Over the past 25 years, Charlotte has seen its share of indie record labels come and go – Yesha, Liquilab, MoRisen, Kinnikinnik, to name a few. Each venture has ranged in terms of goals, success and staying power.
Homegrown labels usually start as a way for bands to release their own music or that of friends. In 2008, Joshua Robbins and his wife Sarah Blumenthal started an old-fashioned music ’zine. During an interview with the band Lowbrow, Robbins asked who was putting out the band’s 7-inch record. “You are,” the band replied.
The joking dare got Robbins thinking, and the couple agreed to fund a run of 300. It followed that with an EP by Arkansas’ World Champions and a handful of releases from Robbins’ old band, Meth Mountain. That was six years ago.
“It was kind of just a little snowball rolling downhill, and we haven’t stopped,” says Robbins.
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Self Aware Records’ latest release is from Philadelphia female indie-rock trio Amanda X, who plays Snug Harbor Friday with Philly’s Spirit of the Beehive, Robbins’ band Late Bloomer plus Blumenthal’s new female trio, Faye.
Self Aware has history with Amanda X guitarist/vocalist Cat Park. “Breakfast,” an album from her previous band, Band Name, was the label’s first full-length release in 2010. Robbins offered to put it out after seeing Band Name play Lunchbox Records.
Amanda X’s “Hundred and Thousands” EP features two tracks written specifically for the 7-inch format. It will also be released on cassette.
“I’d written a song that was seven minutes long and had no idea what to do with it or if it was one of those things you write that doesn’t go anywhere,” says bassist Kat Bean. She and Park decided to write a companion piece that would fit on the flipside of a single. “They go well together, like sunrise and sunset in way. The way Cat and I both write is complementary. We usually play them in succession live, too.”
In October, Self Aware will release a 7-inch by Charlotte’s Junior Astronomers, another band the pair calls friends.
“People used to joke: To get your record to be put out by Self Aware, be friends with us,” says Blumenthal.
“Keep being nice to us and eventually we cave in,” adds Robbins.
Self Aware has expanded outside of the region with recent releases from Philly and Richmond bands. Some of its releases have begun attracting national press via Pitchfork.com and Brooklyn Vegan – a feat for an independent label.
“That’s a fairly recent phenomena,” says Robbins, who works in the financial field. “At some point the media kind of takes notice. I would work with smaller PR companies that was just one guy that would sent out the necessary emails and we’d get premiered on websites. If there’s something we can’t do ourselves, we try to figure out who can do it for us.”
That DIY approach extends to screen-printing t-shirts.
“That’s bankrolling the label,” says Blumenthal, who works in clinical research by day. “It started as a hobby we could do for ourselves or friends, but it’s been a great way to help the label grow. You do make more money than selling records.”
Although label horror stories abound in the industry, no matter what the size of the band or the label, Amanda X is confident in Self Aware, who work one release at a time without a long-term commitment.
“(Robbins) really knows his stuff. If anyone asks to be involved, we do our research,” explains Bean. “Maybe that’s being thorough and proactive.”
WHEN: 10 p.m. Friday.
WHERE: Snug Harbor, 1228 Gordon St.
DETAILS: 704-561-1781; www.snugrock.com.