newsHIT Interview: Stevie Williams & Stefan Janoski Discuss Asphalt Yacht Club
Words by Kevin Duffel, portraits by Blair Alley
I've gotta be honest. I've never so much as set my foot on a yacht once in my life, and pretty much doubt I'll ever experience the simple joys of cruising down the French Riviera in some fancy million-dollar boat with martini in hand, leisure shirt buttoned down to my belly button, and fresh Sperry Topsiders on deck. Boy howdy, a girl can dream though. But asphalt—GODDAMN, my lower back knows the gritty taste of asphalt all too well. So, like most of you, I’ve at least got the first half of Stevie Williams' own rag-to-riches story, Asphalt Yacht Club, down. (Time to work on that next chapter…)
AYC, the new clothing brand by Williams announced their juggernaut of a team today, which consists of the very diverse and colossal talents of Stevie himself, Nyjah Huston, Stefan Janoski, Figgy, Riley Hawk, Derrick Wilson, Ben Nordberg, and Blake Carpenter. The only thing more dumbfounding than the combined talent of all the dudes involved, however, is the fact that Stevie and crew somehow kept all the details about the brand under wraps for this long. We recently spoke to Stevie and Stefan to get the full details on AYC. More info at asphaltyachtclub.com, on Facebook, or @asphaltyachtclub on Insta/Twitter.
Tell me first just a little background of this new company that you're working on and what the deal is.
First of all, the name is called Asphalt Yacht Club—AYC. It's not a rags to riches type of story, but it's still a skate tale of coming from one place and being able to make it to another. Like we come from the streets skatin', but you know, anybody that's professional wants to build a stable career. The yacht kind of symbolizes the success part. You can go from the streets to being successful. Everybody on the team reflects a successful path, including myself, where there's no mistaking the careers of the dudes on the team. Being identified as a street skater or a contest skater, everybody can get to a place they want. It's just a path. Asphalt Yacht Club, from the streets to the yacht.
It's a bit out of the ordinary to see a skate brand with that sort of story. I feel like a lot of people in skateboarding, for some reason, kind of play it off like they're embarrassed about making money or having success. You know what I mean? For some reason nobody wants to talk about making money in skating, which is odd because it's the white elephant in the room. But you've always embraced success.
I got you on this one. Skateboarders are still kids. And we grow up thinking it's not about money, it's about the tricks; it's about the culture. But as we all grow up, after 12, 15 to 17, we all start to have bills. And some people change, and some people stay the same and remain little kids. Now, as a professional skateboarder you're obligated to have a career, right? And the career span is maybe five to 10 years. And what do you want to do in that five to 10 years except for being successful in what you turned pro on? I think it's the ones that criticize and dictate, " Oh you make money in this," is the unsuccessful ones that kind of hold a grudge. Because all of the successful people that I know that made it from skateboarding take care of their family, are still there with their friends, have a lot of business obligations, and it's still part of their career—whether they're skating or behind a desk. I just think the people that don't really understand or never grew up could push that forward.
Why not reap the benefits of your hard work, right?
And it holds us back because, if you're 25 or 27, you got a pretty good stable career. You're being told to lessen yourself. When you wake up at like 30, or maybe 32, 33, and you're like, "Damn, I need to make a little bit more money," you kind of kept it real too long. And not to say that keeping it real is bad, you just have to focus on your career and be as professional and successful as possible until it's over.
So how did this whole opportunity come about? It seems like no one knew about it at all, it was super under raps. All of a sudden now, it's a pretty heavy hitting team, you know?
It's different. It's something that's definitely been building quiet. A lot of these dudes, including myself, had different clothing sponsors, and I just had an opportunity to build a cool team for skateboarding. To represent skateboarding, for skateboarding, and outside of skateboarding. My partner believed in my expertise, he believed in my vision. He's backing me and the team and the skateboarding industry.
“Everybody in the industry knows I take chances and I have the courage to bring on a new deal. I think this group of people I put together, along with Jesse, along with DGK skateboards, and Supra Footwear, collectively, I'm with the best dudes in the whole fuckin' industry.” —Stevie Williams
How much of it is your company, as far as the direction of it is concerned?
There are a few different divisions. Jesse Fritsch is the brand manager for the skateboard part of it; there's a lifestyle part of it that we're working on so that we can make skateboarding and live like a skater should live. So it's not just built for the skate industry but it's built as a brand that could be for skaters and represent skateboarding also. Which is needed.
