Ready, aim, fire! 

Indy’s Rifleman Records sets its sights on vinyl

Between the initial costs of starting a record label and finding bands worth a damn to release, maintaining momentum is no easy task, particularly when the focus is on releasing vinyl, as opposed to the CD format.

In the past few years, Tom Roosa and local music legend and Vibes Music owner John Zeps have been working on developing their DIY label, Rifleman Records.

Rifleman has thus far focused on vinyl, specifically by local bands, which makes it the first all-vinyl label in Indianapolis.

“I’ve always thought vinyl sounds better,” Zeps says. “We kind of set out to be just a vinyl-only label; I think just ’cause of the nostalgia of vinyl and wanting to keep the integrity of the bands on that format.”

While vinyl may not be necessarily as popular, or profitable, for a record label, the opportunity to help bands get a proper vinyl release outweighs their financial instability.

“We love music,” Roosa says. “If we can help a band out and put out their vinyl and make enough money to break even, that’s all we care about.”

Rifleman Records began a few years ago when Zeps and Roosa were looking for a way to get their current band, Lukewarm Bodies, released on vinyl.

“I wanted to start my own label and, basically, he wanted to be a part of it,” Roosa says. “Then he came up with the name, and we decided to go 50/50.”

After recording four songs for a self-released vinyl EP, their band collapsed. The prospect and motivation to pursue an all-vinyl label, however, did not.

Rifleman got its first break when the label was given the opportunity to re-press the vinyl edition of the legendary Zero Boys album, Vicious Circle. Reissuing a long out-of-print, Midwest punk classic was the perfect way to announce that Rifleman was now a legitimate label.

“We did a re-press of the Zero Boys as kind of a catalyst [for the label],” Zeps says, “because it was almost a sure thing that [Vicious Circle] was going to be successful for the label; which it was.”

The Zero Boys records went out of print almost immediately, further propelling Zeps’ and Roosa’s enthusiasm over Rifleman. Having helped bring a previously hard-to-find classic back into the proverbial limelight, the Rifleman duo decided to focus on releasing other local bands that they feel are contributing, and important, to the local music scene.

“We kind of wanted to keep the local integrity going by releasing stuff by bands we believe in and that we see a promising future for,” Zeps says.

Thus far, Rifleman has gone on to release local grind band Black Arrows of Filth and Impurity’s crushingly brutal 1984 (Eternal) LP and rock ’n’ roll-by-way-of-the Clash-meets-soul group Those Young Lions’ self-titled EP.

“They have great ideas, follow-through and offer support,” says Dave Britts of Black Arrows of Filth and Impurity. “Who wouldn’t want to work with a label like that?”

The foreseeable future sees Rifleman issuing its next release, a split 7-inch from local instrumental metal band You Will Die and Fairfax, Va.’s Jesus Lizard-esque band the Wayward. Zeps and Roosa are also working on inking better distribution deals for the Black Arrows and Those Young Lions releases.

Rifleman Records’ releases are available at Vibes Music, Missing Link, LUNA Music and Indy CD & Vinyl, and they will soon be available from the Rifleman Web site, which is currently under construction.

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