Yolo Rum Podcast Interview w/ CEO and Tour Manager of SOJA
Yolo Rum Podcast Interview about Yolo Rum History and Crowdfund with: Phil Guerin and Eric Swanson
Phil and Eric talk with WIGNZ about Yolo Rum’s history, and discuss how the crowdfund campaign is giving individuals a chance to invest in the award winning Yolo Rum. Eric also talks about his music projects with Slightly Stoopid, and what it’s like to be the tour manager for SOJA.
Speaker 1: This is the Yolo Rum podcast with WIGNZ.
WIGNZ: Yolo Rum podcast, episode three. We’ve had Ballyhoo in here, Howie, and then we’ve had Caspa, but it’s a Yolo Rum podcast, so we have to kick it off right. We have the founder and CEO with us, Phil. Say hello, Phil.
Phil: Hello everybody.
WIGNZ: So, we’re going to get into it, but we also have on the phone with us chief business development officer for Yolo Rum, Eric Swanson. What’s up Eric?
Eric: Hey, hey. How’s it going?
Phil: In the house!
WIGNZ: Eric in the House. E3PO. He goes by multiple names. I think this is a good episode. Eric is out in Florida. Is that where you’re at right now, Eric, you’re in Florida? I know you travel a lot.
Phil: I am. I’m currently in Sain Petersburg, Florida.
WIGNZ: And Eric kills it out there for Yolo Rum. I mean, he kills it just in general for us for years, so we’ll get into that whole story about how Phil and Eric met and what started this relationship that helped us get Yolo Rum in Florida. Phil, let’s do a little intro, man. Let’s talk about Yolo Rum, how you founded this amazing company, this amazing brand, and then let’s talk about how you started that relationship with Eric and got that going. How did Yolo Rum officially start, Phil?
Phil: You know, traveling to Central America and drinking a lot of Rum and wondering why people don’t drink more rum in the United States, I started out on a personal mission to introduce everybody to delicious, Central American rum. Yolo Rum achieves that. It’s from Panama, and it’s made from the best rum maker in the world, Don Poncho Fernandez, and we’ve won 21 international awards to date.
WIGNZ: Yes sir, and we’re sipping on some Yolo rum right now.
Phil: Yeah. Cheers. Yolo.
WIGNZ: We’ve got Phil’s signature drink, the Pom. A little bit of Yolo Silver in there and some Perrier, and we made some videos, so I can actually make drinks now, Eric I know Eric’s good at the cocktails. I suck at those. If it’s not a coke and rum, I don’t know how to make it.
Eric: No, the videos are crushing, and Yolo Rum itself is crushing. It never ceases to amaze me the things that we overcome and the things that we accomplish as a team. With Phil’s excellent leadership and the people he has around him, I hate to use a baseball euphemism, but it’s sort of like he has built a World Series team, and it’s just waiting for the right month to kick it all off and grab the trophy. It’s crazy how far the videos have come, how far the company has come as a whole, I guess, is what I’m getting around to.
WIGNZ: I agree, and Eric, I know you’re going to hate this because you’re a Cubs fan, but I was thinking of that movie with Brad Pitt where he helps the Oakland A’s build it all of statistics.
Eric: Money Ball.
WIGNZ: Money Ball, yeah, and so you are the Brad Pitt of the rum industry, bro, you’re the Money Ball, Phil.
Eric: Yeah, Phil is the Brad Pitt of the rum industry.
Phil: I look a lot like him too. That’s probably what you guys are saying. Frequently, I am told that, so I am not surprised to hear this now. That’s why I had no reaction. It’s like yeah, of course.
WIGNZ: Yeah. You’re used to it by now.
Phil: I’m used to it. I definitely resemble Brad Pitt.
WIGNZ: Without a doubt. Without a doubt. After a few rum drinks, I’m just looking at you thinking that I’m in fucking Fight Club right now, bro.
Phil: Now you’re scaring me.
WIGNZ: I want to get into, Eric, overall, as a musician and a tour manager now, but let’s talk a little bit about how you and Phil connected. That’ll kind of touch upon that, but I think that story’s crazy. How did you and Phil … I mean, you’re from two different worlds. You’re in Florida. We’re out here in Colorado. The rum was kind of based in Denver, and because of you, it’s in Florida, but how did that initial relationship get started between you two?
