Best known for playing Vincent Chase in the HBO series Entourage, Adrian Grenier is also a keen musician, playing drums with New York alt-folk band The Honey Brothers, as well as fronting Brooklyn band Kid Friendly. His lifelong love of music led Grenier to build a recording studio, dubbed the Wreckroom, in his Brooklyn home basement, which he originally intended as a creative space for him and his friends to write, record and perform music.
Over time the studio enterprise evolved into Wreckroom Records — an artist-friendly music incubator with a twist. Overseen by Greiner and his team — Damien Paris, Mike Frankel and Brian Koerber — the label invites selected artists to visit its Brooklyn HQ for a full-day session in which they record an original song and film a live performance music video, which is then uploaded online. Artists that have gained early exposure at the Wreckroom include Brooklyn indie rock quintet the Skins, who have since signed with American Recordings, Missouri punk trio Radkey, classical/country act The Ludlow Thieves and Joanna Erdos and the Midnight Show.
Billboard sat down with a harmonica-playing Grenier (wearing a The Skins T-shirt) to discuss his future plans for The Wreckroom, self-marketing and why fame “is a lonely place,” as well as this summer’s eagerly-anticipated Entourage feature film.
Can you talk about how the Wreckroom evolved from your own personal studio into a fully-fledged record company?
I realised that I had a lot of extra bandwidth in my studio. It was the manifestation of a boyhood dream to have my own studio and to be able to record when I wanted to. Then I realised as I got older, I was very busy and it often lay empty. So I started giving it away to friends. I would ring them up and say: ‘Come and use it. Free of charge. Just make use of it. And if you have a friend who is in a band bring them in.’ That gave me an opportunity to also come in and play with these bands, which was fun for me because I didn’t really have a band at the time. From there it grew into this cool little experience.
Every band that visits the Wreckroom has to agree to record and original song and music video, which is then released online. How did that process originate?
I can’t tell you how many cassette tapes of jams or songs that I have that are sitting there in a box from back in the day. So the one rule is that when you record something, it goes out immediately. We don’t sit on it. We’re all old enough to realise that we’re not going to be making money out of music. So let’s just put it all out and, because the internet is a visual medium to a large degree, let’s make little videos to go along with them. So it was really just a simple idea that we would share the extra bandwidth, create music, make little videos and put them up online for people to share. That became this hub where bands would send their friends and fans to the site.
What has been the most rewarding aspect of the enterprise for you so far?
The Skins were one of the first bands that came through The Wreckroom. They blew us away and they really solidified in my mind what is possible with this platform. It is sort of turning the A&R model on its head. Instead of going out and seeking talent we basically lay the bait and let the people come to us. We have a really cool, vibrant community that’s really attractive to young artists who don’t want to have to prove themselves to an A&R guy judging them. With us, it’s simply: ‘Here is the opportunity. Everything is free. The only thing we require from you is that you participate. You don’t just come in, take your record and go and promote yourself. You become part of the family.’ Modern artists understand self-marketing, but I think the next generation is going to be different. It’s not going to be about self-marketing. It’s going to be about marketing and helping each other. Not being so myopic and only thinking about helping yourself, because together is the only way that big things happen.
So is this purely philanthropic, communal exercise or is there a money-making aspect to the Wreckroom?
Initially it’s philanthropic. But electricity does cost money, so the idea at this point is to empower artists and then they will make it in their own way. We’re not a label, so I’m not looking to put all my stock in any one band’s success because I don’t think success is necessarily making a lot of money. There are a lot of creative successes that we would still applaud. Ultimately, the answer is that the money aspect is a second thought. We’re working on that, but it’s not a primary function of what we’re doing.
And what form or model of monetization might that take?
We have some technologies that I think will help to reduce our overhead costs, but ultimately I think it will come through live experiences. The music itself and the video content is a loss leader for live experiences, and monetizing in that way is what we’re looking to do.
So far Wreckroom has been a purely independent endeavour. Are you looking to establish partnerships with other businesses, record labels or artists in the music industry in the near future?
In terms of partners it’s not really about making formal partnerships with big artists at this point. It’s really an opportunity for people to come in a share. The partnerships we are making are with bigger event entities and live experience entities and, of course, labels, because we’re providing a service for labels to find the best talent.
Where do you see Wreckroom fitting in within the current music ecosystem? Do you view yourselves as being more closely aligned to a traditional record label than to, say, a streaming service or video platform?
I’m really more interested in creating this new model and seeing what we can do to support all of the streaming systems. We’re not in the streaming business and I don’t really have any designs to be. But I really want to help create the content and support the artists that are creating content so they can utilize all of these various tools. I look at the Internet as a tool. At the moment, it’s the ‘thing’ and artists get forgotten. Live experiences get forgotten. I want to grow the Internet so that artists can use the tools and bring it back to three dimensions. Music is a wave that pushes air into your ear drums. It should always be physical. It shouldn’t get lost in the digital world.
What is your long-term goal for the Wreckroom?
Formalizing the relationship with artists and the Wreckroom family. So you have a mission statement that people can buy into and they understand what they are contributing to. It’s sort of instinctively understood at this point, but I want to formalise it so that we can really track and help manage contributions to the system, which is the tech that we haven’t created yet, but we are working on.
And how about commercial aims? Are you hoping to discover the next big band?
The music is going to find its audience. I always battle against this pressure, of artists to feel like they have to be the biggest thing. I talk to all my artists and say: ‘Hey, you may not have the most poppy music, but if it’s what you love and you feel then there is audience for you, we are going to help you be the best at what you do.’ You can have a really healthy career with a niche audience. I do a lot of talks about rejecting the fame promise. I know it for a fact — fame is not what is all cracked up to be. I will always come back to small groups and community and that’s what really makes me happy. Going up on a big stage with a lot of people that I can’t connect with — I’m happy to do it for certain purposes, but ultimately it’s not where you want to exist. It’s a lonely place when you are in the centre of a huge audience, so you always have to bring it back to the centre and bring it back home.
You’re not aiming to become a music mogul then?
[Laughs] A small one. A mini-mogul maybe.
Outside of music, this summer sees the release of the Entourage feature film. What can fans expect?
100% satisfaction. I think it’s great. It’s amazing how fast it all came together after all the waiting. It came together so quickly in the end. I’m the most critical of the show and what it will be. I want it to be great and I’m really happy with it. It’s been tested and people like it. Now we have the long wait until it comes out. ?
It’s been over three years since the final episode of the TV series aired. Were you always confident that the movie was going to get made?
I’ve never really questioned what’s going to become of Entourage. I know it’s always going to come back and do something that is going to surprise the audience and push the envelope and satisfy what people come to Entourage for, which is fun and friendship.
Does the film mark the final chapter in the show?
I hope not. We did 96 episodes of the series and I hope to do just as many movies. Even if we did 25 movies that would be the same equivalent in onscreen minutes.
You’ll all be pretty damn old by the time the 25th movie hits theatres.
That’s what Botox is for!