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 2nd installment in a 3 part series (read part 1) 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!
Who: Owned and operated by Joey Cape of Lagwagon.
Where: San Francisco, California
Genre Specialty: Solo Acoustic
Recent Releases From: Brian Wahlstrom (Scorpios), Chris Cresswell (The Flatliners), Jo Bergeron, Betty And The Boy
Latest “Signing”: Betty And The Boy
Catching up with owner Joey Cape:
What Makes One Week Records Unique: The artist is invited to live at the Cape family home in San Francisco for one week in which they eat, drink, sleep, record and produce 10 songs of passionate music that are an honest representation of the artist’s creativity. The recordings are exclusively acoustic and digitally released. “I have no desire to be a traditional label that releases physical copies or signs bands,” says Cape. “I see One Week as something like a BBC Session and not as a competitor to other labels, if anything we are a subsequent promotional tool as a “one off” for their artist. The artist can record whatever best suits their current situation; their bands music stripped down, covers, really anything they choose. The artist is also allowed to produce vinyl from the session with anyone they choose. We only ask for one copy and possibly a nod.”
What’s Next for the Label: When asked whether the sessions will one day get amped up a bit or if they’ll stay exclusively acoustic the Capester replies,”Maybe some day, but for now, yes, acoustic only. I have neighbors of course, and the studio is sound designed, but not to the extent of being for drummers or loud amplified instruments.”
Who: Dave Johnson
Where: Hampton, Virginia
Genre Specialty: Hardcore & Street Punk
Recent Releases From: Tenebrae , Violent Affair, Symbol Six, Special Duties, The Pinkerton Thugs
Latest Signing: Special Duties
Catching up with Jailhouse Dave:
What Makes Jailhouse Records Unique: “It’s not really unique honestly, I know that’s probably not the answer people want to see, but I grew up with labels like BYO, TKO, Punkcore, Prank, Profane and Existence etc. They all put out the kind of music I was into, and here we are years later, kind of doing the same thing they were. I guess the unique part about what we do is putting out music that a lot of labels abandoned in the 2000’s. After the demise of a lot of the labels in the 90’s and early 2000’s, we kind of became the default outlet for a lot of bands that were left with no place to call home. Street punk went through a fad, and when it stopped being a fashion statement, and stopped lining shelves of Hot Topics and such, a lot of bands were homeless, and ended up with us. From the beginning I wanted to stick to my guns, and only put out music that I wanted to put out. When the whole pop punk explosion happened, we had a chance to capitalize on a lot of that, but I simply am not a fan of most of those types of bands. We had a lot of chances to pick up bands that are now on FAT and such, and part of me sometimes thinks “man maybe I should have picked up that band when I had the chance,” but all in all I made a choice to stick to what I know and love. And I wouldn’t feel right supporting releases and bands that I wasn’t totally stoked about. There really isn’t many labels out there doing what we do nowadays, so I feel we made the right decision. Hardcore and street punk are starting to make a comeback as far as kids being into it, and going to shows, and getting back into the essence of punk rock, which is the non PC, rebellious, anti establishment culture. I think bands singing about proms, and farts or whatever ridiculous silly crap those pop punk cookie cutter bands sing about nowadays is finally starting to give way, and things are getting political, aggressive, loud and dangerous again.
What’s Next For The Label: “Jeez, so much stuff! Symbol Six has been on a roll lately. They are kind of a diverse change for the label, and I was a big fan of those guys growing up. I was into the Mystic/Posh Boy type stuff, and when they hit me up, I was stoked. They definitely stick out like a sore thumb as far as the rest of our roster goes, but they are as punk as it get’s, and we’re looking forward to a continued relationship with those guys. Finally got the Tenebrae/Panzerbastard split coming out. Tenebrae is one of the best bands I’ve come across in a very long time. I’d hate to use the term “Supergroup” but it’s a band of legendary musicians. You got Mark from the Unseen, Craig Silverman from Slapshot/ Agnostic Front/Only Living Witness, Rob from Blood For Blood and Ramallah, just every single person in that band are legends in their own right. Kinda humbling to be dealing with a band like that. I’m really hoping they hit the road next year. We got a ton of records coming out, and pretty much every band on the label is touring relentlessly in late 2014 and into 2015. There’s not really enough time or space to even get into details of what’s coming up, but 2015 will undoubtedly be the best year we’ve ever had!