So I think a lot of people are gonna trip when they see you and Stefan—the two vets on the team—coming together.
They forget me and Stefan got the same name but it's just spelt and pronounced a little different. Me and him have been hanging out and he's just like me. Older, veteran, jokes, he's super comfortable and we all have a high level of respect for each other. There's no clashing, it's pretty dope.
Did you know him before this pretty well?
No, not really too well, but I always respected him and everyone on the team. Even the new dudes on the team, pretty much everybody is handpicked. Me and Jesse went over a lot of dudes. We reached out to a lot of dudes, and the guys that we have have been down since day one. Everybody is down for the mission. It's dope.
Obviously, just for the clarification for all the DGK fans out there, this doesn't affect anything with that, right?
This doesn't affect one thing with DGK. DGK is still run perfectly through Kayo, I'm still 200 percent involved, I skate for DGK. But AYC—Asphalt Yacht Club—is a clothing company that I skate for. Everybody is still my brothers and I love them dearly, just in case people want to misconstrue shit. DGK is my family since day one. Kayo is my family. Supra is my family. And Asphalt Yacht Club is my new family. It's a new extension of Stevie's vision. Everybody in the industry knows I take chances and I have the courage to bring on a new deal. I think this group of people I put together, along with Jesse, along with DGK skateboards, and Supra Footwear, collectively, I'm with the best dudes in the whole fuckin' industry.
If you could describe the clothes to someone who's never seen any of the line, is there a certain aesthetic that you guys are going for?I tried to tackle the best quality material, at a cool price, with dope graphics for skate. And then getting into a full line, being able to make apparel that is a part of everybody that's on the brand. It's pretty eclectic but there's a piece that represents everybody. The quality is dope, and the pricing is what we're used to. And everybody told me, "No you're not gonna be able to make that type of stuff and do this and do that." I'm not saying I'm trying to prove anybody wrong, it's just that I think we can knock this out.
Everyone on the team is super into stuff outside of skateboarding. How's that lifestyle component factor into the company's vision?
That's why everyone was handpicked and we all kind of work well, because everybody has aspirations outside of skateboarding. Everybody knows Stevie does. It's good to have that in common with your fellow skaters. Because off the board, if you're only on some skateboarding type shit then it's hard to bring you up to speed with lifestyle. You gotta kind of be into your own stuff. And everybody is. I respect that. A lot of criticism comes with that and you have to be strong to stand firm on what you do off the skateboard, whether the skaters like it or not.
Obviously, I think DGK has a certain feel to it or aesthetic. You know exactly what DGK's about and it all makes sense. Everyone skates similar, everyone has sort of the same style. AYC is kinda all over the place though. I'm assuming you're equally as psyched to see somebody like Nyjah back noseblunt a 16 as you are to see…
Yeah, one thing people don't really know about me is, I might have this set type of street image lifestyle for Stevie Williams, but Steven—who I am as a person—I'm fans of a lot of people. And people don't know that. I don't know what people think truthfully. When I talk to Ellington or Riley or Figgy or Kareem or whoever from Dyrdek to Muska, I'm a fan, and I know more about your skating than you probably think I do. I think when people understand that about me, people kind of get blown away. Like, "Damn, this dude's still a skater." I'm happy to be around everybody. I get to see these dudes skate live and I'm a fan. It's dope.
“One thing people don't really know about me is, I might have this set type of street image lifestyle for Stevie Williams, but Steven—who I am as a person—I'm fans of a lot of people.” —Stevie Williams
That's kinda what skating is all about right? Being with all different types of styles.
Styles and personalities, characteristics. Yeah, you got Derrick Wilson to fuckin' Ben Nordberg to the new dude Blake Carpenter who is going to be sick. From me to Stefan to Riley to Figgy to Nyjah, everybody has their own swag and their own fans. I think that kids can look at Asphalt Yacht Club and pick their dude. They don't all look the same; it ain't all khakis and button ups, or baggy jeans and 3X tees. It's actually like you get multiple variety of different styles on one brand. I think that's something that the kids can really relate to, and see that you can all still get along, and you don't have to be all alike. It's different. We'll see what everybody all thinks about this one.
Any big plans coming up for this?
Yeah, we have a huge launch party coming up. We definitely inviting everybody in the skate industry, whether they skate for the brand or not. It's a cool celebration of hanging out with the dudes and supporting Nyjah at his contests and skating and doing viral videos for the brand. Just being a cool group of skaters that represent this clothing company for skateboarding, then watching everybody do their jobs for their other sponsors. Including myself, I still have a job! [Laughs] I'm a CEO, but I still have like 10 other sponsors.
