These days starting a punk record label is about as easy as starting a band. Scratch that. It’s easier. A quick perusal of the Dying Scene database shows that there are nearly 1,000 punk labels in our system alone, and those are just the ones that managed to catch our attention. The big dogs like Epitaph, Victory, Rise, and the like will always have the means to get your attention whether you’re interested or not but of the hundreds of smaller DIY labels out there, which ones should you be paying closer attention to?
Lucky for you guys, we’ve become experts in this field and have decided to put together a list of labels that we think are worthy of your attention. Below is the 1st installment in a 3 part series that highlights some of the best DIY punk labels in the scene today. Get to know them and discover some great new bands along the way!
1. Cyber Tracks
Who: Owned and operated by El Hefe of NOFX, and his wife Jen Abeyta.
Where: Los Angeles, California
Genre Focus: Melodic Punk & Hard Rock
Recent Releases From: Margate, Implants, Counterpunch, This Legend, Warner Drive
Latest Signing: Ten Foot Pole
Catching up with label co-owner Jen Abeyta:
What Makes Cyber Tracks Unique: “We like to consider ourselves a “boutique” label, and are very focused on trying to keep it that way, even though we have a lot of really awesome things in the works, and lots of cool things to come in the near future. My husband and I are business partners, and it just doesn’t get better than that! We want our company to be family owned, and honest, as well as release (what we believe to be) the raddest music around. Our motto is “for artists by artists” and we split the profit of music sales (both physical and digital) evenly 50/50 with the band. We don’t take any of their publishing or writing (or their merch etc). We want to give artists a chance as well as teaming up with the bands as a partnership (we try to keep the family environment with our bands as well)…we tried to create a foundation that is fair and genuine. We just want everything to be awesome for everyone involved, and release great music for the fans. We are very particular in what bands we sign. Most people assume that we are strictly a “punk rock label” whereas, we are actually open to many genres of music, and we hope to cater to lots of different markets, not just punk music.”
What’s Next for the Label: “We have a lot of amazing releases mapped out currently, so right now we just want to focus on getting these releases out and giving them the proper attention they each deserve. We are very excited about getting Ten Foot Pole into the studio and start recording their new record, which is expected early to mid 2015. After that, we will probably just let the universe guide us into our next label venture. We like to play things by ear!”
Who: Founded by Eric Mueller in 2005
Genre Focus: Street Punk and Oi!
Where: San Francisco, California
Genre Focus: Street Punk
Most Recent Releases From: Cock Sparrer, Street Dogs, Noi!se, Harrington Saints, Bishops Green
Latest Addition to the Pirates Press Family: The Workin’ Stiffs
Catching up with Eric Mueller:
What Makes Pirates Press Unique: “We try and keep PPR to be mainly a collectors label – not just another punk label that releases a ton of titles, or lots of full lengths. We’ve definitely put out full lengths, but we prefer putting out highly collectable formats, and special editions of things, which in many ways, helps the other labels releasing a majority of the full lengths. We try to focus on unique products and projects, and bands who become office favorites – which in our office tends to be (but is certainly not limited to) streetpunk and Oi!”
What’s Next For The Label: “We have a LOT of things in the works, but here’s a short list:
The Pirates Press 10th Anniversary Party – Big festival in SF on OCT 24-25th; featuring Cock Sparrer, Bouncing Souls, and Street Dogs.
We’ve just made a series of collectible 7” DJ boxes to hold around 50 singles. We’re very close to announcing these up for sale – for our diehard collectors to house all the craziness in one place. One will be for the subscribers to house their Under One Flag Singles Series 7’s, one will be a more generic “Pirates Press Records” one, and we have a few more that we’ll announce later in the year.
Reducers SF “Essentials” Collection: Celebrating their 20th anniversary as a band, we’re re-releasing their first two (out-of-print) LP’s, releasing their third on vinyl for the first time, and including a bonus 12” of hard-to-find and unreleased material. In addition to the individual releases of the three LP’s, the three will all come together with that bonus record, as a set, in a deluxe slipcase.
Two new singles by The Workin’ Stiffs, including one which is GEAR shaped!
We also have new 7” singles in the works for Bishops Green and Harrington Saints, and also a new 12” EP for Downtown Struts.”
Who: Travis Woods and his wife Nicole.
Where: Columbia, South Carolina
Genre Focus: Pop-Punk (the traditional Ramones influenced kind)
Most Recent Releases From: Parasite Diet, Horror Section, Eaten Back To Life, The Putz
Latest Signing: Sweet Baby
Catching up with label owner Travis Woods:
What Makes Eccentric Pop Records Unique: “I think the overall attitude of the label is pretty different. Nicole and I put a ton of work into making the label fun and interesting for everyone, and we try hard to avoid a sterile “send us money and we send you a record” type vibe. We want our “customers” to feel like they are part of the family; like Eccentric Pop is a “fun, secret club” that anyone can be a part of. We interact and correspond with our regulars frequently. I’d go so far as to say that I’ve become good friends with lots of them, and I love these people. Sometimes we screen print goofy stuff at home to give away with orders, like the bright yellow “Eccentric Pop Wall Art” records we made a few months ago. Sometimes we we print up shirts and stickers and stuff to include with orders… even our bands sometimes get in on the action, like the incredible trading card set that comes with the new Horror Section/Eaten Back to Life split LP. Those were dreamed up and printed by Horror Section’s singer, Teflon Dave.”
