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, read part 2) 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: Adam Ali in Southern California 2004
Where: Southern California
Genre Specialty: Pop-Punk (from modern gritty pop-punk to the classic Ramones influenced pop-punk)
Latest Releases From: Plow United, The Capitalist Kids, The Creeps, The Manges, Hi Ho Silver Away!
Latest Signing: Oldfriends (Whittier, CA)
Catching up with label owner Adam Ali:
What Makes It’s Alive Records Unique: “There are a lot of record labels that release a bunch of the more modern day gritty pop punk sound like The Dopamines or Dear Landlord. There certainly hasn’t been a shortage of record labels over the years that release a bunch of the classic pop punk sound in the vein of the Ramones like Teenage Bottlerocket or The Manges. I don’t think there have ever been many that have had a dual focus on releasing both styles. I think It’s Alive Records is pretty unique in that it does focus on both of those styles of pop punk.”
What’s Next For The Label: “The most immediate future includes releases by a lot of newer bands including Oldfriends (California), Pool Party (Florida), Skinny Genes (New York) and The Turkletons (Minnesota). Beyond that we have plans to release what will likely be the last record by The Varsity Weirdos (New Brunswick) and hopefully a new album from The Dopamines!”
Who: Owned and operated by former Fat Wreck Chords employee Toby Jeg.
Where: Founded in San Francisco, but now based in Chicago.
Genre Specialty: Pop-Punk
Latest Releases From: The Copyrights, Direct Hit!, Sam Russo, Elway, Nothington
Latest Signing: Derek Grant (Alkaline Trio)
Catching up with owner Toby Jeg:
What Makes Red Scare Unique: “We re-located (from SF to Chicago) right when the label was taking off. So we have roots in the Bay Area scene, but we also are now fully immersed in the Chicago and Midwest. Maybe I’m wrong, but I don’t feel many labels have done that. I’m thinking that I am ready for yet another move too! These Winters are brutal. Who wants to start a commune in Southern Oregon? Hello? We try and operate like a collective too. I know some labels have tried to do that so it’s not entirely unique, but we have a real family/unity vibe that you don’t always see so much these days. I guess it comes with the socialism, right? I’ve also been joking that I want Red Scare to be the first multi-generational record label. Wouldn’t it be hilarious if my grandkids were still putting out music? The obvious flaw is that record labels won’t exist in the future, but still, it’s fun to think about. I guess I also need children for that to work too. Damn…”
What’s Next For The Label: “Well, we have new releases out now from The Copyrights and our big 10-year compilation. That’s taking up most of my time now, but coming next is a new one from local Illinois thunderpunks, The Brokedowns. Also coming is a new release from Derek Grant, which is gonna be really neat. He’s the guy that plays drums in Alkaline Trio and people are gonna be pretty surprised by this solo debut. It’s kinda like Prince and Ryan Adams and some Americana and some New Wave. It’s wild, man.”
Who: Owned and operated by Max Campbell and Joe Yakimicki of The Gestalts
Where: Lafayette, Indiana
Genre Specialty: Oi!
Latest Releases From: The Old Firm Casuals, Hooligan, Oxley’s Midnight Riders, Anger Flares
Latest Signing: Justice Blocc
Catching up with label owner Joe Yakimicki:
What Makes Oi! The Boat Unique: “I’m not sure how unique this makes us, but Oi! The Boat Records was started (and continues to be) a label run by 2 guys (Joe and Max) who’ve played in a number of punk bands (Brassknuckle Boys, Bastards Choir, Hudson Falcons, Gestalts) here in the middle of Indiana in a relatively small city. We started in a corner of my dining room and, over 3 dozen titles later, have upgraded to Max’s entire dining room. Outside of a couple 12 inches, we have hand assembled every record we have released. We do the majority of the design work, web design, pack and ship every order and don’t really have any distribution. But, we have managed to put out a ton of records we love with really great bands stretching from San Francisco to Dublin and on to Tokyo and a bunch of places in between.”
What’s Next For The Label: “We’ve got a few represses and releases out for press right now: A new split with midwest street punk/oi legends The Brass Tacks with the Virgin Whores from MN. A new split with VICTORY and Sweden’s Oi! darlings The Cliches. This one’s a co-op with our at Randale Records nestled in the Germany’s black forest. We’ve just signed on a new band from Colorado City called Justice Blocc that we are extremely excited about. Great new band! I’m working on a little music video for them right now and we have their debut ep out for pressing (7”) right now. We already released their ep digitally– a turn of events put them on a surprise 2 week tour, so we decided to get something out for people to hear! The vinyl will happen this fall… and will be followed by MORE from them as soon as we can!