Eric: I always wonder how people have such interesting stories when they tell them, and I’m like wow, that’s amazing that that happened to you, and how Phil and I came about actually is a really interesting story. I think it was all by natural cause, but I was working with Slightly Stupid and Silverback, have for years. Previous to this life that I’m living now, I was a graphic designer for many years, and I wrapped boats, and cars, and planes, and babies with vinyl graphics. Occasionally, I get the call for some special stuff, and I believe I got an email from Cyprus Hill, Slightly Stupid, Seedless and Silverback.
Eric: They all said hey, would you be interested in wrapping a van, and they sent me a picture of a cartoon, and this is something Dane Homequest drew up for one of the Red Rock shows, Slightly Stupid, Cyprus Hill, and 420 at Red Rock, and what they wanted to do is take the cartoon off the poster and drive it onto the stage for access television, and those guys are great about that stuff too. Who makes a cartoon of reality? Well, it’s guys like Phil and I.
Eric: So, Phil, in his mixed up world, if I’m remembering correctly, working with Seedless pretty heavy at that time, and having the networking, again, the great team around him that was able to pull this off, Josh was able to put together this van. So, he got an old, what was it Phil?
Phil: 68 Chevy. Yeah, it was a 68 Chevy van.
WIGNZ: How did you find that?
Phil: It was a farm find, actually. There were a couple, but it was a fresh farm find, and we had to put a new motor in it. We had actually, when we got this project, we had six days to complete it when they told us we were going to do it. We actually found it-
WIGNZ: It’s like a reality show.
Phil: -bought it. We should’ve really documented it after we did it, but it was a marathon. By the end of it, we were all like dying from pneumonia because we had all been working like-
WIGNZ: Yeah because you’re saying the show is probably going down on 4/20. It’s 4/20. So, you’re looking at April 14th, they come at you-
WIGNZ: -and say hey, we want this to happen.
Phil: So, we totally had to rebuild this van on the interior and exterior, did an extremely good job-
Eric: Absolutely amazing, and this is no small feat, and I think we need to kind of focus on what a large feat that this was, and when I showed up, or when I got the call … sorry. My dog is barking.
WIGNZ: I’m sorry. Eric’s dog looks like one of those dogs that should be in a commercial. He should be on the biscuit box for dogs.
Phil: Can we see a picture of the dog?
WIGNZ: We should show you, Brad Pitt, holding the dog, bro.
Phil: Oh yeah, whatever.
Eric: So, I get the call about this van, and I’m like okay, well I have the same among of time to prepare the large format graphics, which at that time, it was not quite as advanced and we had to leave it drying for a couple of days, and it shut down a printing shop here in Tampa for two days to print all the material for this van. So, I ball it up or roll it up, put it in a suitcase, and get on a plane, and I get off the plane, and they’re just like yeah, go down to this garage, and here sits this van, primered up, beautiful shag green, lime green interior plush carpeting and disco ball hanging from the inside. I was like holy crap. Not only did they find a van to match the poster, they got the exact van and built it out to specs.
WIGNZ: That is a reality show, yeah.
Eric: We spent three days, to speed that part of the story up, Phil, every day from gosh, I don’t even know when we started, 6 am to 3 am, for three days we spent in this garage, a mechanic shop.
WIGNZ: And not even knowing each other, right, because at this point-
WIGNZ: -you guys were just the middle men for the higher ups.
Eric: And we’re sitting there talking at some point, and we’re almost through with the van at this point, thank God, and he’s like yeah, so this rum, and he brings it up, and I’m like huh, it sounds awesome. Long and short of it, talked about me living in Florida and whatever. So, anyway, the week after, Phil gave me pneumonia, which he argues to this day that he did not.
Phil: I think that we all got it from several places.
Eric: I had two ear infections and pneumonia when I came home. I’m not kidding. It was brutal.
Phil: I couldn’t even go to that show. That was horrible. I was so sick, I couldn’t even go to the 4/20 show-
WIGNZ: After all that work, you couldn’t even see the van drive out.
