Behind some of your favorite San Diego bands are often just-as-great local record labels. While usually not nearly as visible as the bands themselves, of course, small labels toil in the background and serve a crucial role in helping spread the good word about great independent music. Sometimes they can take on a life of their own, though, by creating their own scene. In San Diego, we've got some good ones, and we've decided to highlight just a few of our faves. Got another one in mind that floats your boat? Let us know in the comments!
Bleeding Gold Records: This local label’s been pumping out awesome releases for a while now, but recent records by Dream Joints (solo project of Wild Wild Wets’ Mike Turi), Low Points and Spooky Cigarette put 'em solidly on here as one of our faves. Must-own release: "Feels" EP by Low Points.
Blind Owl: Founded by Mrs. Henry’s Daniel Cervantes, Blind Owl took off not that long ago but has since released a treasure chest of awesome local records by Mrs. Henry (naturally), Creature & the Woods, Taken by Canadians and the Bad Vibes. Must-own release: "Rise" LP by Creature & the Woods.
Pacific Records: Specializing mostly in the pop/rock realm, Pacific Records features a huge catalog of releases by the Morgan Leigh Band, Rebecca Jade, Social Club (aka Cameo Kid), Get Back Loretta, Lindsay Perry, Sandollar and Sprung Monkey, among others. Must-own release: "The Dark Revival" LP by Lindsay Perry.
Redwoods Music: Led by honorary San Diego music scene poet laureate Alfred Howard and Transfer’s Matt Molarius, this label harks back to the days of Stax and Motown -- utilizing a house band of sorts fronted by different powerful frontwomen. Its roster includes Rebecca Jade & the Cold Fact, Dani Bell & the Tarantist, Birdy Bardot, the Midnight Pine and Cardinal Moon. Must-own release: Self-titled LP by the Midnight Pine.
Swami Records: This list wouldn’t be complete without John "Swami" Reis' own label, which, along with releases by his own bands (Drive Like Jehu, Hot Snakes, Rocket From the Crypt, etc.), also features records by Mrs. Magician, the epic "Hardcore Matinee" compilation, Metz, Beehive & the Barracudas and more. Must-own release: "Bermuda" by Mrs. Magician.
Three One G Records: This legendary punk/hardcore/noise label was founded by Locust/Retox member Justin Pearson and, over the years, has released records by Dead Cross, Cattle Decapitation, Head Wound City, Hot Nerds, Metz, the Locust (of course), Moving Units, Silent and others. Must-own release: Self-titled LP by Dead Cross.
Thrill Me Records: Founded by Cory Stier (who plays in Mrs. Magician/Cults/Hideout and books Soda Bar), Thrill Me has released albums and 7-inch records by the Willowz, the Gloomies, Matthew Logan Vasquez, Lowlands and Walter Schreifels' (from Quicksand) latest outfit, Dead Heavens. Must-own release: "So Many Hoops, So Little Time" by Hideout.
Topshelf Records: This label got its start in Boston around 2006 but relocated to downtown San Diego’s 13th Street a year or two back with a celebrated catalog that features Sorority Noise, Jay Som, Braid, No Joy, Prawn, the World Is a Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid to Die and more. Must-own release: "The Cosmic Drama" (repress) by Weatherbox.
Volar Records: Originally founded to release music by Jeremy Rojas and Andrew Montoya after their band the Sess broke up, the label expanded and has released music by Matt Lamkin (of the Soft Pack), Teenage Burritos, Tar Halos, Beaters, Keepers, Shannon & the Clams, Stalins of Sound, Cosmonauts and others. Must-own release: "A, Who Sings That Beat?" by Ale Mania.