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Melbourne is the music behemoth it is today not just because of the artists, live music venues, community radio stations, recording studios, record stores and more, that are obvious linchpins to the scene, there’s also an assiduous middle man that’s often overlooked – the independent record label.
Indie record labels are critical in getting music from the artist to the listener. And it’s not as easy as just uploading a single or album to Spotify. Aside from playing gigs, artists make their money from vinyl, cassette and CD sales, as well as merchandise.
With artists not currently playing gigs, the cut they make from music sales and merch is more important than ever. As such, the record label who makes this happen serves a crucial role. And we haven’t even mentioned the PR, social media and managerial responsibilities indies often shoulder on top of that.
To celebrate the Melbourne indie record labels who are now working harder than ever to keep a largely-stagnant music industry turning, we’ve put together a list of the indies you should consider supporting as we continue to ride this rollercoaster.
As there’s so many Melbourne indie labels to highlight, we’ve split it up into two parts with the second instalment of the piece to follow in the weeks to come.
Sunset Pig Records
Through Collingwood’s Sunset Pig Records you will be familiar with the likes of A. Swayze & The Ghosts, The Pretty Littles, Hobsons Bay Coast Guard, department., Full Flower Moon Band and more. The brainchild of Chris Wright and Kieran Daly, Sunset Pig made its start in 2016 and has been going from strength to strength, fostering a new wave of talent in rock music.
Beat’s pick: From Friday September 18, it’ll be mandatory to get your hands on A. Swayze & The Ghosts‘ much-anticipated new record, Paid Salvation.
Check out Sunset Pig here.
One of the hardest-working Melbourne indie record labels at the moment is Spoilsport, the brainchild of Sam Lyons (also a musician himself in the bands, House Deposit, Eggy, Candy, Jarrow, Me Channel and Tripswitch). The Spoilsport name has been popping up all over the place lately – the new Hooper Crescent album was put out by the label, as was Jarrow’s self-titled 2020 LP, the debut solo tape from M.W. titled Coruscant, while Plastic’s new album, New Hands, will also be dropping via Spoilsport in late September. And that’s just the start.
Beat’s pick: Get your hands on Eggy’s stellar 2019 EP, Billy.
For more on Spoilsport, head to the label’s Bandcamp.
Flightless Records has become a staple in the Melbourne music scene, becoming a bonafide tastemaker in the psych, garage and punk rock spheres, while also glancing into other territories such as folk, techno and other experimental domains. Through Flightless, you will be familiar with the likes of King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard, Amyl & The Sniffers, Tropical Fuck Storm, Leah Senior, ORB, The Murlocs, The Babe Rainbow and more.
Beat’s pick: Amyl & The Sniffers’ 2019 self-titled album is fire.
Give Flightless a run here.
Seminal, lauded, acclaimed, revered, beloved, celebrated, renowned, distinguished, esteemed. There aren’t enough complimentary adjectives to encapsulate the immeasurable work of Chapter Music, and more specifically Ben O’Connor and Guy Blackman. Upward of 70 bands have been represented by Chapter over the years, of which Minimum Chips, Twerps, Dick Diver, Primitive Calculators, Use No Hooks and other Little Band Scene outfits come to mind. More recently, the work of names such as Sweet Whirl and Thibault have been their primary projects.
Beat’s pick: Thibault’s 2020 LP, Or Not Thibault, brings to mind Stereolab, Vanishing Twin and La Femme.
Find out more about Chapter here.
Roolette Records has become a place for hosts of Melbourne bands to put out their records, with the likes of Pinch Points, Hannah Kate, Kosmetika, Junior Fiction, The Tropes, Jungle Breed and many more, represented by the label. The music on Roolette is characterised by its freneticism, fostering bands with buzzsaw riffs and explicit lyrics.
Beat’s pick: Get a copy of Kosmetika’s killer 2019 record, Pop Soap.
For more on Roolette Records, head here.
Music in Exile
Music in Exile is the stellar new project from Bedroom Suck founder Joe Alexander that seeks to promote Australian artists from culturally and linguistically-diverse backgrounds. In just a year or two, Music in Exile has ballooned from being the platform for South Sudanese revelation Gordon Koang, to a label that now also represents the likes of Ausecuma Beats, Elsy Wameyo, Ajak Kwai and more.
Beat’s pick: Has to be Gordon Koang’s 2020 album, Unity.
Check out Music in Exile here.
Milk! Records’ reputation precedes itself, with the label now one of Melbourne’s premier music tastemakers. Established by Courtney Barnett and Jen Cloher in 2012, Milk! has since put out records from the likes of Sleator-Kinney, Chastity Belt, Jade Imagine, East Brunswick All Girls Choir, Loose Tooth, Dyson Stringer Cloher, Tiny Ruins and more.
Beat’s pick: Why not get your hands on East Brunswick All Girls Choir’s 2018 LP, Teddywaddy?
Find out more about Milk! here.
Poison City Records
Connected with its eponymous record store, when you think of Poison City Records, the music names of Cable Ties, MOD CON, Camp Cope, Georgia Maq, Bench Press, HEXDEBT and more, are sure to come to mind. Proven chameleons of the local music space.