Phil: I was supposed to be backstage with the van.
Eric: If I remember correctly, Phil’s doctor put him on a breathing machine or something.
Phil: Yeah, I was doing nebulizer treatments. God, that was crazy. We just worked so hard. We just worked as hard as we could.
WIGNZ: I’m sorry for Eric and for you, Phil, and I think all of us at Yolo Rum, that’s just the work ethic of all of us, and so I think that’s probably what … I mean, obviously, kindled that bond and relationship between you two because you had appreciation that you guys were really working yourself to death.
Eric: Absolutely. Absolutely.
Phil: And Eric did a great job wrapping the van. It was amazing. Came in, attack of the project.
Eric: There’s no shortcoming with Phil, and when it comes down to it, his probably only shortcoming is that he wants to do it all, but anything he sets his mind out to do, he does. I learned from seeing his employees from his other businesses, all of them smiling and happy, and he really has a healthy environment around ti.
Phil: Thanks guys.
Eric: He’s just an amazing leader, and it’s been amazing to be a part of.
Phil: Aw shucks.
WIGNZ: You’re the leader of Fight Club.
Eric: He says we need rum in Florida, and I’m like yeah, there’s a lot of rum down here, and it’s like yeah, well what’s up with that? He’s like you might be the guy. I’m like I don’t think I’m the guy, and he’s like I might be the guy.
WIGNZ: Phil does have that. Phil can spot the talent, I think, even in the individual without the individual knowing that they have that talent.
Phil: Well, you guys are all part of this team. We have like an Oceans 11 here at Yolo Rum.
Phil: And you guys are definitely part of that. Everybody plays their role, but we bring it strong. We have a crazy team, and you guys are definitely a huge part of that, and it’s by no coincidence or by luck that you guys are here. You have earned your position in the company, and we’ve done this. We’ve grinded this out over the last five years together, and we’ve achieved amazing things. We’re just at the very beginning, but now, things are really starting to come together.
Phil: I commend you guys for sticking to it and having the discipline to be able to say hey, we’re going to work on this project, and it’s not going to be done today, and it’s not going to be done tomorrow, but in several years from now, we’re going to have this amazing company, and we’ve built it from nothing. You guys have earned every ounce of respect that I have for you, and I appreciate everything that you guys do every single day, and we are a crazy animal, and I say that a lot of times, but all of our skills together are unparalleled as far as I’m concerned.
WIGNZ: Now, so Yolo Rum has been around for five years. You guys starting that relationship, you were almost, I’d like to say since the beginning, right Eric? You’ve been part of Yolo since-
Eric: Yeah, I think he was probably a year in at that point. He had some in the country for sure, but we were self-distributing in Colorado and had a few accounts, and I think Phil was really trying to wrap his mind around what he was going to do with it. I brought home, or however the legal term is, I wound up with a couple bottles in Florida, and I took them to a couple of places, and people were like yeah, we like it. I don’t know if in the beginning, they got behind the brand as much as they got behind the people. Phil and the team visited Florida many times, and it’s just an infectious group of people. There’s no two ways about it. If we were selling frisbees, when we leave the room, you’re going to-
WIGNZ: Love that frisbee.
WIGNZ: Seriously, I mean, I kind of want to fast forward to where Phil saw the potential for a podcast, and we started Larry Uncensored in the Yolo Rum studio, but even that relationship, Eric, you allowed us to go back stage at Red Rocks for a Slightly Stupid show, and we set up, and it had never really been done before, but we set up and recorded a podcast backstage at the Slightly Stupid show. We got to talk to John Philips, who was the manager for Sublime back in the day, and then was part of Silverback that you talked about earlier, and so that in and of itself was okay, I need to, for me personally, I need to meet the expectations of what these guys are delivering.
WIGNZ: Phil delivers a great product with the rum. He executes business on point. I was like Eric is a part of an amazing tour with an amazing band, and I have to execute on here. So, I think it’s very nice to almost come full circle in this moment and be able to say hey, our Yolo Rum podcast episode three going off. We’re not only just talking about the rum, but we get to talk about the history and kind of document this story because this story is so unique, and I just think, like you said, it’s Oceans 11, Phil.
