Tattoos and body jewelry make for a natural and happy marriage. Each year, the popular body art company specializing in ear gauges, known as Plug Your Holes, embarks on various music tours and appears at major festivals in effort to promote their brand and cater to music fans with alternative lifestyles. Tattoo ran into the mild mannered Joe Ianelli, general manager and designer at Plug Your Holes, at the 2016 Vans Warped Tour and discussed the company’s origin, affiliation with the music scene, stunning plug and apparel designs, as well as their overall mission statement that earns them their hardworking team, supportive artists, and loyal customer base.
How did you originally get started with Plug Your Holes, and what brought you to your current position as local head honcho?
I ran my own clothing line called Self Made Co. for a couple years, and I toured with Sam Dean, the owner of Plug Your Holes, many times. We just teamed up and worked together, and eventually around 2012 I was living in New York, struggling, and Sam was like, “Hey! We just moved to Kansas City and set up our shop. Why don’t you move down there and come work with us?” It’s been about four years now, and slowly but surely I progressed more into being involved with Plug Your Holes and helping to take it to the next level. Especially, since last year, Sam and his family moved to Thailand to take some time off and do some work overseas.
You guys work a lot with bands, especially ones that are local to Kansas City. What do you feel that the company has to offer in terms of cultures and festivals such as Warped Tour, Riot Fest, SXSW, and others that you’ve been involved with? What is your mission statement, so to speak?
We are a lifestyle brand. We appeal to all kinds of people, and it doesn’t necessarily mean just rockers, or whatever. It’s for everybody, and we’ve slowly started to introduce other products to our website, because we don’t want to just be a plug company. We kind of want to plug all of the holes in your life. So we have collectibles, Funko Pop products, clothing that we design, and other stuff for people who enjoy things like that.
You guys are indeed known for your stunning plug designs and awesome clothing. Who are your primary designers, and where does the product inspiration come from?
We have a lot of in-house people that work with us. One of our designers— his name is Thomas Richmond. I’m the other designer in the company, so the tents and stuff that you see at Warped Tour are designed by me— flyers, promotional materials, and things like that. We all come together, and we hire people to do artwork for us. Thomas did some Joker and Harley Quinn plugs. Our other artist’s name is Ben Rummel. He actually designed “Plug Boy” back in 2011.
Your Joker and Harley Quinn designs look similar to flash or American traditional style tattoos. Have you considered working with tattoo artists to come up with a series of plug designs?
Yeah, they are supposed to be flash style. Sam Dean’s brother-in-law just moved to Kansas City, and we are going to start getting him involved in some things like that. We are going to try to reach out to more Kansas City artists and start there. We want to eventually branch out to artists worldwide.
Plug Your Holes has been around since 2006, which makes this 2016 a sort of ten year anniversary. What are you guys doing to celebrate?
We’re about to launch an actual ten year birthday special this month. We’re going to be doing free giveaways and tons of stuff like that to really celebrate things.
As the manager at Plug Your Holes, what is your favorite thing about the Vans Warped Tour?
Getting out and meeting people— talking to them face to face and them seeing that we’re not just, you know, an Amazon or something like that. We want to be with our followers and anyone purchasing from our company. We want to put a face to the product, you know? That’s why we’re all out here. When Sam’s around he’ll come out here too. Waldy is our shipping guy, and he’s even out here at Warped Tour.
You guys have obviously expanded immensely since the start of the company— traveling to events, going on tour, and more. Why are you calling Kansas City “home” for the time being?
Sam Dean is from Minnesota, which is where the company started. He brought the company down here, because we feel that Kansas City is a good smaller city that’s growing— kind of like us. Kansas City is a really great art community, and people care to be a part of that. Instead of being a small fish in an ocean, we want to be a big fish in a small pond.
Check out the official Plug Your Holes site for exclusive offers and upcoming designs on quality plugs, apparel, and more.