When planning this interview I had originally planned it to be a full-length feature with embedded quotes as opposed to a straight interview. However, after going back and forth over e-mails a few times with SORE head honcho Vince, I decided that cutting it short would be difficult and wouldn’t do the interview justice.
Despite being around for a few years now, it wasn’t really until recently that I properly acknowledged SORE. This may have been due to my absence from the Leeds skate scene for a few years or possibly to do with the fact that only now are SORE beginning to come into their own. This isn’t a criticism and after speaking to Vince I learned that this was intentional, taking the time to establish themselves as a company and build a strong foundation.
SORE is a skate company I can truly relate to. Aside from being Leeds based, they embody everything that I love about skateboarding. From the missions to find new spots to just cruising with some beers and a group of friends on a Sunday afternoon. They’re zero bullshit and one hundred percent committed to giving back to the skate scene they value. Often choosing to venture out in search of new spots over chasing the same old lines in the park, their output has been great to watch, and I have spent a lot of time pausing and rewinding SORE edits to try and figure out where a particular location is.
One only needs to watch ‘Reprobates’, their full length from last year’ to understand what all the hype is about. Undoubtedly one of my favourites from 2012, the film sees Vince and the crew out and about, exploring the gritty Northern streets. The skating is always fast, raw and on point reminding you why you should leave the skatepark more and shows that often the fun is in the adventure, in search of that perfect spot, and in their own words, SORE are ‘purveyors of spots less acknowledged’.
Vince was a pleasure to talk to, and it was refreshing to chat to somebody who was doing things so honestly and who really cared about his local scene. The fact that SORE recently announced that they will be selling and delivering their decks for the same price as you can get a blank only further demonstrates their willingness to give back to skateboarding.
So anyway, here it is for you to enjoy. For those of you who don’t know, I’m sure you will be seeing much more from SORE over the coming year and for those that are up to date, I hope this will give you a little bit more insight into a company that I have really enjoyed following over the past few months. Enjoy.
Hey Vince. So first of all some info about yourself would be great
I’m called Vincent Orr. I’m an all mighty 34. A large amount of my childhood was spent down south but I was born in Paris! I’ve been skating around the 18 years mark! I went on a school trip to Southbank to hit some African drums and play some weird instruments. Saw the skateboarders and that was the highlight of my trip just thought fuck that looks so fun got to start it!! I was 15/16 at the time so a bit of a late starter.
You’re not from Leeds originally, what made you stay in Leeds?
I came to blag a few extra years from having to start work and somehow got an education at the end of the blag. I just think Leeds has a lot to offer. You’re no more than an hour away from different cities. It takes more than an hour to get across London!! The skate scene is sick, Yorkshire countryside and cheaper prices on houses/rent, booze and food.
How do you think the Leeds scene compares to other places? When I was younger I used to hate it but now I think that there’s a lot to skate you just have to be a little more creative.
I’ve been here for 14-15 years and I’m still finding new spots. It’s kind of the deal when you’re younger you just want to get out of the nest, spread your wings but once you get a bit older you realise the location becomes what you make of it.
So what prompted you to start SORE?
There seemed to be companies coming from all around the country but not Leeds or Yorkshire really. I skated with guys that I thought were real good and they just happened to be part of a crew who hung out together.
These guys weren’t your go to comps get recognised kinda guys they just loved skating. So initially giving them a platform and keeping myself involved in skating was the right choice.
What was the scene like then? Because it feels like the past couple of years have seen a bit of a shift in the skate scene with brands like Palace/Polar/Magenta coming out breathing a little bit of life into everything. I’m not grouping you in with those companies or anything but I imagine the impetus to do something different was quite prevalent around then?
The strange thing is I’m not really sure, because as a skateboarder I never really gave a shit about that. Didn’t read mags, watched some DVDs but was more interested in just going skating. If I’m honest I didn’t have a strong idea as to what I wanted SORE to be, I just knew I had to start something. The timing for me felt right.
Where does the name come from?
I just wanted something short and that reflected what I like about skateboarding. I guess people expect it to be quite mosh because it sounds gory. But the actual meaning to me is if you’ve had a good skate you should feel sore. For example by either skating massive distances or throwing yourself down something, basically you’ve been pushing yourself so you’re aching or sore by the time you’ve finished. Obviously that’s not instantly apparent from the name but a name is just a name in the long run.
Talk us through SORE’s inception. How did you go about starting out to where you are now?
Well it was a mega small operation to start with. Myself and a good friend Rozee sat down and thought who should be a part of the team. Next was to print t-shirts and that was Rozee’s department. He’s a screen printer by trade so we printed the t-shirts ourselves and I learnt off him how to do it.
This is still the case, we still print all our own soft goods and with it being in a basement you get loads of little imperfections but I prefer that. I think the only other company in the UK that do their own prints are LoveNskate, they also do their boards. We tried but failed miserably with boards!!
