When Bike Messengers Crash, They Land Gigs at Sub Pop

Where else can you find Rainier in the pop machine?

A year ago, a truck barreled down on bike messenger Sam Sawyer, leaving him injured and jobless. As luck would have it, he was saved from the gutter by a guardian angel with a mouth like a sailor who put him to work slinging merch in the Sub Pop world headquarters warehouse. Now—with easy access to Rainier beer as his only on-the-job hazard—he safely spreads swag-filled packages of joy all over the land, making sure people get their goods on time.

What title has Sub Pop graced you with?

I was never really given a title until recently, when there was a call for business cards. So I granted myself the title, with no one's permission, Web sales manager. In hindsight, I should have gone with Web sales director. I feel like people respond better to directors than managers—something about their preconceived notions. Who am I managing or directing? No one.

What does that entail?

Oh man, this is boring. But you totally asked, I guess, so...I get into work around 9:30, I drink coffee and read blogs until lunch, and then I finally feel ready to tackle my duties. Which, quite simply, are to "manage" our online orders, by printing them, sorting them (into, you know, CDs, LPs, T-shirts, etc.), gathering the various items, and then putting them into the mailbox so the Postal Service can do their thing. Sometimes I "manage" e-mails from some of our customers. I really love talking to the folks who order things. People are so excited about our bands; it's easy to lose that enthusiasm. I live vicariously through them. "Yes, I'll tell the Shins to play Branson" or "I probably can't give Chris Cornell your message, sorry."

How did you come to rule the Sub Pop warehouse?

I don't know. I was a bike messenger loving my job and my life about a year ago, when I was hit by a truck while working and found myself unable to do much in the realm of motion. With the threat of being unemployed for a few months looming, a super foul-mouthed guardian angel, Megan Jasper [Sub Pop's general manager], called me out of the blue a week after my accident and asked me to come in for an interview. I should say I interviewed for a job at Sub Pop right when I moved to Seattle from Minneapolis a couple years ago, and didn't get that job but [got] a foot in the door. They thought I was cute, and they called me when they had another job opening. That's the only explanation for that.

What's your least favorite thing to ship in a box?

Wow, it's questions like this that really put my life into perspective. I honestly don't actually like to put anything in a box. But I guess what really gets me is when someone orders a poster as well as an LP. They just don't make a box that can accommodate such a crazy order. You must know what I mean. I'm pretty sure there was a Seinfeld episode about it. Man, my job duties are boring.

Favorite aspect of your job:

The Rainier in the pop machine.

Best thing you've seen/heard while at work?

You can kind of come and go as you please here, there's a lot of trust. If you don't feel good, say so and go. If you want a personal day, take it. All you do is e-mail the staff with a "me today" e-mail. Honesty seems to work best, and right when I started and I was getting used to this "me today" stuff, my co-worker, who is not shy about her bowel movements, sent an e-mail with the subject "me right now," and in the body it simply said: "I have the runs, so I'm going home. See you on Monday." That line was actually cut and pasted from the e-mail. That is a very good example of why this is a healthy work environment.

As a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?

I wanted to be an art director in advertising. I even went to school for it. Hey...look at me now.

Do you bring your lunch or buy it? What is it usually?

I should bring my lunch. Most of the dudes here make a lunch train every day, and for a while I was part of that. But I never had any money, and it's because I'd spend like $12 a day in lunch alone. Between that and the punk-rock doughnuts from the Market, I had no money for beer and bike parts at the end of the week. So now, I often go to Top Pot and get a sandwich, an Americano and doughnut. I like to do the crossword and Sudoku or read a book. Solo lunch is pretty relaxing. I have some messenger friends that go there in the afternoon, and it's always fun to see friends.

Most questionable band on the roster, in your opinion:

No question about it: Mudhoney.

Do you carry a box cutter with you at all times?

No, my co-worker, Mark [Arm, of the aforementioned Mudhoney], keeps them under lock and key. They are his—he makes this clear. I do have my own scissors and tape gun, and I'm very sensitive to who uses them.

Top five records to listen to while brown-baggin' it during a Golden Gardens sunset:

The Tyde, Twice.

Gary Stewart, Out of Hand.

John Phillips, John Phillips (John, The Wolf King of L.A.)

Teenage Fanclub, Man-Made.

Kris Kristofferson, The Silver Tongued Devil and I.


A weekly peek behind the curtain of the Emerald City music world, Behind the Scene sheds light on folks you won't see onstage, but who make it all happen.

comments powered by Disqus

Friends to Follow