By Cheyenne Young
The do-it-yourself (DIY) ideology is one that dates back to 1970’s punk culture. Punk rock bands began recording demos in their bedrooms, producing their music independently and giving a middle finger to the system that has controlled numbers of groups/artists throughout history. The DIY scene has been present ever since but in recent years DIY seems to be taking over the industry, bringing labels, bands and fans closer to each other and to the music they love. I had the chance to interview a number of different DIY record labels that I have followed for a while and whose work I find to be deserving of higher recognition. I asked each label questions about their inspirations, the struggles involved in starting a label, thoughts on the DIY scene, as well as any advice for those looking to start a record label themselves one day.
Triple Crown Records
Founded by Fred Feldman in 1997, Triple Crown Records is a record label based in New York, New York. The label is currently working with a large number of bands such as Foxing, Tiny Moving Parts, You Blew It, McCafferty, Free Throw, Shortly and many many more. Over the past 20 years, Triple Crown Records has seen to the production of many iconic albums such as Deja Entendu by Brand New, You’re Not As__ As You Think by Sorority Noise, Make the Clocks Move by Kevin Devine as well as numerous others.
I had the opportunity to speak with Fred Feldman, a charismatic character, about his experiences with Triple Crown Records over the years.
When I asked about the struggles involved with the start-up of a record label Feldman said, “It’s such a dramatically different business now than it was when I started. The biggest challenge is that there is so much music out there so how do you get people to care about what you are putting out there? The struggle used to be getting the records into stores. If I was starting this company now I would worry about how do I get the streaming services to look at me now.”
I asked Feldman what the most rewarding part about running a label was and he said, “I think it’s if you find a band that’s in the really early stages and you put out music and they go from playing to 50 people to a whole festival. It’s seeing a band connect to an audience and move people.”
When asked his thoughts on the music industry as a whole Feldman said, “It’s changing and evolving really fast. We’ve been going over 20 years so we try to evolve with it. People think labels are no longer important and you can do it all alone. It’s not going to happen by just uploading your music and crossing your fingers. There’s still value in labels.”
Based outside of Atlanta, Georgia, Chatterbot Records was started by Alex Atchison in 2017 and has been in operation for just over a year now. They are currently working with artists like Origami Angel, Foxy Dads, Church Girls, Equipment, and Jimmy Mayo. Chatterbot Records is currently working to release Origami Angel’s third EP and first ever LP as well as big announcements for many of their other bands.
“Growing up I always loved Third Man Records,” said Atchison. “The whole concept of limited edition runs of vinyl fascinated me. There’s something magic about a physical run of music. It turns listening to music into an even bigger experience. Now when listening to the album you’ll think of what the packaging looked like, analyze every detail of the lyric sheet, think about what color the record was, etc. etc. Even with cassette tapes, there’s so much you can do with the look of them and that’s always incredibly exciting for me. After getting involved with the DIY scene and seeing people out here running labels by themselves I thought, well jeez if other people can do it why can’t I?”
Looking towards the future of the label they said, “The main goal I’ve had with the label is trying to keep it diverse. I see way too many labels out there where the music falls under the exact same category and the roster isn’t representative of the diversity present in the music scene. With how many talented artists are out there with a million different backgrounds, it’s a shame to not try to hear the perspective of every person out there. If I’m able to in any way help somebody have their voice be heard where perhaps without Chatterbot that would have been harder to do so, then I think I’ve done my job.”
Formed in 2011, Lauren Records, was started by Aaron Kovacs in Los Angeles, California. The record is working with incredible artists like Walter Etc, Katie Ellen, Hot Tang, Closer, and several more. Lauren Records is currently hard at work on Algernon Cadwallader re-issues.
“I don’t know if I had any intentions of starting a label when it technically started,” Kovacs said on inspirations behind the creation of his label, “It started by putting together a compilation with my friends bands on it and slowly expanded by me putting out my friends bands cassettes.”
“The most rewarding part of the label to me is being a small part in my friends creative projects, the release of the completed project after all the motivation and work it took to finish and get ready for everyone else to enjoy,” said Kovacs over email. “It’s also when there is a supportive response to the release. Even if it’s just their friends posting about the album. I like the people supporting each other.”
Take This to Heart Records
Joe Urban started Take This to Heart Records in Wilbraham, Massachusetts in early 2014. Take This to Heart Records has a long list of artists they are currently working with such as The Sonder Bombs, Super American, Jetty Bones, Future Teen, Rat Kid Cool, Barely Civil and more.
When asked the most rewarding part of running a label Urban said, “Seeing my bands succeed! We have a couple bands that are doing very well or have moved up to bigger labels. It’s awesome to see myself screaming about how good a band is and to have people listen and care.”
Keep an eye on Take This to Heart Records because they’ve got big things coming Urban said, “We just released a killer album from The Sonder Bombs and have new albums from Hodera and Jetty Bones on that way. We even have a three band Take This To Heart Records tour being announced soon!”