Back to the story, met up with the riders with a t-shirt and said “ride for my team, I’ll have boards in the first year” hahaha, what the fuck was I thinking.
But within 6 months I’d accumulated enough money from the tees along with a 1k loan from a friend of mine Jim (thanks Jim you legend!) to get boards. I knew exactly which wood I wanted and it had to be generator as they also do deluxe boards and that’s all I skated for years so I loved the shapes and concave. They cost more because they come from America but I wanted quality I knew.
All the boards sold, paid Jim back and had enough left over to get another series. At that point the riders were getting boards at cost price and have been until the recent series, which was 4months ago, dedication right there!
3 years down the line from some crappy t-shirts the whole feel and art direction have funneled to a proper output. I personally I think that only in the last year have I been personally happy with things.
How big is the operation now? Is it still just you?
Still the same, just me. Rozee helps out with printing but he has other projects on the go like Chug Life and various printing jobs for bands and other skate companies. Some of the riders are getting more involved because even though I get the ultimate say I always wanted them to have an active part. A skate company is nothing without its skaters.
Do you still work and if so what do you for your day job?
Yeah I’m fortunate enough to be a freelance web developer/designer at the mo, so this is how I can try and plan my work around filming and skating.
You’ve spent a good couple of years establishing yourself now building a solid foundation. Has it always been your plan to go about things like this, starting small and building everything up piece by piece?
Yeah like I mentioned before I didn’t have a clue how to run a skate company!! I’ve just been learning as I go along and because I’m not your industry sociable type I haven’t gotten tips from others or made the connections that usually put you on the radar.
I’m glad it’s taking ages for it to grow because if I’d put shit loads of money into my original ideas I’d be in a lot of debt. Now it’s really taking shape the ethos is the same but the way we display our output is way stronger. If it gets bigger then all good but if it doesn’t I’ll still be here, there’s no rush, I’m not bending what I believe to get quick sales and turnovers
How many skaters have you got on the team now and who?
We have 6 on the full team and one active flow guy but many more I help out. The full team is: Aiden, Brenna, Myles, Guy, Foz, Ali, Bruce and recently Wapo on flow.
We used to have a massive flow team but some moved away others stopped skating so much. So now it’s a lot more concentrated and if someone puts the effort in they’re only helping themselves and SORE grow.
As SORE is growing it means more free shit for the riders or maybe saving up to take everyone on a trip, all profits are still just put back into SORE.
What do you look for in the skaters you want to put on the team?
The ethos they have on skating is as important as their skills to me. I’m not after the technically best person. I want people to watch our vids and think fuck that looks fun I want to go out and give it a go. Finding someone with their heart and ability in the right place is key!
What’ve you found frustrating as you’ve grown bigger? You must have had to deal with some bullshit
Yeah for sure, from the get go really. People were pissed off because I said which wood factory we use to get our boards made!! Generator by the way! ha.
I know that ultimately having a company is to make money, but I just think its a different case when it comes to having a skate company in the UK. You have slim to no chance of even breaking even, but everyone seems to act like that’s not the case. Lots of back chatting bitchiness I find, people pretending they are core and independent when really they are part owned and never skate.
The problem from what I can make out is that all this stuff has been kept behind closed doors. Kids aren’t too clued up or care on what’s happening on the industry side so this is why there are so many American boards on the walls of most skate shops.
If you don’t have money and an industry backing it’s near impossible to get shop support. Also there are so many other companies about (last count was 45 I think) all just hassling the shops. We do get great support from rad shops like Division 24, Welcome in Leeds, Lost Art in Liverpool, City Surf in Cardiff, Mischief when Bingo was still with us and a couple of others on and off.
What actually sucks is we get a fat amount of online sales, which makes us far more money, but I just want us to be in shops. I’d prefer they get the profits to help support the local scene but after years of hassling I’m wondering why I bother.
I’ve heard you talk about describing yourself as a company and not a brand before. I think that’s interesting because in my opinion Sore is already establishing itself as a brand. I understand what you mean about brands being corporate etc but I see a brand as the company and everything surrounding it, the whole image it projects and the associations that go with it. To me anyway, Sore is already establishing that, with a real raw approach to street skating, filming most of your stuff out in the streets etc. Do you have an idea of how you want the company to be seen by people or do you just do things as you feel?
Yeah the brand thing is just me being an bit of a purist. I relate the word brand with things like Coca Cola, Microsoft, Apple, Virgin etc.
Obviously that’s not the case anymore and even freelancers call themselves a brand. I just don’t want to follow that, I think of SORE as a company, a group of friends. I know it weird! Haha
When I started I wanted to appeal to everyone, but as things have come on doing this makes less and less sense! It’s easier to reflect what we actually do rather than pretend to be something to try and widen the appeal to potential supporters.
I think SORE is finally at a point where we don’t have to fish for new supporters. By no means do we have a massive following but those who do are on the same wavelength and more likely to keep following us. I’ve always said I would rather have one person stoked on us for years than a 1000 for a month. This is why a slow growth has been good for us.
