Even after seven years and 29 releases, the guys behind local independent record label Standard Recording Company still playfully claim they’re one risky decision away from indigence.
Take their latest project, an ambitious three-CD set called Of Great and Mortal Men that will tell the story (in song) of each U.S. president. As 27-year-old Kevin Phillips — who runs Standard along with 32-year-old Mark Latta — puts it, the presidents’ project will “either go over really great, or we’ll be working at McDonald’s by the end of the year.”
Despite fears of fast-food wage slavery, Phillips and Latta have established an innovative and dependable source for new music, and a valuable resource for Indiana bands that want to record and release their work in a way consistent with their creative vision, right down to details like packaging and distribution.
Standard began life in 2001 as a studio and label near Kokomo, Ind., but didn’t find success until a 2004 move to Indianapolis in search of a bigger market and cultural center. Latta and Phillips have since left the studio behind (as well as any physical office space) and taken on a hand-picked group of mostly Indiana-based acts, including Muncie psych-rockers Everthus the Deadbeats, and Indianapolis performers that range from twisted folk quartet Harley Poe to art rockers Everything, Now! to rock collective Margot & The Nuclear So and So’s (who have moved on through several “major” labels).
While the music on Standard might fall under the “indie-rock” umbrella, Latta says there’s no specific criteria for how they choose a band: “A band has to tour, but nearly every other label will tell you that same thing.”
Phillips adds, “What Mark and I look for are people that will work at least as hard, if not harder, than we work on a release.”
Like the best of the independent rock record labels that sprouted up throughout the ’80s and ’90s, Standard can take more chances than any corporate outfit, giving a full-scale release to a band making challenging music, maintaining interest in local music and cultivating mutually beneficial relationships with performers. In the end, Latta and Phillips see themselves as “enablers” to the local music community — “not in the negative sense, but we want to help people that want to put out an album, or tour,” Latta says.
— Scott Shoger