Several times a year Jimmy Peoni's living room transforms into an assembly line. Being the head of GloryHole Records, he pays band members in pizza and beer to spend an evening packaging their latest artistic offerings to the state of Indiana.
"We'll have one fold 'em, one stuff 'em, one insert the record, one insert the download," Peoni explains. "It's pretty mom-and-pop shop around here. Other places do it different, depends on what level you're on, but we're just on a simple level here."
Peoni's label, specializing in every genre from hazed-out, psychedelic rock to dark and dingy death pop, may simply seem like an over-glorified start-up endeavor to the naked eye. But this Fountain Square-based music body, along with several others across the state, serves the needs of Indiana's many music zealots, providing for them with the humble giving of homegrown tunes.
"When the records come in, we package them, we insert 'em, label 'em, do it all in my living room," says the 48-year-old. "It's still just a hobby pretty much. I'm not making any money off of it, that's for sure. But it's fun. I hope I'm giving some people a chance to have records that may not get records in other areas."
Once GloryHole's releases are out into the world, they can serve not only as a source of tuneful enjoyment, but an artifact of the current musical uprising in Fountain Square.
"It's not so much we're putting out this person's record and that person's record-- we're actually documenting music coming out of a certain area right now," Peoni says. "It's just as much that we're trying to document a time, and maybe in the future people will be like, 'Wow. What a great time for music this was, the 2010's era of Fountain Square.'"
From Peoni's living room, to Jeff Mather's basement, a homegrown passion for spreading quality tunes remains consistent. After his West Lafayette house venue, Jurassic Park, had run its course, area native Jeff Mather created a mainstay music body in the town, building upon relationships that he and co-founder Dylan Schwab had developed through local shows in Mather's basement. Says Mather of the label's humble underground hatching, "What I tell people now is, more than just having cool-[bum] bands play in your [somewhat unsavory] basement, what's so great about it is the fact that more than just being a place to do shows, it started its own community."
Following the theme and naming their label Jurassic Pop Recordings, both admit it is not making a profit. However, Jurassic Pop is now earning enough revenue to support itself, with the proceeds from each release simply going toward the funding of a new one, thus making the financial sacrifice a little easier on the duo of dudes.
With Mather working a full-time job in Cleveland and Schwab working his in Lafayette, both fantasize about doing Jurassic Pop full-time, but until then, they continue to serve Indiana's music community in their free time.
"We're just trying to take music that's underrepresented within the Central Indiana scene, bands that wouldn't necessarily have any representation otherwise. That's where it started, and that's what we try to keep doing," Schwab says.
Fully aware of the sacrifices of time, money and energy that Peoni, Mather and himself make to ensure local music is heard, Jared Cheek, founder of Bloomington's Flannelgraph Records, still sees his label as a completely worthwhile endeavor, as it supplies an essential need that so many music-minded Hoosiers long for.
"It's cool to see people doing things because they care about them and think they are important," he says. "A lot of us aren't making any money at this. Actually, a lot of us are losing money at this. But we think it's fun and it's worthwhile to try to get other people to listen to things that we find meaningful."
The Symbiotic Results
Regardless of scale, a symbiotic relationship exists between Indiana label owners and the artists they choose to support, driving both sides to pursue their passions together.
A fan of Bloomington's Crossroads of America Records (XRA Records) since high school, Aaron Denton grew close to the label's co-founder, Mike Adams, upon moving to Bloomington, even living in Adams' home for a summer. Denton is now a part of several XRA-associated acts, fronting his own lo-fi pop group, Wet Blankets, in addition to playing bass in Living Well. Now, he is even a part of the touring lineup for Adams' own project Mike Adams At His Honest Weight, who are preparing their second full-length release on Flannelgraph Records.
Over the years, Denton has recognized Adams' influence on him as an artist, saying, "I guess I see XRA as an extension of Mike and the creative and personal influence he has on me, and that's evolving all the time."
Additionally, XRA gives Denton a destination to keep in mind when he's making music and provides an extra set of ears to receive feedback from, validating his artistic expression.
"XRA sort of helps focus me a little bit, and maybe gives me a little bit of the chutzpah to think like an artist instead of, what I really am, just some dude making stuff," he says.
On the flip side, Adams' own career is never stagnant. Since starting the label as a means of fooling critics into thinking his previous band, husband&wife, had a third party behind it, XRA's tight-knit roster has sustained a high-standing reputation throughout the state. The label even orchestrated its own two-day festival at the beginning of October, along with Flannelgraph, marking the sixth annual XRA Fest.
Having released music with several Indiana labels, Adams recognizes how running XRA has impacted his life.
"I'm pretty ambitious and driven in my own work and can be caught in a feedback loop sometimes. Running the label gets me out of that a lot of times when I need to help someone solve a problem or come up with appropriate ideas to their project," he says. "It's very refreshing for me, and keeps me from stagnating, I think."
Since his band's (Everything, Now!) last experience with a local label 10 years ago, Jon "Crafty" Rogers has seen an uprising of them, many of which carry a unified drive to make music known, whether they're making money or not.
Having been around Indiana's music block for some time now, Rogers is the Director of Musical Family Tree, a music blog showcasing all that Indiana has to offer. In contact with musicians on a daily basis, he witnesses the creative energy that local labels feed the musician community.
