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.
Rad Summer is the musical lovechild of DJs Action Jackson and Flufftronix. The duo founded a promotional company called Rad Summer in Bloomington around 2007, and expanded the operation into a label in 2011.
Rad Summer is home to a variety of forward-thinking bass music producers who are local (Dave Owen, Action Jackson) and national (RX, Shiftee, Lemi Vice, Knife Fight.)
Rad Summer isn't strictly focused on EDM though. The label also released Black Fabio, a mixtape collaboration between Action Jackson and Indy emcee Oreo Jones that spawned the future Indiana hip-hop classic "Reggie Miller."
With one foot in Indy and the other in Philly (home of label co-founder Flufftronix) Rad Summer is poised to make an impact on a national level, especially considering Flufftronix's close connections with the influential fellow Philly label Mad Decent.
Audio Recon was founded in 2006 by Mab Lab drummer Eric Brown and has become the premier voice for experimental hip-hop in Indianapolis.
The label is home to a diverse group of artists within the underground genre, from the live jazz fusion of Echomaker to the abstract beats of Ligyro.
The label maintains a prolific output, having released over 60 titles digitally. Audio Recon's biggest exposure has come through a pair of joint releases with Asthmatic Kitty, both remix projects for Asthmatic Kitty artist Jookabox.
- Kyle Long
Bloomington-based label Magnetic South is dealing exclusively in tape. Founded in 2008, the label is home to bands like Daring Ear, Flux Balcony, and Birds of America. Magnetic South is a patchwork of different sounds, including experimental electronica, dreary-eyed lo-fi and straight-ahead Americana. Can’t get your hands on a tape deck? Check out the Magnetic South Bandcamp page to stream several of the label’s releases.
-Jon R. LaFollette
From the streets of Haughville, local label Munki Boi covers exclusively hip-hop. The label has a variety of hip-hop acts on its roster, including artists like Yung Tone, Mark Battles, Yung Fly, Gold E Patron, Swiff Da Gift, DJ Danny and more. They're led by founder and former CEO James Sims, better known now as G. Fresh. He achieved a reasonable amount of success with his single "On My Momma," which was picked up by radio and television stations across the region. He's got big plans to be Indy's first mainstream hip-hop star, telling NUVO, "I'm gonna put Indiana on my back and take it there."
Hermetic Tapes has laid claim to a portion of Indiana’s emerging cassette scene. With only three releases (from Learner Dancer, Crys, and Vacation Club), the micro-label is already making an impression in a city that is in the midst of a garage rock renaissance.
Though the trio of bands releasing tapes for Hermetic hasn't quite lived up to the Greek god reputation the name implies, there's a heavenly power struggle of rock ’n’ roll happening there. Keep your eyes on Hermetic.
Though Asthmatic Kitty is sometimes described as Sufjan Steven’s label — and the musician is indeed a part of the label’s hierarchy — and is headquartered in Wyoming and Brooklyn, AK maintains an active presence in Indiana thanks to Michael Kaufmann and John Beeler. Kaufmann keeps busy with his work with the IMA, but he was instrumental in organizing Indiana experimental music festival, Outsound, last summer which brought AK acts Helado Negro and Son Lux to the state. AK also is more than just Sufjan, with the fantastic Library Catalog Music Series. It chronicles avant-garde music of all genres (electronic, drone, kosmische) and has featured the work of Richard Swift, Jib Kidder, and Kristin Miltner.
Musical Family Tree
To call Musical Family Tree a label now is a misnomer. But the archival website is a who’s who of Indiana bands both old and new. Fostering a sense of community, MFT works to connect bands, labels, producers and fans all in the name of Indiana's history. If there’s an Indiana band you want to study, MFT will not only have basic biographical information, but also MP3s, links to social media sites, official (and unofficial) websites, tour dates, pictures — and that’s just scratching the surface. In its own way, it’s transforming Indiana's music into a social network where networking actually occurs. Bands will be heard, labels will be formed, and tour itineraries will be filled — all through the power of community know-how and can-do.