Eric: There’s a skillset, Wig, in capturing. You meet a lot of interesting people in the world, and you just have to remember it. There’s real value to podcasts and how far the technology has come because you do really bring out some details and some stories, and Phil, people will pay money one day to hear Phil speak. He’s that type of businessman. He’s that savvy, and he’s that motivational that he should have his own business. He started from a clay mushroom and a 200 dollar loan, I think, and to think of all the things he’s done, and to think that you can capture it on any level for other people to hear is amazing.
WIGNZ: No, I agree. It’s exciting to see all of us come together and know what’s coming next. For everyone out there, a lot of you are probably listening to this because there’s that opportunity to invest in Yolo Rum. We have a chance for you to own a piece of Yolo Rum. So, a lot of you are listening to this podcast, and you know the history now, but there is that opportunity, and it depends on when you’re listening to this podcast, but it’s coming out to where you can actually literally get a piece of this company. YoloRum.com/invest, and Phil, do you want to talk a little bit about what that opportunity is and what people can expect with it?
Phil: We’re actually going to be doing what’s called an equity crowdfunding, and that will be on Wefunder’s platform, which I’m excited to announce, and that’s the first time that I’ve said that publicly. It makes me feel funny inside, but it’s exciting. We’re authorizing 10 percent of the shares of the company to be sold for a fundraise. We’re not just looking for people to invest money in our company. We’re really looking for people to help us with sales leads, get out and ask for the product, buy the product, tell their friends about it, but we really want people to be actively involved and kind of like a brand ambassador.
Phil: That’s why this way that we’re going is so important to us, and it’s democracy funding, and we’re going to grow this company up by using people, and the same skills that we have, we’re going to ask other people to kind of step up and help us do it too. It’ll be live and active hopefully in the beginning of June 2018, depending on when you’re listening to this.
WIGNZ: Exactly. You missed your chance if it’s after that.
Eric: Exactly. Once in a lifetime.
Phil: We’re using it as a big springboard to kind of get our brand out there and to build on our brand, and we have some pretty big plans for our brand. We were really pre-equity or pre-revenue is really what I want to say, before this point, but now we have distribution nailed down, national distribution nailed down, and we have some really exciting things happening. So, it’s a good time to invest in us. It’s a good time to invest in our company.
WIGNZ: Can we talk about the trademark at all?
Phil: You know, the trademark was an exciting journey. We’ve had a lot of big companies try to kind of keep the little guy down, and we were able to prevail in a kind of tort over our trademark, but after five and a half years, we will be solidifying our trademark, which is a really exciting thing for us. We’ve had to actually clear a bunch of people that tried to lay stake and claim to it, but really didn’t have legitimate rights, and we were the first. Our website was up, and we had our certification, our labels, our approvals from the government, and we own Yolo Rum, and that’s our trademark. Everybody that knows, knows.
WIGNZ: Yeah. It’s next level, and it’s just an exciting time because I think we’ve been working hard for this moment since the van wrapping with Eric to get to this precipice, if you will, and I think it’s just super exciting, and I think that being able to do this podcast at the same time that we’re doing that and talking to the audience because I think the more that our relationships grow with everyone out there, the more we can have cool guests like Ballyhoo, which was because of Eric, and talk to these guests. Eric, because of you, man, we’ve had the opportunity to talk to Miles from Slightly Stupid. We’ve talked to John Philips. We’ve talked to the bass player for Soja. You yourself, you’re very modest, and I’ve been waiting, and I’ve been saying oh, I need to have you on this podcast. We’ve got to have you on this podcast. Talk about your experience. As a musician, you’re now the tour manager for Soja. Is that right?
Eric: That’s correct.
WIGNZ: So, how did you get into the music scene? How did you evolve, and where was your starting point? I know that’s probably a long, loaded question, but how did you get from a musician, and you grew E3PO, which I remember and love that name, to the point of where you’re the tour manager for Soja?
Eric: I think in short, you just have to keep at anything. As a kid playing music, I wanted to do that as a profession, and over time, life beats that out of you. Things we love, life beats it out of you. You wind up going to the mill or to the factory and working, and I’d leave the music business, and I’d try that for a while, and I’d go back to the music business. I just realized if you put me in a cubicle, I’ll die, and so I found fluid work through graphic design and things that allowed me to tour as a musician, and then after 15 years of that, you realize that the format’s changed, the market, the climate changes.
