Dig Baton Rouge

From Band to Brand: Musicians start BR creative agency Slash

What does it mean to build a brand? What does it take to make something marketable? What does it mean to offer the full package?

Slash Creative Agency tailors itself to answer all of those questions while pulling from the employee’s combined experiences to create a plan only fit for that client.

Slash is the brainchild of co-founder Drew Reilley, a former musician in the band Meriwether and his two other partners Lance, who offer business perspective and Dustin, who gave the group administrative help.

Reilley’s band was on the rise in the mid-2000s, touring across the country. After issues with their label, the band eventually came to a hiatus, leading him to return to Baton Rouge and LSU, enrolling in digital art. It was in this multi-media major that Reilley found interest in how aspects such as photography, printmaking and performance could mold into one solid brand.

“I did all the shirt and album design work while in the band,” Reilley said. “I had this experience of managing a brand already, so when I graduated, I started working in the creative industry here in Baton Rouge.”

He jumped around design firms, finding that each place focused on only one aspect of branding a customer, such as a logo or website. But Reilley thought there should be a place to do it all.

“With my partners, we created a space where we wanted to do ‘this, slash this, slash this,’” Reilley said. “That’s how our name came about.”

Early into Slash’s creation, Dustin fell sick and has since taken a backseat to focus on his health. Reilley brought in an old friend and fellow creative, Hana Hart, to help fill the company’s need in project management.

With nearly four years under its belt and a spot right in Mid-City on Government Street, Slash prides itself on being a company that takes its craft seriously, but keeping the work environment fun and refreshing. Music plays through the office as walls are lined with art and previous projects. The space is inviting, free flowing and a physical representation of the spirits of the Slash employees that they provide to their clients which they prefer to call partners.

Reilley, Hart and the rest of Slash will sit for hours getting to know their partners and what exactly they want from the project. They call that introductory phase the most important, as it provides the guidelines for what direction they will take the brand. After that discovery phase comes the research and development phase. There, Slash presents rough ideas of what they believe the partner needs for success from top to bottom. The partner and the agency will bounce ideas back and forth until a solid plan is formed.

Then, it’s time to get to work. Once they have the needs of the client and a set plan, the team meets to discuss how to coordinate all the aspects of a brand and make sure every deadline is met before meeting with the client for progress reports. Although a business, Reilley says the team never forgets that they are creatives and their work is art.
The way they approach that art is only slightly different.

“The inspiration doesn’t magically happen,” Reilley said. “It’s a culmination of what we’ve seen and what we want to do. All of us in this office do things differently and instead of ignoring those viewpoints, we embrace them. It creates an authentic product.”

Hart said the challenge is creating something from someone else’s vision, but it’s an obstacle Slash welcomes. They want to infuse the logistical needs of design with the emotional decisions that go into art. Part of the agency’s ethos is there has to be an avenue for art and emotion within branding. So far, that ethos has worked out pretty well.

In its early stages, Slash rebranded the Baton Rouge Blues Festival. They added textures and hand lettering to make the logo more vulnerable and thus, more receptive although the human eye may not think of it that way. After updating the logo with their new touches, the agency used that same color palette to create new backdrops and scrims for the festival.

Reilley calls it one of the agency’s biggest projects because of the lasting impact it’s had on the community.
Since then, Slash has branded and promoted a movie produced by Anthony Bourdain by the name of “Bone in the Throat.” They offered showings of the film and allowed those at the showings to eat the dishes they were watching on the screen in real time. As a result, the film had six offers after it finished showing at South by Southwest in 2015.

The list of accolades is quickly stacking up for Slash as they continue to help create and launch brands, but creation isn’t all they do. Sometimes, they act as a support for other up-and-coming creatives in Baton Rouge.

A handful of pop-up shows and concerts have been held inside of the Slash space as a way to show that Slash is here to help the community grow and change the mood of Baton Rouge from the inside.

“There are so many people here doing great things, “ Hart said. “Food, fashion, fitness, music … it’s all here. But word has to spread and that’s why we are here. The city needs it.”

Reilley said there’s a change coming in Baton Rouge, but first people need to take risks and inspire each other. On one of the walls of the office, the words “create because we give a damn” are written. Both Hart and Reilly agree that the saying is the embodiment of the company.

“We care about our clients,” Reilley said. “We care about our craft and how it’s presented. I think sometimes, business can pull us away from that. You have to care about what you do or else it becomes solely a job.”

“If there comes a time when we stop caring about what we do, we’re done,” Hart said. “Top to bottom—from the logo to the web site and everything inbetween, we are giving our partners a full service. But they’re also giving us a chance to be a part of their journey to success and that is absolutely priceless.”

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