. I’m so against the idea of the new Venice. It’s like, fuck that shit. These people aren’t from here and they don’t care about the people who were from here.

Do you feel like the new people moving into Venice don’t care about the culture that you grew up with there?
They don’t care at all. They don’t care about who built this city and the image that it’s carried. They coming to steal it from us. They’re exploiting our lifestyle and our culture. They act like they’re from here. I don’t care if you’ve lived here 2 years, 4 years, 8 years, you’re NOT from here. Not to hate on them, if you’re a cool person and you’ve lived here for 8 years, that’s cool. But I feel like they want to see more people like them and less people like me. And that’s what I’m against.

So after it was a blog, when did Those Folks become what it is today?
At the time when I started it, I didn’t even tell the homies at Rogue Status about my idea or what I was doing with the blog. I just did it. They inspired it, but I was like, I’m just gonna do it. If they notice it, they might be hyped.

I was doing the blog for close to a year. I wasn’t paying attention to streetwear at all. I would post shit about music and companies that I liked. I was thinking, how am I gonna get more people to look at the blog? I thought only my friends were looking at it, but everyone liked it. People would come up to me and be like, “Yo, I look at your website all the time!” and that was cool. So I made stickers. A lot of my friends are graffiti artists, and they’re constantly tagging and putting up stickers, so I made a bunch of stickers. They were already doing that, and it’s about them, so I thought it would be a way of putting it out there. We’d put ’em up everywhere we went. After that, I was like, I’m gonna print some t-shirts. We made 50 t-shirts. And I gave ’em all away for free.

I knew a lot of people from skateboarding, and growing up in Venice, and just hanging out in different parts of the city. I gave the shirts to that people that I knew all over LA. I wasn’t even thinking that I was promoting or anything. I just gave them away. And people liked it. People wanted to buy the shirts. So it kinda started to snowball from there. That’s how it started.

Tell us more about what you’re doing with Brooklyn Projects and with The Hundreds.
It’s a crazy time in my life. It’s crazy to think that our product is going to be sold in stores. First off, our new business partner Merf is part-owner of Brooklyn Projects. There really wasn’t a time where I was like trying to get our stuff in stores. I was having fun with what we were doing. We’ve gotten this far just by having fun. My plan is to just keep having fun.

So basically one day, my phone goes “bing!” I get an email from Enriqs from The Hundreds and it was like, “To whom this may concern, your brand’s name has been popping up and we’d like to carry your stuff in our retail shops.” I looked at Tiimo and we didn’t say a word, we just looked at each other like, “…Did you get this?” Our phones went off at the same time, I was like, “What the fuck!” It was just crazy. It didn’t seem real. I had just made things official with Merf (Brooklyn Projects) and he had a good relationship with Bobby and Ben. He wanted me to meet with Bobby and Ben so that happened, and they were super cool. They liked what Those Folks was about.

I posted on Instagram earlier that if somebody would’ve told me a year ago that I would be doing an interview and photo shoot with The Hundreds about Those Folks, I probably wouldn’t have agreed. It just wouldn’t have seemed real back then, and it still doesn’t now. But it’s happening. I’m sitting here doing this. It’s crazy.

We’re really excited to work with you guys, man. One last thing: Who are Those Folks?
I consider my friends my family and Those Folks is my family of friends. Before it was a brand, I already had this family of friends. Most of us grew up together. Even before the brand started, the family was continuing to grow. You can’t ask to be a part of Those Folks. You can’t say, “Ey, can I be from Those Folks? I want to be from Those Folks.” It’s a family thing. This is who we are, but at the same time, if you’re around us long enough and living the culture, it radiates off you naturally. You’re from Those Folks, you don’t have to act it, you know you’re from Those Folks. Even our fans who support us and people who get it tattooed… People are getting it tattooed that I have never met, that live in states that I’ve never even been to. That shit is crazy! But it’s like, they see what I see. They don’t see a logo, they don’t see a brand, they see a family. I feel like they understand us as people and find a connection between that.

This is us, this is our family, and this family is going to continue to grow. I think it’s a beautiful thing.

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