Still backside heelflipping the gap at the park!
Still skating dude, I love skating. But I love business and I think that a lot of these skaters really feel comfortable with Stevie being in the position of power. So they know that I will definitely make sure they benefit.
At least they know that you've already done it. You've been there. In the grimiest of times, too.
I really feel blessed that these dudes trust my judgment on helping them benefit a little bit more. Like I said, if they didn't believe in me, they wouldn't have signed up for the challenge.
I'm definitely looking forward to see what's in store with the whole company. It caught me off guard for sure, and I'm genuinely excited about it.
I'm psyched about it too, thank you man. I think the kids are gonna be super psyched, and I know these dudes are gonna do a great job. And they all have great board sponsors. And I got Derrick Wilson too, he's a part of DGK skateboards, he's a new am. He's psyched.
Anything else you want people out there to know about AYC?
Nope. Just support AYC and your local favorite skater. Available at skateshops. And wherever else you see that shit, buy it.
How did you get involved with Asphalt Yacht Club?
I guess it came about through Ryan Clements. He knew Jesse Fritsch and they mentioned they were doing this new thing that was so secret they couldn't tell me the name or who was on the team. They asked me if I'd be interested, and of course I was interested and curious. I came out and met Stevie and then we hung out in New York. Then we ended up skating in Miami. I've always been a fan of Stevie and it seemed like a pretty new, different type of clothing company.
It's definitely an odd mix of dudes on the team.
That's actually what I like the most about it. At first me and Stevie were the only pros. I was like, "That's really cool," 'cause we're pretty a different style of dudes, so I liked what they were doing with the team—not going one route, kinda going every and all angles. Especially with Nyjah, Figgy, Riley, Derrick, Ben; it's like you have every area covered.
Did you know Stevie well before this at all?
Just from skating, we knew each other; we skated a long time ago together. Just little skate sessions, like a "Hey what's up, how's it going" basis. He's really cool and he's easy to get along with. That was easy. Today was actually a lot of the team's first time meeting each other. I was telling my girlfriend it's like the first day at a new school: you know you gotta go make friends. It was cool though. Everyone just got along right off the bat.
“It's kind of fun to get out of your element, do some things you don't normally do, so I think that's the best part about this—getting involved with every cool crew in skating.” —Stefan Janoski
How would you describe the company? What's the aesthetic to you?
I guess it's a skate clothing brand, but it's kind of all encompassing everything. It's not just like a hesh brand or a hip-hop brand or something like that. It's a clothing brand where any style of person can wear the same shirt. It's just gonna be a lot of different people who took skating in different ways and just having fun together and skating and going on trips and getting to make their own clothes, so there will be clothes for everyone.
Obviously your Nike shoe's been super successful. Are you designing stuff for AYC? Do you have a signature line coming out or anything like that?
No, no signature lines yet, but I think they're really interested in incorporating everyone's personal style. Everyone on the team has their own personal style, and it's not like they want anyone to change. Everyone can be themselves but still all be on the same clothing company.
Do you get to have your say as far as how designs go?
Yeah, a lot. Riley already drew a graphic that's on one of the first shirts. They're very open to everyone's input. The people doing it are really nice. They want us to have fun and do what we want. It's not a stressful thing, like trying to have the best skate ads or doing some gnarly video because a lot of the guys are going to be doing that anyways. This is going to be more of a lifestyle brand. It celebrates the fact that it's not just the skating that makes the skateboarder. We all have other things we do when we're not skating, which relates a lot to our personalities and eventually goes into our skating.
I'm sure you had a fair amount of input for the team, right?
Yeah, well its mostly Stevie's deal.
So Stevie is the one putting Figgy on and whatnot?
Oh yeah. He has final say. He's like the team leader. For me it's like, this is so different from anything that I've ever done. I had been on Analog for years and the same people from Analog were on Quiksilver before that, so I was with the same group of people. It was like the clothing company didn't really matter, it was the group of guys and we were doing stuff for years together. So of course it was cool, but it was also real comfortable and normal. It's kind of fun to get out of your element, do some things you don't normally do, so I think that's the best part about this—getting involved with every cool crew in skating.
Revisit Stevie’s part in The Reason (1999) and Stefan’s part in Subtleties (2004) down below: