Local music is fleeting. One day you may embrace a band as the best in the world. The next they may be gone, forming new bands, leaving for college, working full-time, starting a family. Only a few hundred people may hear a band during its short lifetime, and in the end, it’s up to those fans to keep the music alive.
That’s just what musician and independent music entrepreneur Karl Hofstetter has set out to do: rescue long-lost recordings and bands from oblivion.
Hofstetter has long been part of the local scene, beginning in 2001 as a member of the band Melk the g6-49 and continuing today as proprietor of Joyful Noise Recordings and Soapbox Promotions and performer in the Abner Trio and Lafcadio.
On the upcoming Joyful Noise release Defunct Indiana, he revisits 17 avant-garde Indiana rock bands no longer in existence. Hofstetter hopes to introduce a new generation of local fans to the music and remind longtime listeners why these groups were great.
Of course, Hofstetter isn’t interested only in archival work, and works with bands still very much alive for his label and promotions company. He began Joyful Noise Recordings in 2003 as a vehicle to release his band’s albums, but soon expanded the label’s mission, desiring to release albums he felt were amazing and needed to be heard. The first attempt came with a former local act called Manners for Husbands, a band he loved and was influenced by.
“They had this record called Take a Shape — it’s one of my favorite albums ever,” Hofstetter says. “There were 50 copies on CDRs that existed. I thought it was so sad this amazing record is never going to see the light of day.”
Hofstetter released a 7-inch split featuring the group alongside Melk the g6-49 in 2004. A digital-only release by Manners, Sickly Love Sadness, followed two years later.
Since inception, Joyful Noise has built a reputation of releasing its own distinct brand of music: loud, strange and avant-garde. “Since we got major distribution I’ve released twice as many records than I did before,” Hofstetter says. “Our first distributed title was [in] January 2006. We were on release No. 8 at that point and now we’re on release 24.” Bands releasing albums with the label since 2006 include the Abner Trio, Lafcadio, Grampall Jookabox, Stationary Odyssey, Push-Pull and Michigan’s Child Bite.
“I feel lucky getting to work with a lot of great bands and to be able to get them some credit,” Hofstetter says. “I think the music scene right now in Indiana is really thriving. I don’t remember a better time when there were as many great bands everywhere like there is now.”
Recording and releasing an album is only part of the struggle for a band. After that’s been accomplished, they need listeners. Promotional companies can help a band or label by sending albums to radio stations and the music press. But those services come at a hefty price, money that most bands use up in the recording process.
Hofstetter faced that promotional dilemma many times as Joyful Noise Recordings continued to grow, and in 2007, he decided to do something about it by starting Soapbox Promotions.
“I got sick of other companies charging way too much for what they do,” Hofstetter says. “I can’t pay $3,000 for a few reviews a large promotion company could get us. That’s why I started to do the work myself. I’m able to extend it to bands for a much cheaper cost than what they would pay for other companies.”
So far Soapbox Promotions has catered to Indiana acts like Prizzy Prizzy Please, the Sump Pumps, the Delicious and A Caesar’s Holiday, as well as recent Joyful Noise releases.
“We got Child Bite into Paste Magazine. That was pretty big,” Hofstetter says. “The records that Soapbox has done have actually done pretty well. They’re getting reviewed in Italy and Canada and all these other places. Bands get excited when they see their CDs reviewed in other languages.”
Like every project Hofstetter has started, the Defunct Indiana compilation follows the mission statement of getting great music into people’s hands. Once again, the band Manners for Husbands inspired the idea; Hofstetter was thinking about their first album, trying to figure out how Joyful Noise might release it without losing money.
“I started realizing that there are a lot of bands from Indiana who no longer exist but are amazing and very few people have heard them,” Hofstetter explains. “I thought it would be fun to compile my favorites into a really good compilation.”
Hofstetter made a list of the bands he wanted for the album and then asked members of the former groups to submit three songs to him. With a collection of music in his hand, he spent months listening to the songs, choosing his favorites and building a track list. Finally, the album was mastered and readied for release.
“It was a long process but I’m really happy to be able to let some of the bands be heard that haven’t been heard before,” Hofstetter says.
To celebrate the album, Joyful Noise and local music Web archivists MusicalFamilyTree.com have joined forces to present a special release show Saturday, April 12 at Spin Nightclub. (The album is a joint release between Joyful Noise and Musical Family Tree Records.)
“I just wanted to give some of these bands some exposure they will probably never see,” Hofstetter says. “A lot of the bands on this comp never had a proper release. No one will ever hear their music, which is a shame. So I wanted to try to do a little part to get people to listen to it.”
WHAT: Defunct Indiana CD Release Show featuring Intro to Airlift, America Owns the Moon, Lukewarm Bodies (at best), BIGBIGcar, Rooms. Free copy of Defunct Indiana CD for first 200 people.
WHERE: Spin Nightclub, 6308 Guilford Ave.
WHEN: Saturday, April 12, 9 p.m., $8, 21+