Ari Fouriezos is on an unstoppable mission
Sorry, Mom! Productions founder not sorry about breaking down barriers in music
Most booking agents or band managers don't go on tour with artists, driving them all the way up the East coast so they can relax. Most don't pick up a set of drumsticks and fill in when a member can't make it to a show. Most don't think of their clients as family members or pitch in to promote their gigs out of pocket. Most aren't female. Most aren't like Ari Fouriezos.
In a predominantly male-driven music industry, Fouriezos is a wildcard. Since launching her promotions and productions company Sorry, Mom! Productions in summer 2015, she has aggressively expanded Atlanta's music scene by supporting a broad community of rising indie acts such as young punk bands Slang, Big Brutus, and Man Up, Yancey along with the experimental singer-songwriter fare of Chelsea Shag.
Because of Fouriezos' efforts, younger bands now have more places to play in the city, local booking agents are taking notice of previously overlooked scenes, and, Fouriezos hopes, more women will feel encouraged to step into music business roles.
"One of the reasons I entered the music industry is because I like going against the grain," Fouriezos says.
She speaks with excitement and urgency, waving her hands as she dashes from one thought to the next. Fouriezos has an endearing smile. Her brown curls spring out from beneath a blue baseball cap. "There is something to the fact that not a single person ever was like, 'Hey, this is something you can do.' I felt like I was entering grounds that were off limits to me."
Breaking into the music business is difficult for anyone, but especially goes for young people without experience or connections. But from the start, Fouriezos was determined not to let her age, appearance, or gender stand in her way.
In 2014, she dropped out of college and got a job as a busser at the Kessler Theater in Dallas, Texas. Within a month, she worked her way up to assisting artists and tour managers directly. Six months later in Atlanta, she landed an internship with the independent promotions company Tight Bros Network, and then moved on to OK Productions. She hustled hard, and before long she had an impressive amount of experience.
"I just always found a way," she says. "They didn't know who I was or how old I was, but they saw the stuff on my resume and gave me a shot. Then they figured out I looked kinda young."
Dismantling age barriers is still a challenge for Fouriezos, not only personally but also for the bands she champions. She's in her twenties, but prefers not to specify her age to avoid discrimination.
Fouriezos also manages shows at the Earl. The venue hired her in hopes of drawing a more youthful crowd. She's been a driving force for booking more all-ages and 18-and-up shows. She recently finished a bill for a July 3 show featuring Sea Ghost, Woven In, Frontyards, and Newark Wilder. Most of the performers are under 21 years old. Fouriezos says other spaces, such as 529, are becoming more accepting of opening doors to younger people, too. The risks and production costs might be higher with all-ages shows, Fouriezos acknowledges, but ignoring the new guard would be a missed opportunity.
"Give them a chance if they're good," Fouriezos says. "If you want to combine certain scenes, you have to let the younger crop of people work with the older crop. You don't want to keep them separated forever."
Fouriezos' inbox at Sorry, Mom! is constantly flooded with new bands seeking guidance. She has to turn down most of the proposals she receives. It's proof that she's providing a much-needed service, and she wishes there were more insiders willing to lend a hand to the uninitiated. Of course, she understands why it's lonely in the field. Running Sorry, Mom! is hard work and it pays little. Sometimes she loses money on shows. Partnering with newer musicians also means they need more assistance, and not just with business dealings, but often with navigating working adult life in general. The company's offerings technically include promotions and production, hands-on band management, artist development, and tour booking. But there's a list of other things Fouriezos does for artists simply because she cares.
"Ari does everything," says Man Up, Yancey's singer and guitarist Yancey Ballard. "She gets us on bills, answers our emails and talks to people and gets us to talk to people, ups our confidence, pays for my beer sometimes, gives me rides. Ari's my mother."
The affection between Fouriezos and her clients — really, her friends — is obvious. There's hardly a thing she wouldn't do for them, whether it's offering legal advice on a confusing contract or nursing them through stomach ulcers. "Ari really does a lot of great things, and she's constantly going," says Hayes Hoey of Slang, who Fouriezos assists with booking (and once joined as drummer for a gig). "She's kinda paying it forward, and that's cool."
Among Fouriezos' goals is creating more opportunities for women in the music industry. She gets motivated when she shows up to a venue and is ignored because bands assume the person in charge must be a guy. Women, she says, are rarely told that jobs like hers are an option. Part of her mission is to educate newcomers on how to get started. Eventually, she'd like to find a physical space where Sorry! Mom can hold workshops and classes to teach people how to book shows and handle promotions.
In the meantime, making connections across the country, helping her bands make waves outside the Southeast, and figuring out how to get them paid in the era of streaming technology are all on the agenda. Beefing up her PR chops, expanding her team at Sorry! Mom, and picking up a few protégées are part of the plan as well. All this sounds like a tall order for a company celebrating its first anniversary, but for Fouriezos, aiming high and defying expectations is all in a day's work.
"I like that it's so up in the air, because it leaves a room for growth, and that's what I'm all about," Fouriezos says. "I don't know a lot of things in life, but I do know this is the career I want to be in, and I want to do a lot of different things in this career."
Sorry, Mom! family tree
Ari Fouriezos is proud to call these artists her partners and friends
Ari Fouriezos confesses she is “obsessed” with the musicians she works with at Sorry, Mom! Productions. Here’s why she loves each of them, in her own words.LP by Slang
Theatrical punk four-piece Slang:
“They write some of the most dramatic and intense songs I’ve ever heard and have an unsettling live show to boot.”
Blue Fuzz by Man Up, Yancey
Impassioned indie rockers Man Up, Yancey:
“These songs are powerful and move you in a really special way, and this band cares just as much about their sociopolitical stance as writing great songs.”
(Tiny Box) by Big Brutus
Slang guitarist’s introspective solo project Big Brutus:
“Sean Bryant’s music is unnerving in its intimacy and purity. I listen to these songs every day.”
’60s pop-inspired songstress Chelsea Shag:
“Chelsea is one of Atlanta’s greatest talents, and you can’t help but smile and move while watching her perform.”