What’s Next For The Label: “Lots of records! A mix of new releases and reissues. By the end of the year we should have the Jetty Boys “Sheboygan” LP, Kepi Ghoulie “Kepi Goes Country” LP/CD, and this December, we are releasing a remastered 25th anniversary edition of Sweet Baby’s “It’s a Girl” LP. The album is one of my favorite records of all time, and has had such a huge impact on the music that I listen to and perform. It even comes with a bonus 7″ of 2 unreleased studio tracks and two live tracks from their very first show ever, with Dr. Frank (Mr. T Experience) on the drums! I’m absolutely freaking out over this project. The remastered audio sounds so amazing. I’m really proud to be a part of it.
We definitely don’t plan to slow down in the coming years – we’ve been running full-throttle since we put out our first record last March, and we plan to keep it that way. There are a lot of amazing projects coming in 2015!’
Who: A small collective of folks, based in Hamilton and Kitchener-Waterloo, who came together out of a shared love of left-radical politics and punk rock.
Where: Hamilton and Kitchener-Waterloo, Ontario (Canada)
Genre Focus: Street Punk and Oi!
Most Recent Releases From: Born Wrong, Action Sedition, Spanner, The Class Assassins, The Rebel Spell
Latest Release: Section 4
Catching up with co-owner Rebel Time Randy:
What Makes Rebel Time Records Unique: “Rebel Time Records is one of the few North American record labels dealing specifically in politically-charged, socially-conscious, rabble-rousing political punk rock. And, notably, for the most part, the bands on the label are Canadian. We like to say that we (and the bands on the label) are all about “having a laugh and having a say.” As one reviewer noted: ‘Rebel Time and their artists always fight the good fight [and] speak of things that most if not all of the major labels are afraid of…’ Bottom line is, we deal in songs of protest and resistance/songs of love and rage and, hopefully, we’re helping to spread a message that is inspirational, incendiary and insightful/inciteful!”
What’s Next for the Label: “We should have the new album “In No Fit State” from Irish outfit Section 4 in our hands shortly…just fantastic anti-fascist Oi!/Ska/Reggae. Hoping to bring this band across the pond at some point! Also coming out in the next month or so is the newest record, “Last Run,” from The Rebel Spell. So stoked for this record!! The Rebel Spell will be criss-crossing Canada in October/November and then heading back to Europe early in the new year. Further down the road, we’re planning to put out some new and (possibly) old material from The Fallout. Classic straight-up, stripped down political punk rock out of Toronto. Patty from Brutal Youth/Class War Kids recently joined the band on bass. We’re also looking forward to working further with Montreal’s left-radical streetpunks Action Sedition and Bristol, England’s militant ska-punks Spanner. Some of our bands, including Spanner, Action Sedition, The Rebel Spell and The Fallout will be featured on a downloadable compilation that will be out late October 2014. The compilation is a benefit for our good friends at Bristol Antifa and it’s being compiled by one of our favourite labels, Riot Ska Records.”
Who: Garrett Wadford is the owner and operator. Cameron Griffith is the producer/editor of the show, and John Meloche of “This Is A Standoff “/ www.melodiccreative.com is the “unofficial” music and art director.
Where: Jacksonville Beach, Florida
Genre Focus: Skate Punk
Most Recent Releases From: F.O.D., Darko, Fair Do’s, Mute, Torches To Triggers
Latest Signing: F.O.D.
Catching up with owner Garrett Wadford:
What Makes Bird Attack Unique: “Well, our label is named after a Frenzal Rhomb song, so that’s unique, right?…No really, I started Bird Attack Punk Rock Radio, which is really a podcast, a couple years ago to expose all these insane bands I loved. I started finding all these other bands through the bands we aired and thought, hey, why not try to get their music out to the public that might never get a chance to hear these bands? That turned into the record label; people kept asking me how to get copies, so I figured I would start making it available locally. I think the fact that we focus on a specific smaller genre of fast-ass skate punk from around the world is what sets us apart. We don’t veer off that path, it has to be fast, kind of shredding, and definitely melodic; not that we don’t appreciate all different kinds of punk, we just really love all these bands with a passion and we want others to hear and feel that too. Our main focus isn’t necessarily for local USA based bands, but more for International bands to get exposure in the States; not that we wouldn’t love to take on some more local talent.”
What’s Next for the Label: “The future looks to be filled with a focus on Vinyl and Digital distribution of our building roster throughout North America. We have some really rad releases coming up this year, and we are going to have some re-releases of some of our bands on Vinyl that were previously only available through CD format. We are learning the Vinyl business and hope we can help put some unique collector editions to vinyl collectors as well as some money in the pockets of the bands, so they can afford some tours over the next 12 – 18 months with local touring bands here in the states; some pretty big names that we can’t discuss off hand, but everyone will be stoked for sure. We really just want to keep having fun, spreading the word and making really great friends across the globe.”