We haven’t announced this, but hey, this seems like an okay time to do so. We are teaming up with the Godfather of Oi!, Garry Bushell, to compile a new record with some of the best current and upcoming Oi! /Streetpunk bands of today. Sort of a continuation of his compilations from the early 80s that introduced the world to the music he named “Oi!”.
Who: Founded in 2005 and Owned and Operated by Travis Myers and J.T. Habersaat
Where: Offices in New York and Austin
Genre Specialty: Anything punk related, from ska punk to country punk to hardcore and pop punk.
Latest Releases From: The Grizzly Band, The Obvious, The Sharp Lads, Svetlanas, New Red Scare
Latest Signing: The Grizzly Band
Catching up with label co-owner Travis Myers:
What Makes Altercation Records Unique: “I would have to say Altercation is unique in that we aren’t looking to sign any bands, we just stumble across bands that we think are undeniably good and have to be heard, and then if everything fits we invite them to join us… And I guess what I am trying to say is we really believe in the artists we work with and almost feel it our duty, or maybe a calling, to get the word out about how awesome they are. I think most small labels will agree we aren’t in it for the money because none of us are making any real money… But when confronted with a band who is just fucking wow! and who we think has something to offer the world we take them on. We also only release a handful of records each year so we can keep the quality up. I don’t understand labels big or small that want to do dozens or even scores of new releases every year, it almost seems counter productive to have so many active bands on one label, in that you can only spread the love and attention so far before it’s just to thin to mean anything.”
What’s Next For The Label: “We just recently released a new full length “Lost And Found” by our most recent signee’s The Grizzly Band, a country leaning punk outfit out of Houston TX that is just dynamite live and has to be heard. We have 2 new releases coming out from former KGB Agents Svetlanas out of Russia, the first is a 7” Split with the Adolescents that should be hitting the streets in mid January, and the second is an EP produced by Blag Dalia of the Dwarves. That one should be out in spring sometime… Our Brooklyn boy’s The Sharp Lads will also have a new full length out in Spring, and Two Fisted Law will be releasing a new full length in Spring/Summer 2015 as well. Also be on the look out for a new solo acoustic record from Kyle Trocolla sometime in 2015… There are other things on the way but really to soon to announce them yet…albums, tours, fests etc. but I can tell you to be sure to mark your calendars for the 6th annual Altercation Punk Rock BBQ which I believe will be Sat March 21st in Austin. That my friends is a good time!”
Who: Dying Scene Records is owned and operated by DyingScene.com founder Dave Buck.
Where: Los Angeles, California
Genre Specialty: Angsty Punk Rock
Latest Releases From: Stray Bullets, Some Nerve, Ellesmere, Yankee Brutal, A Dying Regime
Latest Signing: Stray Bullets
Catching up with label owner Dave Buck:
What Makes Dying Scene Records Unique: “One of Dying Scene the website’s major focuses has always been the discovery of amazing up and coming punk acts, and the sharing of those discoveries with a like minded audience. There’s no profit in it. We do it because we fucking love punk music and we want to share what we love with those that share our passion. Dying Scene Records is just a natural extension of that. It’s an outlet for giving more attention to those extra special gems we come across that haven’t yet found a label to call home. Like the website, the motive is passion, not profits. The bands on DS Records maintain 100% of the rights to their music, and its left entirely up to them as to how much they want to charge for their albums, if anything at all. I’d be remiss if I didn’t also point out that the label’s direct access to the DyingScene.com audience and the site’s industry contacts provide quite a unique marketing opportunity for the bands on DS Records.
What’s Next For The Label: “I guess there’s no reason not to admit that I’ve been trying really hard to convince Stabbed In Back to put out their new full-length on DS Records. They haven’t released it yet but I’ve heard the tracks. Its an amazing progression from their previous material and I can honestly say it would be one the best releases in punk this year, assuming of course that they agree to let me (or anybody for that matter) put it out. I’ll also let slip that DS Records has been approached by a certain 90’s punk staple that will be recording a new album soon and against all common sense and good judgement have asked DS Records if we’d be interested in putting it out. Yes, you know who they are, and no, I can’t tell you yet – we’re just in the preliminary talks but if they decide to go our way I think fans of the label and the kind of music we’ve been putting out will be very stoked.”