Vinyl-only label St. Ives has always felt like a secret, and it’s no coincidence — it’s part of the Secretly Canadian family. Its releases have always been covert; just a peep about them and then they vanish, into the ether of collectors and fanatics. If you’re not keeping dibs on a band or SC’s distribution website, a St. Ives release is bound to be gone in a puff of smoke. Discoveries such as Belong and The Black Swans have crept into cult status via releases on St. Ives, though the label sticks true to its local roots with releases by Everything, Now! and studio recordings from Bloomington’s Russian Recording.
This Jersey-born label has come a long way — literally — since its inception 15 years ago. Founded by Bobb Easterbrook, the label’s first release was a compilation tape given away free with a 'zine Easterbrook was compiling at the time. His first release for a band he did not play in was Bloomington’s The Horribly Wrong, whose debut work for the label sold out its 300 copies in three days.
“I remember that being very exciting to put out a really good record and have people buy it out so quickly,” Easterbrook said.
Eradicator moved to Bloomington 10 years ago, but still specializes in releasing limited edition vinyl for acts from across the country. Popular artists include Gestapo Khazi, Moscow Moscow Moscow, and The Midwest Beat.
-Jon R. LaFollette
Indy label Roaring Colonel hooked up with local band Hotfox after the band played a few shows presented by MOKB— Roaring Colonel's parent blog.
“The recording experience [for You, Me and the Monster] was fun and took the better part of the summer of 2010,” band member Duncan Kissinger said. “By the summer of 2011, we had a good relationship with a good label wanting to put out our tunes, so we went for it.”
The band's record distribution was greatly aided by the many connections of label founder Craig “Dodge” Lile.
“Working with Dodge got our names in a lot of people's mouths that we wouldn't have been in otherwise,” Kissinger said.
The label also has worked with Cheyenne Marie Mize and Neon Love Life in 2011. They have no releases planned for 2012 thus far, but the deep connections and great tastes of the label’s founders will ensure the label won't be quiet for long.
This label roundup is happening just in time for Bloomington label Crossroads of America, better known as XRA. They hosted an in-store mini-festival last Saturday at LUNA Records, featuring four of their most active bands: Rodeo Ruby Love, Bro. Stephen, Husband&Wife and Metavari.
“I don't know what it means to be cool, and I'm not interested in it,” said Scott Kirkpatrick, who makes music as Bro. Stephen. “I'm making music that speaks to me; I love to do something real and honest, not create an image.”
“Bands on this label and fans of this label are often called 'decent.' There's no judgment here; genres are different, but [they all have that] honest, Midwestern feel,” said Kurt Friedrich of Rodeo Ruby Love, who released This Is Why We Can't Have Nice Things on XRA.
After the show fans and bandmates co-mingled, exchanging hugs and high fives. XRA lives and breathes friendship.
New entertainment company Daddy Real has it all; with two record labels (Desa Records and 50/50 Records) a recording studio, two venues (The Place and The Backyard) a limousine company and even an home interior store, artists signed to this label will never have to leave the Daddy Real name to get anything they need.
Several local artists have been lured by this all-inclusive company with a professional gleam; kid harmonica great Carson Diersing, hip-hop institution Rusty Redenbacher, soulful jam band The Elect and '70s rockers Faith have all signed on. This label duo is relatively new, but with the resources they've got on tap, Daddy Real is poised to make a real impact.
Who said the riff-tastic good times of '80s metal had to go away? Thanks to Indy-based Eonian Records, they don't have to. A safe haven for acts who rely on hairspray and spandex as much as they do slick guitar hooks and bombastic vocals, Eonian works with bands dating back to the decadence of the pre-grunge era, to revivalist acts of today. Recent releases include new albums from Sandra Dee, TNA (guess that acronym) and Wanted. Upcoming releases include titles from Snakeskin Cowboy, a dusty blues metal band, along with Youngblood, Rattlesnake and Vandal.
- Jon R. LaFollette