"There's kind of nothing like the feeling that someone likes your music enough to put it out or to put some money in it and try and get other people to hear it," Rogers says. "In the online age, you can have all kinds of fans doing that for you, but I still feel like it makes you feel good to have someone else willing to invest their time and energy and money into your work. Just giving them that little bit of confidence, I think, is a huge part of the local label experience."
Travis Harvey is the owner of Village Green Records, a record store in Muncie. Regularly hosting shows in his store's front yard, Harvey has even held record label showcases for Indiana labels such as GloryHole and XRA.
Despite the distance between Muncie and these labels' living rooms, Harvey has seen local musicians feed off of the artistic motivation that they offer.
"Working with GloryHole Records and XRA over the years has helped build a musical camaraderie in Muncie, bringing a lasting interest in these other Central Indiana labels that are not even located in our region," Harvey says. "It gets really interesting when Muncie bands are motivated to take their music more seriously and they aspire to be signed on to these local labels."
Peoni embraces the fact that his label of misfit noise provides these musically gifted minds with an added impetus.
"It's not just about putting out records--it actually gives bands hope," he says. "I don't want to say that in a hokey kind of way, but I think GloryHole inspired a lot of Fountain Square bands to really get serious and pull it together."
A Patient Pursuit
Indiana is home to several independent record labels, both large and small, from "micro-labels" such as GloryHole and Jurassic Pop, to internationally recognized ones such as Secretly Canadian and Joyful Noise Recordings. All are part of the world's largest music producing body-- the independent record label.
According to The American Association of Independent Music, Billboard and SoundScan, stats show that independent labels accounted for almost 33 percent of U.S. album sales in 2012. This marks the second straight year that independent record labels outmatched other music market giants such as Universal, Sony, Warner Music and EMI in sales.
Located in Fountain Square, Joyful Noise was built on a foundation of local Indiana musicians-- compatriots of the label's founder, Karl Hofstetter. Now holding the titles of President and Curator of the label, Hofstetter and company are serving up listening pleasure to music fans around the world.
Thomas Kennedy, who works as Joyful Noise's "PR Jedi," has witnessed the label's coming of age over the past decade. A friend of Hofstetter since middle school, Kennedy remembers helping his friend with various tasks in the label's initial stages for occasional paychecks of beer and records. Kennedy recounts, "at first, he was putting out records by friends, but it became more like a business that actually made money, or some money, what was a solid business, when we put out the Joan of Arc cassette box set in 2010."
Distribution opportunities kept coming Joyful Noise's way after this release, as the label continued to support hand-selected locals such as DMA and Sleeping Bag, in addition to internationally known acts including Dinosaur Jr., of Montreal, and Sebadoh, releasing their music in unique, anti-digital formats such as cassette box sets and Flexi discs.
"He [Hofstetter] was able to leave his day job when he did all of that stuff by leveraging obscure, totally extinct forms of media," Kennedy says. "People got interested in that, and he got enough subscribers to his different series that he was able to leave his day job, and that's kind of when the record label started in a more serious way."
With its foundation rooted in local bands, Joyful Noise still supports the local scene as much as it can, whether that be through its label or its venue space in Fountain Square's Murphy Arts Building. While some of the artists on Joyful Noise are from Indiana, Hofstetter sees them as national acts that just happen to be conveniently living nearby, stating, "They have to make a really amazing record that is fit for a worldwide stage."
With his label now being a full-time job, Hofstetter sees the value in Indiana's vast collection of labels, large and small, having been apart of both label demographics.
"I think even the smaller labels, where it's run by one dude who is losing a bunch of money like we were in the first six years of the business, it's still great for Indy because it's bringing a level of culture to our state that we never had before," Hofstetter reflects. "I was born and raised here, and up until maybe five years ago, I would just consistently see good bands be created and then move away. That happening over the years has led to Indiana being sort of a vacuum of culture, a place that doesn't really have much of its own identity, but that's really changing now and record labels and bands are a major player in that."
Ben Jackson co-heads Rad Summer, a dance-oriented, EDM-dominant label based both in Indianapolis and Philadelphia. Jackson (known as Action Jackson when he DJs) has also witnessed Indy's musical uprising in recent years, saying, "we all contribute to the arts scene here, which has definitely exploded in the last five or so years." Jackson has witnessed the familial, homegrown pride of labels in the state that could ultimately foster continued success.
"Another great aspect of Indiana since it is a smaller state is that all of us know each other in the business and get along fairly well so there is a lot of collaboration between everyone and an attitude that if one of us makes it, it will help us all," Jackson says.
Rogers sees Indiana's many labels and their Hoosier-infused charm as a means of collectively bringing affirmation to the state, just as any other successful locally driven market would.
"I think the most exciting thing is just that it's putting Indiana on the map. It's showing that we're a different place that has stylistic diversity, that we have a lot of creative people in Indiana who make great music," Rogers says. "It's now part of our identity-- that we have a lot of micro-labels and even larger successful labels that are putting out good [stuff] that people want to hear all over the place."
As for Peoni, he plans to continue serving Indiana through GloryHole, no matter the cost.
"I don't think you can make retirement off of this, but I just like to put out records. I like to see people excited about records," he says.