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Interview: Sophomore Slump Fest founders talk humble beginnings, Weird Al Yankovic and fest’s future

The 2018 Sophomore Slump Fest happens this Saturday, August 25, in Durham, NC. The pop-punk lineup includes powerhouses like Microwave, Forever Came Calling and more. We spoke to festival founders Eric Peterson and Liz Mercer about the fest’s humble beginnings to their dream future lineup.

Atlas Artist Group: What’s the origin story of Sophomore Slump? What inspired you to start an annual music fest?

Eric Peterson: We started Sophomore Slump Fest to fill a hole we saw in the East Coast music scene. We aimed to create a festival in which we could partner local, regional, and nationally renowned acts together on the same stage, creating a safe and inclusive environment for fans to enjoy their music. We were inspired by long-standing festival tycoons of the time, Vans Warped Tour and Riot Fest, to name just a couple, in order to create a similar experience exclusive to the East Coast.

Atlas: How do you go about deciding the lineup every year?

Eric: We get this question a lot, especially within the months after each festival. Our first step is to make a “wish-list” of headliners and use it as a jumping-off point. Having seen Microwave destroy the Vans Warped Tour stage in the year prior, we knew we had to have them this year. From there, we keep our eyes peeled year-round for local, regional, and national acts making moves within the Alternative music industry, best fitting our goals for that year’s festival. Bands who work with us often are usually some of the first to be selected for the festival, as long as they have shown the will to work hard and have a sound that complements our headliners and co-bills for the year. We’re incredibly excited to have artists from our management roster such as Bleacher Days and Drop The Girl on the lineup this year, as we know that these two groups are hard working and have great draw within the region. Shortly after catching wind that Sink The Ship would be signing to Sharptone Records, we reached out to them in anticipation of their jaw-dropping debut release through the label.


Atlas: What would be your dream headliner/dream artist to work with on the fest?

Eric: Liz and I both have our own “dream artists” to work with, but in the end, our own dream festival lineup is one that will inspire a multitude of fans to come out and enjoy the festival, feeling a sense of wonder and pride at the end of the event. Bands grow the way that an individual does, and our dream headliners from years ago may change as the industry ebbs and flows between sounds. The needs of our audience will always outweigh our own personal desires, but Weird Al Yankovic on Sophomore Slump Fest 2019 would be fucking awesome. **Liz would like to interject that this is the worst idea and absolutely disdains the idea of Weird Al headlining SSF. She requests that Jaden Smith‘s booking agents swiftly slide into our inbox.

Atlas: How has the festival grown and changed since its beginnings?

Eric: We started out our festival with 6 weeks of planning in 2016, bringing together an entire two day festival with way too short of notice. Looking back on it, it’s incredible that we even put on the first festival. Our planning stages have since elongated, as I now begin searching for talent and venues in September of the year before. As well, Liz has grown our sponsorship roster five-fold within the last year alone, enabling us to put on a larger-scale event with a higher budget. Each year, we continue to see new faces come through the door with tickets in-hand. Essentially, the festival has grown like wildfire since 2016.

Atlas: What are your hopes for the future of Sophomore Slump?

Eric: In the immediate future, we hope to exit this year’s festival with our sanity in check. As far as long-term goals, we want to remain true to our initial visions for the festival and partner with bright new companies, bands, and individuals to create an unstoppable force of a festival.

If you’d like to partner with FBT Entertainment in creating the future of Sophomore Slump Fest, our inbox is always open to bands and organizations alike:

Sophomore Slump Fest happens August 25, 2018. Tickets are still available on their website: