Uncovering the layers of labels within Indiana is no small task. With so many genres and styles represented in the state, discussing every label would take multiple editions of NUVO. Here, we offer a large slice of the label pie: Well-known entities in the indie world that exist hand-in-hand with a plethora of microlabels. Many of these labels are but a labor of love — the same is true for this feature. It’s about discovery and rediscovery, remembering the sounds of our youth and the music of the future. All of it exists at once in Indiana, just waiting to be heard.
We'll be posting longer features on Secretly Canadian, Jagjaguwar, Plan-It-X, Dead Oceans, BlueSanct, Joyful Noise, GloryHole and Sacred Phrases. All profiles are by Justin Spicer, unless otherwise noted.
The best art is in-your-face; it grabs you by the throat and throttles complacency out of you. Such is the story of Bloomington-based label Auris Apothecary. The not-for-profit label slings a slew of primordial sludge on cassette, vinyl, and CD-R, housing a miasma of musical artistry in unique packaging,best reserved for risk takers. Auris Apothecary wants to be heard and the venomous veritas that oozes from their releases is unrivaled in Indiana. The unholy drone of Thee Open Sex, the cantankerous sexuality of Pusdrainer, the mutated rockabilly of Eddy Price: these sounds speak to a Hoosier mentality that has been locked under glass and key at the Kinsey Institute. Breaking free from the shackles of society, Auris Apothecary celebrates the instinctual in all of us, breaking the pristine and replacing it with what’s real.
Though now located in the sunny environs of Orlando, Fla., Gulcher continues to represent all that was once inherently right about Bloomington’s music scene. Begun in the '70s by then-IU grad student Bob Richert, Gulcher came to embrace the local punk scene by beginning as a ’zine. Though famous for releasing an early EP from John Mellencamp, releases from famed outfits Gizmos and MX-80 helped launch Gulcher from written words into a fledgling indie label. But Richert took Gulcher dark at the turn of the '80s, only coming back in the late '90s to respond to reissue requests. Gulcher now functions as a short history of Bloomington’s garage and punk lineage, even as the label continues to find new trailblazers (including early releases from Kurt Vile and Magik Markers).
Though named after Sunday school props, the image of Harley Race and Bobby Heenan that greets website visitors of record label Flannelgraph should shake any notion of Bible teachings. However, it’s likely you’ll find some kind of spiritual inspiration in the small catalog of work the Bloomington-based outfit has released. Flannelgraph’s releases are a brand of psychotropic TLC, the sort of brain-bending and toe-tapping, folk-tinged rock that makes listeners embrace their Indiana small town roots. Label artist Mike Adams even has worked a residency at a children’s hospital, making sick children feel at ease through music. This is what Flannelgraph stands for — youthful nostalgia and an outlet to escape the harsh realities of everyday life. Wrestling cards, vinyl hiss, and stories best told via Technicolor felt.
The laissez-faire attitude of Standard’s mission statement — “We have no idea how to run a record label. We make it up as we go along. No one else seems to either” — is one to be embraced, considering that devil-may-care touch isn’t to be found in the music. Standard Recording makes it simple: inexpensive albums, great music. Though the label has been quiet as of late, it's one to keep an eye on. From its beginning on the back of a Habitat for Humanity fundraising album, through a series of well-regarded Christmas compilations, quality is the first thought. More so, Standard has been at the forefront of giving some of Indiana’s brightest talents (Vollmar, Sleeping Bag, Margot and Calibretto) a platform to release anticipated music.
A city with a stellar jazz history like Indianapolis had better have some back up. Enter Owl Studios to provide a bit of muscle to bolster Indianapolis’ current jazz ranks. Owl Studios’ continued excellence in the record arts is multifaceted, promoting internationally recognized artists and local talent. The label has fast become a living piece of Indianapolis’ storied jazz history. Through its Emerging Jazz Artist Project, Owl Studios has partnered with Indiana University to recognize up-and-coming jazz musicians within the college’s renowned Jacobs School of Music. They are offered the chance to record for Owl Studios and provided mentorship for touring, promotion and licensing. This comes from a label that boasts enduring releases from The Headhunters and legendary jazz drummer, Mike Clark — all in the heart of Indiana.
The most buzzed-about independent labels would be lucky to house the wealth of unforgettable releases that Family Vineyard displays. The brainchild of Eric Weddle, a founder of Secretly Canadian, Family Vineyard has survived many moves and various trends, mainly because Weddle bucks trends in favor of timeless music. The works of legendary guitarist Loren Connors, the forceful strains of saxophonist Paul Flaherty, and the percussive assault of Chris Corsano go hand-in-hand with Hoosier stalwarts MX-80 and the fresh-faced Apache Dropout. Weddle’s curatorial aesthetic is built on nothing but a great ear and must-hear albums. Family Vineyard is the product of a music fan, eagerly sharing his discoveries with the world. To have such an eclectic label in Indianapolis is further proof of the city’s rise as a musical destination.