In regards to the recent passing of the Music Modernization Act he said, “It seems to be a great thing for songwriters as a whole to streamline everything for them. If it allows DSP’s to pay more and account for mechanical royalties, it’ll be a good thing.”
3rd Row Records
Orlando, Florida is home to 3rd Row Records, a label co-owned by Foxwood’s own Jordan Jones. The label is currently working with Marietta, Worst Party Ever, Surely Temple and, of course, Foxwood. 3rd Row Records is currently working on releasing cassettes for “Japan” by Worst Party Ever.
On advice that should be given to those thinking about starting a label they said, “Get involved in your local scene and reach out to people with the sincerest of intentions. Be good to people.”
On how Jones views the DIY scene as a whole they said, “I think it’s pretty eclectic. it makes me extremely prideful about the increasing queer representation and I hope that trend continues. I don’t think you should let the diversity (both musically and generally) separate you from people with similar goals and interests. We all love the same thing”
Alternatively, on how Jones views the music industry as a whole they said, “It’s very separated from consumption. The cool thing about DIY is I feel like you can get to know the people making the things you love. For instance, if you take an artist from the top 100, I’m not sure if they have access to their own twitter account. It’s kinda weird.”
Counter Intuitive Records
In 2015, Jake Sulzer started Counter Intuitive Records in Boston, Massachusetts. Just three years later, Counter Intuitive has amassed a label packed with some of the biggest names in the modern emo scene. Critical darlings, Mom Jeans and Oso Oso are probably the most well-known names on the young label, brushing shoulders with label-mates Born Without Bones, Just Friends, and Retirement Party.
Of all the labels listed here, Counter Intuitive is maybe the collaborative between its acts. The best example of this can be seen in vocalist/guitarist Bart Thompson, who splits his time between three bands on Counter Intuitive (Mom Jeans, Graduating Life, and Just Friends). Currently, Counter Intuitive is working on Oso Oso represses and signing a new band.
As with almost every label I interviewed, when i asked about the struggles of starting a record label Sulzer said the biggest struggle was, “Becoming financially viable and finding bands that work hard.”
In regards to what the best part about operating a record label is he said, “Being a part of records I truly believe could make a difference in people’s lives.”
This Band Fucks
This Band Fucks is a label that has not yet been launched but is in the works. Haley Butters from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania is the mastermind behind this upcoming label. Set to drop on or before November 15th, their first release will be a new album from Philadelphia indie band Lester. Something I find inspiring about Butters is their message. Butters is a strong believer in anyone being able to do anything especially when it comes to making music.
They portrayed this idea when I asked them about their thoughts on the DIY scene as well as the music industry. “I urge people to create the community they want to be a part in, and to not play gatekeeper to other people looking to get involved. There is so much space for all of us to exist!” they said, “there are a lot of issues in the music industry, and not everyone is going to ‘make it,’ but I don’t think that’s the point of making music. If you set out to be a huge band, that’s fine, but there are more important things, like being a good person. A lot of people step on others to get where they want to be, start unnecessary beef with other people trying to accomplish the same goals, and just general cattiness in the business. Music is not a competition.”
Butters, who is the band Absinthe Father will be embarking on tour soon with Origami Angel and Jail Socks. When I asked Butters what they are currently working on they said, “With the label, aside from that album I have been heavily pursuing a few bands, and hope I can get something set up with them in 2019. In regards to my own music, I just put out an EP called “jane,” which I am really proud of. I write, record, and mix (if I can really even call it that) at my kitchen table by myself on a very cheap interface, and the emotional payoff from knowing I did it all myself and people love it is extremely rewarding! I also am going on a self-booked tour for 38 days, starting Nov. 15. It will be my first time ever playing shows full band, and I’m so excited!”
I wanted to know about the future plans for this label, to which Butters said, “My long term goals are to take a portion of the money made from releases and put it into buying a touring vehicle for my bands and giving them a fund for when they are on tour to buy food and stay comfortable. I don’t intend to profit too much, just enough to continue to do this as a full time job and sustain myself so that I can continue to sign bands and get music that deserves to be heard out into the world.”
Head over to @thisbandfucks on twitter to contribute to their GoFundMe working to support the start-up of this label.
The growth of the DIY wave has opened doors for artists and bands everywhere. It’s created spaces and communities for creative people to work together and simply do the thing they love the most. The realization that “hey I don’t need to get a major label to sign me to be able to create art” is one that has inspired many people, young and old, to pursue the dreams they may have deemed unobtainable. Some of the best artists/albums have been born through the DIY scene and I believe that will continue to be the case for a long long time.
On a personal note, I was overwhelmed by not only the amount of responses I got but also the kindness and willingness to be involved that each of these labels expressed. Sincerely, I would like to thank Fred, Joe, Jake, Haley, Jordan, Aaron, and Alex you guys are the absolute best. Make sure you keep an eye on these incredible labels, show your support for them as well as all of the other DIY labels out there working hard to make the music we love.
Featured image by Meredith Marlowe.