Editors note: A ceremony to honor all 2013 CVA honorees will take place at Indiana Landmarks Center, Friday, starting at 6 p.m. with a reception. The ceremony will begin at 7:15 p.m. and is free and open to the public.
In a world of MP3s, Indy label Joyful Noise Recordings happily sends us back to basics: Cassettes, vinyl, even flexi-discs, are lovingly produced and sold in small batches to an eager crowd.
But their basics aren't that basic: with gorgeously rendered vinyl, innovative packaging and high-quality, limited releases, Joyful Noise Recordings navigates the re-surging analog market with savvy.
Label founder Karl Hofstetter has an ear for what will catch the music community's attention and an eye for how to package his product. He's collected a talented group - including Kiely Holden, David Woodruff, Corey Barnes, Shawn Woolfolk, Brendan O'Donnell and mascot pup, Reagen - to run a tight production team that's garnered heaps of critical praise.
"I would say my one rule of thumb is artistic sincerity," says Hofstetter. "I believe that having pure intentions is the key to making worthwhile art. And so often people working in music people are driven by other things (trends, popularity, money, etc). I strive to sign bands that are artistically honest, regardless of genre."
A few standout releases from the label include a boxed vinyl set of local band Marmoset's four albums and a 10-casette box set by Joan of Arc. Their relationship with indie superstars like of Montreal and Dinosaur Jr. lent the label early cred, and their continued fastidiousness has resulted in a carefully curated roster that leans toward noise music, but ventures into a little bit of everything else too.
Perhaps the biggest success story of 2012 for Joyful Noise Recordings was Kishi Bashi, the electric violinist, beatboxer and vocalist whose soaring sounds on new album 151a impressed NPR enough to earn Best New Artist of the Year, while garnering significant commercial placements and top festival slots.
That possibility seemed far off when Kishi Bashi (legal name, K. Ishibashi) was recording in his Carolina home studio, funding his album on Kickstarter. Hofstetter expresses interest, and mere months after the release of 151a, Kishi Bashi was invited to major festivals and becoming the soundtrack to commercials from Sony, American Express and Microsoft.
This year, Joyful Noise Recordings celebrates 10 years of unconventional formats, as well as the first full year inside their new space in the Murphy Arts Building.
The performance space-cum-office-cum-record store opened in May of last year; the label schedules shows at least monthly, with revolving exhibits by local artists. Shoppers can also dip into the building during the week to purchase new releases.
Their local space and art exhibits just scratch the surface of Joyful Noise Recordings's support of Indianapolis. They're released music by locals for years, including new releases from Sleeping Bag, DMA, Mike Adams at His Honest Weight, Racebannon and Memory Map. And, starting this year, the label is promoting Hoosier music on an international scale, as they just achieved worldwide distribution.
"This city gave us the environment necessary to grow our label into what it is today. Had we started in Chicago or New York I don't think we would have ever gotten off the ground. Indianapolis possesses a magic combination of traits - cheap housing, cultural excitement, large population without much competition - which make it a great place to start something new."
After ten years, 2014 is shaping up to be the best one yet for Joyful Noise. They've just signed indie rock giant Sebadoh, who will release their first album in 14 years. They're also planning a series of LP/DVD video releases that will capture live performances in a tactile, unique way - the label's calling card.