Who: Run by Gert-Jan and Fieke out of a little room (filled with records) in their home.
Where: Tilburg, The Netherlands
Genre Specialty: Melodic/Skate Punk
Recent Releases From: Harsh Realms, Wank For Peace, Sweet Empire, Not Scientists, The Windowsill
Latest Signing: Pacer, Irish Handcuffs and Rivershores
Catching up with label owner Gert-Jan:
What Makes Shield Recordings Unique: “At the end of 2014 Shield Recordings exists 10 years, we think that is kind of unique (at least we never thought we’d make it that long)! Next to that we’ll have a huge distro which we’ll bring as much shows and festivals as possible. Our main goal is to release as many records from awesome bands as possible, while having as much fun as possible.”
What’s Next For The Label: “Right now we have 2 releases coming up in the next month or so: Harsh Realms – PØLP CD/LP/Digital (early October) and Wank For Peace – Fail Forward CD/LP (early October). Next to that we’re working on 3 more releases which all should be out before the end of the year, so keep an eye out for more info about these!”
9. TNS Records
Who: The label is run by Bev and Andy (from the band Revenge of the Psychotronic Man) who added, “We also have a lot of help from loads of different people in all aspects of what TNS does, and we really couldn’t manage without them.”
Where: Manchester UK
Genre Specialty: All Kinds of Punk (from hardcore to ska)
Latest Releases From: Officer Down, Wonk Unit, Braindead, The Franceens, Revenge of the Psychotronic Man
Latest Signing: Roughneck Riot
Catching up with label owner Andy:
What Makes TNS Records Unique: “I’m not sure we are particularly unique in our ethos and approach. I think we have a lot in common with lots of other DIY labels, in that we only release music we love, it’s all done in our spare time alongside other commitments and it’s completely not-for-profit. I think the things that make us a bit different are the different strands to the label and the eclectic mix of sounds we’ve released. TNS was originally started as a fanzine/band night in 2003 by myself and a few others. We decided to turn TNS into a label after many drunk conversations, as it’s always best to follow through with those great ideas you have in the pub! Our first label release was in 2008. Alongside the label we have live gigs and a stage at a festival, a paper/online fanzine, an extensive vinyl/CD/zine distro and an occasional radio show. We also have a real mix of sounds from bands on the label, which are all loosely in the punk spectrum. So we’ve released music as diverse as really heavy hardcore, some ska and dub, some folk music and even a tiny bit of more dancey stuff alongside the more fast paced punky stuff.”
What’s Next For The Label: “We celebrated 10 years of TNS in April 2014, with our biggest live event to date, which was an amazing weekend of gigs. We also hit the 30 release mark at the start of the year. Both of these are milestones we never expected to reach, so I guess, after reflecting on these things, we will just carry on doing what we do. As long as we are still excited about hearing new music, we can’t see a reason to alter things too much. So all the different strands of the label will carry on, but we will continue to tweak things in order to improve everything that we do. We will also be doing another big all-dayer/weekender next year, which will take a slightly different format, and we are already quickly approaching release number 40, which is pretty exciting.”
Who: Scotty Sandwich (of Almost People) and Jonathon Minor (of Stage Fright Therapy)
Where: Durham, North Carolina and Clemson, South Carolina
Genre Specialty: Indie Punk
Latest Releases From: Not The Bees, City Limits, Kinder Words, The New Warden, Jack’s Smirking Revenge
Latest “Signing”: We don’t “sign” bands. The last few bands we have been pushing are: Dogs Eyes, Bad Korea, Down With Homework, The New Warden, Kinder Words, Not the Bees and City Limits
Catching up with label owner Scotty Sandwich:
What Makes Death To False Hope Records Unique: “We have over 180 free albums available for download/stream, including but not limited to early releases/demos from: Mixtapes, Masked Intruder, Arliss Nancy, Elway, Captain We’re Sinking!, Gates, Hold Tight, Candy Hearts and more. Watching these bands grow has had such a positive effect on the label, and I think it really helps attract talented acts and push bands to work harder. We are really proud to see that demos we helped promote helped bands be able to put out records with Red Scare/Fat/P+P/Jump Start/No Sleep.
What’s Next For The Label: “Right now we are prepping for our 5th DTFH Records Fest which will take place May 1/2 in Durham NC. I am also in the early stages of an offshoot label that will be releasing vinyl for a new band featuring Joel from ExFriends/Plow United but at this point I can’t say any more than that.