It’s no secret that the way the music industry works has been completely revolutionised over the past decade, mostly due to the massive developments in social media platforms and distribution services that have rendered record labels, in many ways, obsolete. However, this shift has seen heaps of mid-sized labels joining forces with the big guns, and a whole bunch of amazing, young indie labels sprout and bloom.
And while any young garage scrappers can record some tunes on their dad’s dusty old 4-track and whack it on Bandcamp, these indie labels hold a pretty important place in Australia’s music landscape. They are the tastemakers, they are the ones who are gonna get you that slot at Bigsound, or that gig with Mac Demarco or Run The Jewels or the Stones or whoever. There are heaps in Australia who are doing awesome shit. Here is just the tip of the iceberg.
There are no shortage of bands putting out their own music independently all around Australia, but when it comes to taking it that step further, getting signed to an awesome Aussie indie record label is the dream. Here are six of the best.
Rice Is Nice
Might as well start closest to home. Rice Is Nice was formed back in 2008 by Julia Wilson and Ben Shackleton when Jules used her prowess in music publicity to release SPOD‘s Animals 7″. From there the ball just kept on rolling. Over the better part of a decade RIN has put out some of the most beloved records to come out of Sydney, from left of field (Richard In Your Mind) to the right (Seekae) to the far, far left (Donny Benet) – and pretty much everything in between. Just take a look at their roster, Rice Is Nice have pretty fucking good taste.
Since the State Of Origin is going down tonight, it makes sense to get people going with some state against state rivalry. Brisbane’s Bedroom Suck have been kicking around for over five years now, establishing themselves as a pillar of Brisbane garage rock, shoegaze and scrappy punk. Last year they put out a 27-track monster LP that traces their releases, showcasing some of Brisbane’s best including Love Of Diagrams, Bitch Prefect, Peak Twins, Scott And Charlene’s Wedding and Blank Realm. From a sweltering sharehouse in Brisbane’s burbs to one of the city’s most renowned musical establishments, Joe Alexander and Sam McCabe have created something to be pretty proud of.
Don’t wanna listen to some A&R dude or label manager about how your records are too weird or too long? Fuck it, start your own. Flightless is a tiny record label based in Melbourne run by King Gizzard and The Lizard Wizard, created, it seems, as a way to put out all their records, and their mates’, at a rate that would probably make the exec’s at Universal shit themselves. Since putting out Gizzard’s 12 Bar Bruise back in 2012, Flightless have put out five more King Gizz albums, two from The Murlocs, two records from Love Migrate, two EPs by Sagamore, and an LP from Sleep Decade (plus god knows what else). Obviously the dudes from King Gizzard don’t like to sleep. And that’s okay with me.
Keeping with the theme of artist-run labels, Courtney Barnett‘s Milk! Records started out much the same way as Flightless did – as a way to put out her own records. When she was doing the artwork for her first EP back in 2012 she crudely drew a spilled milk bottle on the back, and thus Milk! Records was born (…not really, there’s more to starting a record label than that). Alongside her meteoric rise to legendary-ism (yep), Barnett kept her little label close by, and since 2012 it has put out some pretty ripper records, including all of Barnett’s own, Fraser A. Gorman‘s amazing new album, a bunch of her girlfriend Jen Cloher‘s records with her band The Endless Sea and one with Tim Rogers, plus music from The Finks.
Mistletone started out as a husband and wife project almost a decade ago when Ash and Sophie Miles release the re-issue of Ariel Pink‘s House Arrest record, and brought him to tour Australia for the first time. Since then Mistletone have become one of the most influential independent touring companies in Australia, touring everyone from Toro Y Moi to Beach House, Parquet Courts to The Clean – working a lot with festivals like Meredith and Laneway (where they curate their own stage). On the label front they specialise in international releases that coincide with tours (e.g: Beach House, Toro Y Moi), plus local legends like Wintercoats and The Orbweavers. Bloody power couples.
Speaking of power couples, we come to Strange Yonder. Starting out much the same as Mistletone did back in 2006, Strange Yonder’s Kurt Paradise and Trent Gardiner have spearheaded some massive tours and international and local records. The duo have curated tours for Californian kings The Growlers and Tomorrows Tulips, plus Seattle garage psych lords Night Beats, who were joined by Rice Is Nice legends The Laurels on their national tour. Locally they put out records for Salvadarlings, Karl S. Williams (who they also manage) and The Dandelion. Despite being very much Kurt and Trent’s baby, Strange Yonder is very much a family, “beginning as a hobby; born out of necessity to get involved, Strange Yonder has grown into an entity that consumes time, triggers frustration, breaks hearts, gives boners, pushes boundaries and deeply satisfies.” Couldn’t have put it better myself.