Back in the early 90’s Simple Machines put a pamphlet that they called the Mechanic’s Guide. It was a how-to guide for putting out a record and starting a record label. The guide outlined the steps it takes to put out a 7 inch record, cassette and compact disc and covered all the bases from designing the sleeve, to getting the tracks mastered and finally how to sell them. Back in the day, you used to have to write them to order a copy, now you can click a link and read it for free. It’s still relevant, and I would bet it still gets read and used as a resource for people starting out.
In the last few years, out of thin air, or more likely sweat and hard work, a bunch of labels have been materializing with a fetish for vinyl and a similar aesthetic for noisy, treble heavy bands that are decidedly lo-fi. These labels seem to be championing bands that creating a garage revival except the these are bands without garages. I don’t know if any of the labels have read the Mechanic’s Guide, but their grass roots efforts and limited editions have much in common with what Simple Machines did in their time. There are a handful of labels at the core of this scene, and it is certainly a scene because these bands and labels seem to switch between each other for releases and even team-up in some cases to make new bands. There are a number of well established labels that have been putting out records that fit this description like In the Red, Goner and Castle Face, but it seems like a few newer labels have really caught the imagination of a lot of people of late (or at least mine). At the center of the scene I’m talking about, are HoZac in Chicago, and Woodsist and Captured Tracks in Brooklyn. A little bit on the periphery are Art Fag and Zoo Music out in San Diego. Like so many indie labels of the past (Merge, Teenbeat, Dischord, Matador, Creation, Simple Machines to name a few) Woodsist, Captured Tracks and Art Fag are run by music obsessed guys who are also on bands.
Woodsist is handled by Jeremy Earl who is also in bands Woods and Meneguar while Captured Tracks is run by Mike Sniper who records under the Blank Dogs moniker. Earl’s Woodsist label has grown out of his Fuck It Tapes label which only releases tapes (of course). Woodsist started back in 2006 and not only release vinyl, but they’re not afraid of putting out a cd either. The label’s track record is already stellar with released by by Sic Alps, Crystal Stilts, Vivian Girls. He also put out last year’s Wavves record, a Blank Dogs ep, and just released the first 7 inch from Seattle’s Idle Times. Up next for Woodsist are new albums from the Woods and Meth Teeth, a Psychedelic Horseshit 12 inch from Columbus, Ohio pot-smoking noise rockers and a full length from New Jersey band Real Estate. Sniper’s Captured Tracks label is much newer, brand new in fact, with release number one and two having just hit the streets. They’re both four song 12 inch eps, one by Sniper’s own Blank Dogs who get a lot of Joy Division comparisons, but I think they sound a lot more like a warped Tubeway Army, and the other buy Dum Dum Girls, who are a one woman band based out of Los Angeles sounding a lot the Vivian Girls but with less controversy. Coming up on Captured Tracks is a single by the Mayfair Set which is a Blank Dogs – Dum Dum Girls team-up and from what I’ve heard of it is definitely more than the sum of it’s parts! Also look out of singles from the Woods, and San Francisco’s Brilliant Colors. The Brilliant colors are an all girl three piece that sound a bit 80’s New Zealand and a bit like Life Without Buildings currently have a 7 inch out on Make a Mess a label run by Nodzzz drummer Eric Butterworth who put out last year’s excellent Nodzzz’ I Don’t Wanna single) .
Moving out of Brooklyn and out to Chicago where HoZac was born out of the Horizontal Action zine that Todd Novak and Brett Crossout wrote until 2005. The duo reformatted and resurrected the name into a record label a little over two years ago. Their label specializes in limited releases of 7 inch records which includes the afore mentioned Blank Dogs as well as Nobunny, France Has the Bomb and the Dutchess and the Duke among many, many others. There limited runs go out of print pretty fast so you gotta jump fast when one hits the street. The big news earlier this year from HoZac was that they were going to do a singles club which promised records from many of the bands I’ve already mentioned like Idle Times and Dum Dum Girls as well as Teeth (a Blank Dogs side project) and Box Elders. The singles club 500 subscriptions is sold out, but you should keep your eyes peeled for the first LP from the Dum Dum Girls and Medication from Connecticut who sound like the Mama’s and the Papas trapped in a cave.
It’s almost overwhelming, the number of releases that these bands and labels have put out and are planning to release, and I haven’t even mentioned a couple new San Diego labels, Art Fag and Zoo Music. Zoo Music was the first out of the gate this year with a cd-r ep from the Dum Dum Girls and a killer Jesus and Mary Chain-esque single from San Diego’s and former Plot to Blow Up the Eiffel Tower, the Crocodiles. Art Fag is run by the Crocodiles, but they won’t be allowing themselves to put out their own album. They’ll be entrusting Fat Possum to do that on 28 April. Instead, they will be releasing a mighty fine split 7 inch featuring the Pens, Crocodiles, Graffiti Island and Dum Dum Girls as well as a full length from Philadelphia’s Ye Olde Maids. With all of this action going on down here in the underground, I wouldn’t be surprised to learn about a few more labels this year taking the initiative and doing it themselves, economy be damned.
mp3: France Has the Bomb – Invisible Angle (buy it from HoZac)
mp3: Nobunny – Motorhead with Me (buy if from HoZac)
mp3: Mayfair Set – Desert Fun (comming out on Captured Tracks)
mp3: Blank Dogs – Calling Over (buy it from Captured Tracks)
mp3: Wavves – Teenage Super Party (buy it from Woodsist)
mp3: Idle Times – Driving You Sad (buy it from Woodsist)
mp3: The Woods – The Dark (buy it from Captured Tracks)
mp3: Dum Dum Girls – Ship of Love (currently out of print, from Zoo Music, but you can buy her 12″ from Captured Tracks)
mp3: Crocodiles – Neon Jesus (buy it from Zoo Music)
If you live in Seattle, Blank Dogs will be at the Funhouse along with Idle Times and Love Tan on 2 April, and Wavves will be at the same place a few days later on 9 April.