Eric: I decided at some point in the internet era entering the scene that I knew if I wasn’t going to be on the cover of Rolling Stone, that I still had to be in the business, and that was my happy place. I think it’s important everyone find a happy place. I found ways, like Yolo Rum, to make it work together. I found other ways to make it work together so that instead of one pulling another, everything you do can kind of help one another.
Eric: Yolo Rum has been very supportive of that, and the music business has been very supportive of Yolo Rum, as to where brands pay six figures to be endorsed by them at concerts, and we didn’t pay anything. So, we were able to set up Yolo Rum stuff backstage at concerts and kind of make way for the podcast and et cetera, but the truth of the matter is, if you put it in a nutshell … demo tips in my bedroom, and I mailed them to a record company from the time I was 15 until God knows when, and finally, they just said you know what, we don’t want to sign you, but we’re going to give you a job.
WIGNZ: Persistence. Persistence pays off, and not giving up on your dreams. I think that’s kind of what summarizes that.
Phil: And now, he’s like doing some pretty big recording stuff. What do you got going on?
WIGNZ: Yeah, that’s right. You’ve got the new song “Alright” with Dela from Slightly Stupid, Kenny Bongos, Soja, Ted from Pacifier, and I mean, even the proceeds of that are going to charity. Yeah, tell us a little bit about that.
Eric: Yeah, we have a new track. It’s up on iTunes and all those places. It’s called “Alright” and I started this … I have a million bands, whatever, and I just got tired of all the band names, and Eric Swanson is not a cool name by any stretch of the imagination.
WIGNZ: Oh, come on man.
Eric: Well, you know, everyone advised against calling it Eric Swanson. I was like you know what, it’s going to be alright, and I just was like it’s fine, but what I did was wanted to create … people don’t pay for music anymore. Streaming has kind of-
WIGNZ: Killed that.
Eric: Yeah, kind of killed that, but I thought there was still a way to buy music for a cause, not just because. So, we came up with this project. It’s still in the process right now, but it’s called Lenders of Light, and it’s sort of like a super group. It’s an idea that we produce these singles, and put it out, and the Lenders of Light project means that all the proceeds will go to charity, and all of the proceeds, if you download “Alright” goes to the American Cancer Society, specifically Relay for Life. Everybody got behind it. It’s just a good cause, and when you see it shared across the platforms and everybody talking about it, it just feels good to do it.
WIGNZ: It shows your love for music. I think it fills your passion. Your whole story shows that, but it’s not about the almighty dollar, which is what I think drives some of these kids … I don’t want to say kids. It makes me sound old, but these musicians that thing oh yeah, I want to be millions, I want to show that bling, and you’re just about the music and the art.
Eric: Yeah, I think … the thing is about anything in life, and Phil can attest to this, and I’m sure you can too, Wig, do what you love, but be flexible. Just because you love laying bricks doesn’t mean you’re always going to lay great bricks on a Friday. You sometimes have to lay red, small bricks on a Monday, you know? Sometimes, you have to make the bricks. You have to be flexible, and I think the real gravity of the situation hit me at I’m tour manager for Soja, two time Grammy nominee Reggae band, I’m a big fan as well as part of their team, I was sitting in my office a month ago, or couple weeks ago, seems like months ago now, and they were like hey, can you come out onstage?
Eric: I was like oh shit, what’s the problem? So, I get up and I walk out there, and I’m like what’s going on, guys, and the whole band is playing the song “Alright” and I’m like what the hell. They’re like get on the mic, man, and I was like oh this is awesome. So, we did the song, and we finished. I was like guys, best day ever. This was really cool, and they were like well, we’re doing it tonight, and I was like okay. So, sold out show in South Carolina, they brought me out onstage, and we did it, and they pumped the song. I was like holy cow.
Phil: Dang dude. Good job. Congratulations, man.
WIGNZ: That’s amazing. Yeah, congrats.