Where does the inspiration come from for the visual side of the company? The artwork etc.
I’m really into representing the UK and it’s aesthetics. Not what the world expect to see like the Queen or London buses and all that crap. I like crappy council estates or high rises, the bits that are dismissed and that actually make up the UK. I try to keep the logos to a minimum, as they are just lazy and un-inspirational to look at.
The same goes with the visuals and spots we use in the vids. I’m well into music too so I try to use things that aren’t always heard on skate vids but I know should work well together.
I think certainly the graphics on the board have really come into their own. I wasn’t a massive fan of the graphics on the earlier boards but the new graphics are fucking rad. Going to treat myself to one of the pool boards. Who does all the design?
Haha think we might have one left, they sold quick!
But I’d have to agree with you, the first 2-3 series were confused, was just me testing the waters with what might work as I was still trying to find out myself. The first board was of everyone involved in SORE drawn by a childhood skate friend of mine. Glad we did it but yeah it’s nothing like what we put out now!!
In my house my staircase is the history of SORE boards and it definitely gets better as you go up.
The pasts few series have been just me. I’m really into photographic imagery and having a board as something good to look at rather than a massive logo board like I mentioned in the previous question. These have to go up on my walls so I need to make them more than just a logo haha.
In the past skate companies would make so much more of an effort with graphics now its just 50-60% logo.
How do you feel about the state of the current skate industry?
I can’t work it out man. I think it’s a bit fucked due to its popularity. I’m really protective of skateboarding and I’m not in it to make a quick buck but whilst the popularity is high it invites those who are joining to make money and stopping those who love it being able to grow or go out of business.
Everyone excuses shit practices like that with: Well they pay their riders money so it’s helping the skateboarders.
Fuck that dodgy, fashion orientated crap. I can understand skateboarding is moving on and people like different things but I find it so hard to relate because that’s just not skateboarding to me. But that’s just my stance and we’ll see how well they do once the hype and external money has gone.
I go on about this shit all the time and to be honest it can just bog you down into a load of bollocks. I’m just not really a part of it and that kind of thing used to piss me off. But since not caring about that need for recognition from your peers, I’ve had way more enjoyment and stronger output from SORE. Keeping what I love about skateboarding alive and letting the rest do the look books, fashion stuff and how they see skateboarding.
If you could change one thing about the skate scene in the UK what would it be?
Well like I mentioned before things are at a very confusing time right now. I’d rather that the culture of skateboarding be kept and not over written by marketing ploys, sales and general business.
What UK brands do think are killing it at the moment?
You’d think I’d name the obvious like Death, Heroin, National, Harmony, Palace but the one I relate with would have to be Science. They’ve always had strong art direction sick team and to me are like when stereo first started. All they need now is for a current video to pop up. Harvest, from Scotland, seem to be putting out fun stuff but they are quite new so I’m sure if they can keep going it will improve. Subterranean/Pillo wheels have a sick image and they are getting better and better.
Reprobates was amazing for me because it showed me so many amazing spots around where I live that I guess I just hadn’t noticed before. It made me want to get out and go explore. What was the process like for filming and were a lot of these spots places you knew of already?
Thanks, that was the main idea behind it, to show people that your eyes can just miss so much. Obviously people were just trying to call it a scene video because it was mainly based in Leeds. It turned out like that because I used to suffer with mad panic attacks when attempting to travel so leaving Leeds felt life threatening. It’s a pretty annoying condition but I’ve been working on it so hopefully the next vid will venture out way more!
Where are some of your favourite places to skate around Yorkshire?
I’d have to say Leeds because everything is so close together. You can skate around town and hit shit loads of spots all minutes from each other.
What about the UK skate scene in general? The thing I love about SORE is how much your passion for exploring and looking for new spots comes across. Some of the best days I’ve had skating are the days where you just cruise around with some friends and find something really sketchy but you manage to get some tricks on it. It’s so much more rewarding than doing something amazing at a perfect spot. Do you think this kind of skating is being lost a little bit?
This is it for me right now, just cruising through traffic going mac 10 is my favourite thing. At the same time finding something that most wouldn’t touch and being able to have a session on it rules. Obviously it’s good to get the perfect spot but that’s what skateparks are there for and why most skaters end up stuck there. It can be an effort but to me the adventure of searching is far more rewarding than doing the same line at a park. I guess with the influx of skateparks then yeah that side of things is a little abundant.
With that kind of approach to skateboarding do you often find yourself beat down by the weather?
Yeah it can be a struggle; the UK isn’t exactly SF or Barca so you tend to be dealing with rain and more rain. But a couple of days away just make you more hyped when the weather turns good.
How would you like to see Sore progress in the future?
Just keep going no mass plans or aims. Just being able to give a good bunch of lads free shit and hopefully inspiring people to see skateboarding the way we see it. Maybe another full vid, but we’ll see. They are hard work for everyone involved!
Awesome. Cheers Vince.