Loyalty & Devotion Interview

Posted: November 3, 2010 by Is This Revolutionary? in General Discussion, Interview
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Phil Wilkey is a man of many talents: he’s in a band, he runs his own website and he owns his own clothing company (Loyalty & Devotion). Whenever you speak to him, whether it’s just saying a quick hello or having an in-depth conversation, he always treats you as his equal and makes you feel like you’ve known him forever. Naturally, when I began doing interviews, I wanted to pick his brain because he has so much to say. I caught up with him a couple of days ago:

Ben: Just introduce yourself and your company.
Phil: Hi, my names Phil Wilkey. I am 28 and I run Loyalty and Devotion. L&D was initially as a concept a straight-up clothing line. I already did a line called xFor Lifex but was frustrated by friends who said that they loved my designs, but didn’t want to tarnish the Straight Edge message because they didn’t live that lifestyle.
It became a hindrance almost for that line to move forwards. At the time I started L&D, my father suffered a stroke. I needed something to focus on to take my mind away from that and L&D was born.
Loyalty and Devotion are two words which to me embody who I am as a person; to my family, my blood, I would fight to the death to protect and to my true friends there isn’t a thing in the world I wouldn’t do for them. I stand by them loyal and devoted, through thick and thin. Through the good times and the bad.
I was very cautious about having any straight edge message in what I was about to do. I am most well known for running www.straightedgelifestyle.co.uk for the last ten years, interviewing bands and writing all the articles myself. I also have arguably the world’s best straight edge back piece [Laughs], so it is a big part of who I am. I didn’t want people instantly assuming L&D was edge and so I have kept that all in the background.
L&D is a line run by a surfer and hardcore kid whose trying to have an impact by combining visually stunning imagery with positive slogans. Awesome threads for awesome people.

B: How did you get into the hardcore scene?
P: I grew up on an eclectic mix of music influenced by my parents from folk like Bob Dylan, to classical to 80’s hair metal like Guns N’ Roses and Judas Priest. Naturally, I got into the alternative, nu-metal and punk scenes in the late 1990’s, then progressed to bands like Strife, Snapcase, Vision of Disorder and then Trial, Floorpunch, Ten Yard Fight and just got completely overwhelmed by this scene of open hearts and minds.
The hardcore scene was and still is my home. It is the place I go when I want escape from the world. Music is my solace and [hardcore] is so accessible, because there are no rock stars, it wasn’t about making money and ripping people off. I had just turned 18 when I decided that I wanted to be Straight Edge and I haven’t looked back; that was in 2000.

First Blood

B: Where do you get the inspirations for your designs?
P: I have always loved art, my favourite being Renaissance and grew up in a household of artists. I love coming up with a design in my head or a slogan for a t-shirt and sketching it out. One of the main things I wanted to do with L&D and the website was involve as many different people as possible. So, although all the designs, art direction and slogans are my own, the actual final designs are not. I have been fortunate to work with some of my favourite apparel designers these past few months and feel blessed because of that.
From Drew Millward to Ben Lande and Michael Cortada, to lesser known artists Ryan Baxter, Hammy Deas and a Mexican kid called Casar.
Life, I guess, is my main inspiration and wanting to consciously put out a positive message, I’m quite keen to avoid negative and violent imagery and the words I choose to go on my shirts have to represent something that can inspire like ‘always faithful’ which I have tattooed on my left forearm or ‘seize the day’ from the Latin phrase carpe diem.

B: Can you explain how it’s different running a regular clothing company instead of a straight edge one? Is the fan-base different, or do the straight edge kids still get behind your new label?
P: Well, L&D has expanded far beyond the conventional clothing company. First, we don’t have a Myspace. We are not a Myspace clothing company that puts out one design and folds. I don’t care about the money – in the past I have run a magazine (Integrity), a record label (Go-Team, 2004) and xFor Lifex Clothing (2009); I will continue to attempt projects until one takes off for me.
In August, I went to see First Blood. One of the bands supporting, London’s No Second Chance, played and I offered them an endorsement there and then. The guitarist, Dave, emailed me a few days later to ask if I could drive and if I would want to come on a two week European tour with them? I was like, “Fuck yeah!” So, I told them you can’t go on a tour to Europe without a CD and fortunately, they’d just completed the recording of a ten song split with a band called Beater and I said I would put it out. We did the art work, layout and pressed the CD in two weeks.
We went to five countries, played in front of hundreds of kids, and Loyalty and Devotion instantly transformed into a record label as well. I then took the decision when I got home to incorporate the xFor Lifex line into L&D as another part of the company. We are now the only UK based clothing line that also provides shirts worldwide to straight edge kids. L&D is for everyone but xFLx is for my edge brothers and sisters.
The L&D fan base is growing day by day. I have a proper website that I designed; it has music on the player from some of my favourite bands and some wicked interviews with Madball, A Loss For Words and Dead Swans to name a few. As a site, it will develop to promote the music I adore. That is why we are not your average run of the mill, in it for the dollar, line. We care about the scene, about the bands and the kids that represent it. Because, at the core, of L&D is me, and I live for hardcore and having fun at shows.

B: When many people hear “Loyalty and Devotion”, many people think of the gorgeous girls that are wearing your designs on your website. Do you just have really attractive friends or are they really models?
P:  I have quite a few attractive friends male and female [Laughs]. I have contacted a lot of models [and] the site originally had a pin-up section (people, e-mail me if you want it back!). I am lucky to have friends who are photographers, and because I constantly network and chat on Facebook, I just seem to come into contact with the right people. It’s awesome that the girls love what I do and want to model it.

B:What is your opinion on the current hardcore scene? Is it any different in the UK than in the US?
P: The UK scene is quite close knit: we look after each other and I don’t mean we all roll around in crews and pretending to be gangbangers. I don’t care who you are, what you do,[or]  how much money you have. If you are at a [hardcore] show you are my friend. We’re both in that room for the common purpose of supporting the bands and loving the music. I think that is the biggest difference at the moment. In the UK, thankfully, there generally are no fights at shows.
Bring back the days when bands would stop there set if a fight broke out; I think that’s been forgotten stateside. I get e-mails from people too afraid to go to a show because of straight edge gangs and that’s dumb, especially when the people emailing me are edge too. From what I have heard through the rumour mill, I’m quite content to stick with the UK scene.

B: Any big plans in store?
P: For L&D in 2010, just being able to grow and put out more shirts. As I am a one man team, I rely on word-of-mouth and people getting into what I am doing. Also, being a student, I don’t have a massive amount of money to throw at it, but I do what I can with what I have.
I will be looking to self-publish my first book entitled, ‘The Only Way’ about my Straight Edge journey; [it’s] a massive collection of articles I have written over the past ten years, encompassing my thoughts on the movement and what it means to me. I’m really excited about the project and the first draft is finished. That will be out Summer 2011 through L&D.
I will also be releasing my second album for a band called Out Of Bounds, Bristol based UK HC in the vein of AFI/Four Year Strong that I’m very excited about. Check the boys out: http://www.myspace.com/outofboundsbs3
My philosophy is you only get one life, so you just have to go out and do all that you can to make the most of it! Whether I teach in a school, design clothing, websites, write music or just write, I’m most content when I’m pushing myself, learning new things and trying to make a difference somewhere.

I hope to leave a legacy behind and I want to be remembered for trying to make a difference.

You can catch some of Phil’s merchandise here: Loyalty and Devotion Clothing

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