Eric: Yeah, so the next day, you know, they’re just like it’s a great song, great cause, we want to support you, whatever, and I’m like cool, it was a lot of fun, best day ever. So, the next day, we’re in Atlanta at the Sweetwater 420 Festival, and we are in the shadows of this huge skyscraper with a 20 foot sign on it that says American Cancer Society, and we all walked off the tour bus and looked at each other, and they’re like we gotta do it again today. So, yeah, it was amazing. Jacob Hemphill, the singer of Soja, in-between songs, introduces the track patiently and compassionately, and we’re able to spread the love, man. So, it’s love begotten love with love.
WIGNZ: That’s amazing, and that’s just the power of music in and of itself. Being able to help others, I mean, it doesn’t get any better than that. That feeling of … was that the largest crowd you were able to perform in front of? What was that like? Were you nervous, did the nerves go away because I know you’ve been performing for so long. How did you feel?
Eric: I don’t think nervous is the right word, but I think 20,000 people, well in that particular case, for whatever reason, Jacob decided to have them chant my name. He was like say this name, Eric Swanson, and they’re like Eric Swanson, and he’s like no, that wasn’t good enough. Say it again and articulate. Eric Swanson. So, the whole crowd says Eric Swanson. He’s like okay, well that’s our tour manager, and we’re going to bring him out, and I was like that was sort of momentous, I guess.
Eric: Yes, it was the biggest crowd, to answer your question. That was. It brought me to tears for more than one reason. We’re all affected by cancer, and I’m not trying to bring the vibe of this whole podcast down, but we all have those people in our lives, and the gravity of the situation hits you in different times. It brought tears to my eyes. So, was it the best day ever, yeah, probably. It was cool, but you should buy it yourself or stream it a bunch and hopefully we can all chip away at-
WIGNZ: Yeah, all make a difference and make an impact. Well, Eric, it’s amazing what you’re doing. I’m hoping you’re going to be back in Colorado. Does it look like Soja is going to be headed this way?
Eric: Yeah. We’re going to be back, and in fact, maybe we can get one of the guys on a podcast. I’m going to be in Winter Park with the guys here coming up.
Phil: When is that? When are you guys going to do that?
Eric: The Winter Park show, we’re in Fort Collins on the 15th of June, and we’re in Winter Park on the 16th of June.
WIGNZ: Well, Eric, you’re just everywhere. It’s exciting to have you just be part of this as you do what you do. The chief business development officer, the official title for Yolo Rum, and Phil, thank you. The CEO and founder of Yolo Rum.
Phil: What’s your title?
WIGNZ: Oh, I am the chief digital officer.
Phil: There you go. Congratulations to both of you guys on that.
Eric: Yeah, that’s a huge deal.
Phil: It is a big deal.
Eric: And if anyone does listen to this podcast and trying to make sense of it, the reality of it is is the investing into this company is like investing into a family, and it’s probably never been done before, which is pretty much our MO, and it’s really exciting to be a part of something that feels this good. Just go with the flow. Check us out online, and we have enough social media and intellectual property out there to entice you.
WIGNZ: You never know. It might get you to a Soja show. You might be able to go hang out with Eric, and Phil and me right there at a Soja show right there in Winter Park. You never know.
Eric: Yeah, if you listen all the way through this podcast, then you hear this moment.
WIGNZ: Exactly. You deserve it. Yeah. YoloRum.com/invest. Thank you, Eric. Thank you, Phil. Episode three of the Yolo Rum podcast. We need you to like and subscribe and download, and that’s going to help us spread this word, and if you’ve been listening, it’s probably because you’ve been interested in knowing the history of Yolo Rum and knowing the team that’s involved with it. We’re just three people in this team. The team is made up of, Phil was saying, Oceans 11 caliber team, and it’s just amazing. We’ve got Larry and Cathy today, but we also have everyone behind the scenes. Chris, Sam, and we’ve got Jim Pop. It’s just an amazing team, and we’re excited to have every one of you be part of this with us. YoloRum.com/invest, and don’t forget, download, like, subscribe, and you never know. Next podcast, we might have Soja on here. We’ll figure that out, but you’re only going to know if you subscribe. Yolo Rum podcast, episode three. Thank you guys.
Eric: Yeah, Yolo.