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My Favorite Merch: Lance Rutledge

Lance Rutledge is one of the busiest people in Kansas City’s DIY scene. In addition to his emo/indie/alt-rock recording project-turned-band OK O’Clock (active since 2015), Rutledge cranks out new punk demos (his bands and his friends’ bands) like few others in the metro. On a recent Zoom call, Rutledge and I discussed three of his favorite merch pieces, some of OK O’Clock’s album art, and the joke merch that he’s made for two of his bands. And, in classic Lance style, after our interview was complete, he told me that he doesn’t really care about his merch that much. But that’s okay, because I care about Lance’s merch.

Where should we start?
I could go in a couple different directions.

Do what feels right to you. Do what feels most Lance. Do you remember your first band t-shirt or first piece of music merch?
I'm pretty sure it was this band called As They Sleep. Must have been back in 2013 or so. They were just like, hey, we're getting rid of all our merch, just buy this super cheap, so I snapped up a t-shirt for like five bucks plus shipping or something. I don't know. That was the very first band t-shirt that I bought.

I don't think I know this band.
They were signed to Solid State. They're kind of tech death with a little bit of thrash, but they were kind of in the middle of a whole bunch of metalcore bands. I was looking at that shirt the other day and listened to them again and it holds up.

So you’ve done some funny one-off merch things with your bands. There was the Tremenda Venganza gig with Creeping Death, Fuming Mouth, and Hammerhedd where you just wrote your band’s name on a bunch of trash you found. And then the D.Y.E. gig with Dare where you were selling a hard hat with the band name written on it. Tell me about some of your merch runs.

The one band that I've done runs of stuff for is OK O’Clock. The very first shirt was super lazy. It was just some drawing by a friend and didn’t even have the band's name on it. It was just a simple drawing of a car that was on fire and then and then a lyric from the record that we were pushing at the time that said “This will all be fine” or something. We've still got some of those. We're almost out.

And then when we went on tour in 2019, I got another batch of shirts because the first ones were in white and then I realized I don't like white. And then we were just like, oh we need shirts to sell on tour, so I just put together an OK O’Clock logo drawing. And that was the first time that OK O’Clock appeared in letters on any artwork or anything because up until that point, nothing that we put out had anything with writing.


Yeah, because most of the album covers are just photos, right?
Yeah, the very first one is a photo I took on film of a window in my room. I just needed something, so I tossed that in and then the second one was a picture that was taken of me after I flipped my friend's car and she's in the picture too; the car’s in the background. The most recent EP we did, it's kind of a collage of a bunch of different pictures and stuff. But yeah, so artwork for OK O’Clock has always kind of been very lacking [laughs]. I've always kind of either done it myself or just tossed something together, but for what we're putting out soon, we're trying to actually get something really sick done.

Nice. I’ve enjoyed some of the OK O’Clock artwork so far. I guess it kind of follows the Midwest emo tradition of just using a kind of simple photograph, because of course there's the classic American Football house. And then, you know, in the same way that the music is very intimate, a simple photograph can be just as intimate if it's something that's meaningful and interesting.
Yeah, if you just find the right picture. And so the first full-length we did, Parental Guidance, since so much of that record – I don't know, that picture was just perfect for it. I remember being really pissed off at Grayson because I just flipped a car with two other people in it and we're walking out and Grayson's like, smile for the camera. And so you can see when you look at that album art that I am not smiling for the camera.

My friend the Crimson’s on that [cover]. That's her car that I flipped. So yeah, that whole experience made it onto the record in a couple different ways and definitely had a big impact on how I was doing. It makes you think about a lot of things when you could have almost died, and not only that, but you could have almost killed someone as well. So yeah, I like that album art. It's good.

Were the garbage merch and the hard hats kind of funny afterthoughts or were those planned out in advance?

The garbage was an afterthought because we had a whole merch table and we had absolutely nothing to put on it. I actually drew up a design for Tremenda Venganza shirts that came out pretty cool. It was a grim reaper with a chainsaw and said Tremenda Venganza around it, but we never ended up getting shirts made or anything. But I've still got the original drawing pinned up in my room. The hard hats for D.Y.E., I'm planning on doing a bunch of those. And we've also got some other stuff for D.Y.E. in the works, like some really fun stuff. You can have a lot of fun with merch, so why not have fun with merch?


Why the hard hat in specific?
I don't know, I was just wearing it. I had it in my car and I wore it to that show and I thought it was funny and other people did too.

Do you wear one for work?
No, I don't have to wear it for work, but they were just throwing it away and I was like, oh, I'll just take a hard hat; that can be funny to do something with.

What’s your job?
I work at a facility that does research for HVAC and so I do maintenance and kind of handyman janitorial stuff. It's all sorts of different stuff. Some electric stuff, you know, driving forklifts around and whatnot. But yeah, the hard hats apparently expire after a certain amount of time and so they were just throwing a bunch away and I grabbed one.

What's the first of your merch picks?
Okay, so the first of my merch picks would probably have to be this Pantera shirt that I have. It's as old as I am, from like ‘94 I guess. I got ahold of this from this lady in the neighborhood; she was throwing out a bunch of clothes, so I picked through them and found this and apparently it belonged to like her ex. And so he had already cut a shitty v-neck into it and then it just kept on tearing and tearing, so I've had to add like, just more and more little pins.

I love that it's kind of splitting the head in half though.
Yeah, it’s splitting the head in half and when I'm wearing it, it literally just says Panera. So that's pretty fun [laughs]. And it's got the back art as well. And so I'm assuming since Kansas City was on the tour route, that lady’s ex was probably there.

Word. What’s your next pick?
My next pick definitely has to be this Michael Bolton t-shirt.

That's hilarious. I love that.
Michael Bolton's great. He's definitely a hunk. Definitely got pop hits. Great hits. Good songs. So yeah, this is just a thrift store find.


Okay, yeah, there's Bonner Springs on the list of dates. And that’s interesting. He played Wichita, Sedalia, and Bonner Springs on this tour. Really hitting all the important markets. Can you name five songs, Lance?
“Said I Love You… But I Lied.” That's the big one and then, shoot, what's the – oh, “How Am I Supposed To Live Without You” And then now after that, I mean, I've listened to way more Michael Bolton than I have Pantera and that's not gonna change at all.

You are valid, Lance.
I think if it's allowed for the next piece, I'm going to do a patch. Just ‘cause of how I really love the artwork on this patch and I used to be way more into vests and patches and patching up pants and stuff. But then you know, I'm not crusty at all. And the other thing is just finding like cool patches and stuff to put on like that shit, because I'm not just gonna put anything on if I’m gonna spend the effort of sewing something on, but I did recently get hold of like a knockoff Judas Priest patch and a Mercyful Fate patch when I was up in Chicago playing with D.Y.E., so those are gonna make it onto here. But this patch just because I love the artwork on it. And it just works really well with this vest and it's a Pallbearer back patch. So, I just like how I managed to kind of fit it into the back panel. And the artwork is just super neat.

Very doomy. And the Boulevard patch goes nicely with it.
Yeah, so that's actually not a patch. That's an embroidery that I sewed onto it at my previous job where I worked at an embroidery factory. That place was fun. I'd run across stuff and just sew it onto whatever I had.

Look out for OK O’Clock’s new LP coming later this year and follow Lance on Instagram at @OakParkMallrat.

[This article first appeared in issue 6 of Shuttlecock's free monthly print edition. Click here to order a copy online, or pick one up for free at locations around KC/Lawrence/JoCo.] 

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