How does Indianapolis become the kind of place where musicians want to stay — a city where they specifically come to live?
From We Are City to Dreamapolis, we’ve written extensively about enterprising individuals and organizations looking to shift the course of Indy’s social and cultural future.
Now, Musical Family Tree, Indy’s premiere archive of local bands, is expanding its mission to do exactly that — to establish the city as a flourishing musical draw.
MFT is much more than a website. Once a record label, still an online community and always a musical archive, this Indy tech treasure is in the midst of a massive reboot. With musician Jon Rogers at the helm, the site is mounting ambitious new projects, large events and taking a role in a monumental future project with the potential to shift the course of the arts community in Indy.
New, new, new
You can experience one of those projects Saturday at the New Music Showcase. Starting at 2:30 p.m. at Radio Radio, Rogers has planned a full day of sets from 23 local acts alternating between two stages.
“When we initially conceived of the show, I thought of the old bands. I thought, 'Let’s get Marmoset, Pravada, Gentlemen Caller, Margot. Let’s get everybody that people really like that have been around for a long time,’” says Rogers.
But MFT creator and SmallBox founder Jeb Banner had a different idea.
“I wanted to hear everything that’s new out here,” he says, citing some recent unfamiliarity with newer Indy acts.
So Rogers rounded up the freshest acts he could find, bolstered by a few older musicians with new projects — like artist DMA, formerly of Jookabox, who recently transitioned his new work into another full band arrangement.
It’s not just Rogers’ biggest event for the site yet — it’s also an anniversary of sorts. Rogers started contributing to MFT in October 2011, coming on board full-time in January. It’s a role that’s been passed from musician to local musician over the years, including stints by Joyful Noise label owner Karl Hofstetter and SmallBox employee and previous Broad Ripple Music Fest organizer Dan Fahrner.
Rogers took Banner’s suggestion to the extreme.
“Some of these bands I’ve never even heard a recording of,” says Rogers.
Some bands intend to perform new — and even confusing — material.
“Not only do we compose music that normally throws people into confusion and disarray, but we also strive to put on a performance to match the complicated compositions that we write,” says Zachary Jetter of Humans. “People can expect that to say the least — high energy, utter confusion and something 'different’ than most people are used to seeing.”
Rogers will take the stage himself. As founder of the oft-changing rock group Everything, Now!, Rogers has years of experience as a musician. Their latest, Do It On The Moon, was released in late 2011 on their private imprint, Holy Infinite Freedom Revival. Although the group — almost a decade old and with six full-lengths to its name — is on a hiatus of an unspecified time, Rogers continues to perform, both solo and with his new group Beer.
Since taking over the helm, Rogers — with the guidance of Banner — has revitalized the archival site with a variety of live music and album reviews, along with longer features highlighting prominent and emerging acts in the city.
Under his oversight, MFT’s mp3 archives hit 1,001 bands — a triumph logged after almost 10 years of work.
He’s also launched new recording projects, including EP in a Weekend, a consolidated recording experiment that’s hatched two records thus far.
The EP in a Weekend series kicked off with a scene stalwart — guitarist Christian Taylor stepped into Queen Size Studios for a weekend of songwriting with Derek Johnson and Cole Nicholas that resulted in Source Materials.
“We thought of Christian immediately because he’s a great musician, an amazing songwriter and he does a lot for the community, but he hasn’t always been able to get into the studio and release records,” Rogers told NUVO at the time of the project.
MFT organized another recording session with artist Lisa Berlin, Brandon Jackson and Jason Arnold; the group recorded in Brian Jones Studio in mid-July. Projects will continue approximately quarterly and can be downloaded on the site. Other forthcoming changes to the site include the embeddable playlists, a new mobile site and even more bios telling the history of some of the 1,001 groups archived already.