Beat’s pick: What about Cable Ties’ 2020 record, Far Enough?
Explore Poison City Records here.
Another independent record label that wears a number of different coats, Mistletone certainly needs no introduction having been a home for seminal acts both home and abroad since it was established in 2006. Mistletone can also call itself a tour promoter, booking agency and publicity company.
Beat’s pick: Cash Savage & The Last Drinks’ forthcoming live album, Live at Hamer Hall, set to drop in November.
Check out Mistletone here.
Osborne Again is run by local music aficionados Nick Kearton and Lachlan Denton and has helped put out records from Pop Filter, Snowy Band, Cool Sounds and Emma Russack, among others. Kearton and Denton themselves have played in more bands than I could count on two hands – through Osborne Again, their generosity and undivided commitment to Melbourne music is at the fore.
Beat’s pick: The 2020 album from Pop Filter, Banksia, is a ripper.
Check out Osborne Again here.
Cousin Will Records
Cousin Will Records was created to help put out records from The Grogans, but label-head Will Stoeckel intends to do much more than just prop up the beloved Melbourne surf rockers. With the label’s debut release coming in October 2019 through The Grogans’ debut LP, Just What You Want, there is plenty more where that came from, and soon enough listeners will be privy to a new compilation record from Cousin Will. The comp will feature tracks from Polly & The Pockets, Auntie Leo & The Backstabbers, Velvet Bloom and more.
Beat’s pick: Has to be the forthcoming compilation record, out on Friday September 18.
Pieater are legends of the game. Think of Melbourne luminaries and Tom Fraser, Joanna Syme and Tom Iansek come to mind straight away. The three have cultivated a section of the Melbourne music scene that’s uniquely theirs, yet is universally inclusive too. What started as a platform for Big Scary to put out their records soon grew into something much more, and now Pieater boasts a huge roster featuring the likes of #1 Dads, No Mono, Christopher Port, Slow Dancer and more.
Beat’s pick: One half of No Mono, Tom Snowdon, will put out his debut solo EP, Channel, on Friday October 7.
Find out more about Pieater here.
Through Mushroom electronic music subsidiary Soothsayer, you will be aware of the talents, ALTA, Willaris. K, Dro Carey, CC:DISCO! and Love Deluxe, to name a few. Soothsayer is also known for putting on their fair share of parties and events so this label has the full thing going on.
Beat’s pick: Willaris. K’s Alchemy EP from 2018 is quite a ride.
Check out Soothsayer here.
Tiny Town Records
Tiny Town are another burgeoning label rising from Melbourne’s music underground. Another passion project eager to help mates get their music out there, Tiny Town put out the killer 2019 garage record from Gamjee, Legacy Project, and have followed that with Dragoons’ Horrorscope and Ecosystem’s forthcoming record, There and Back Again, set to be released on Friday October 9.
Keep up to date with Tiny Town via their Facebook page.
Another of Melbourne’s incredibly generous and hard-working music companies, Good Manners specialise in both putting out records and artist management. The music of Kllo, Lucianblomkamp, Baths, Lonelyspeck and more, is with us today because of the work of Huw Nolan and Hugh McClure, a duo who’ve carved their own unique niche in the electronic music scene.
Beat’s pick: Get around Kllo’s 2020 album, Maybe We Could.
Find out more about Good Manners here.
Hotel Motel Records
I previously mentioned Jo Syme, who not only plays the tubs for Big Scary and is part of the Pieater team, she’s also got her own record label, Hotel Motel. Hotel Motel has been huge in the rise of beloved Melbourne guitar-pop band, Cool Sounds, and also helped put out Nat Vazer’s 2020 album, Is This Offensive And Loud? Syme just doesn’t stop!
Beat’s pick: Nat Vazer’s aforementioned 2020 record is all the rage.
Get around Hotel Motel here.
Spirit Level is the project of musician and broadcaster Tim Shiel and Goyte mastermind Wally de Backer. The label release music from a diverse range of artists from across the globe, with an emphasis on local talent. Many of the releases are produced and mixed at the label’s North Melbourne residence – through Spirit Level, you’ll be across releases from the likes of multi-instrumentalist Happy Axe, experimental electronic figure Kcin and electro-pop duo Hemm.
Beat’s pick: The elusive Braille Face will release his second album, Original Cast Recording, on Wednesday September 16. Braille Face explores the dreamy expanses of indie-pop.
Check out Spirit Level here.
Houses in Motion
Houses in Motion is a burgeoning electronic music label we can thank for introducing us to the likes of Ten Brains, Nice Girl, Subjoi, Ryan Berkeley and more. Melbourne’s underground electronic music scene has never been stronger and that’s largely thanks to Houses in Motion and their label counterparts we’ll be looking to feature in the second part of this series. Perch up in the backyard and chuck on Ten Brains’ transcendent 2020 EP, Pipe, or really get the party started with Nice Girl’s killer 2019 record, Him006. The world’s your oyster.
Beat’s pick: Nice Girl’s Him006 really gets us going.
Keep your eyes peeled for the feature’s second instalment in the coming weeks.
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