Heads up, record labels: I'm about to do your job for you. While there are plenty of San Diego musicians hard at work on their craft (and I salute you), it takes a considerable amount of extra work to actually get outside of San Diego and tour, continuously release music, make music videos, etc. -- all on your own. Recording music and playing a record release show is the easy part. What should come after is what separates the weekend warriors from the pros. Let's face it, there's no golden ticket anymore. The number of record labels out there is dwindling, and in this age of Spotify and YouTube, they're almost unnecessary. Almost. They do still serve a purpose though, and they can help bands with distribution, pressing records, tours, promotion and so on. With that in mind, these are 10 of San Diego's top bands that are paying to press their own records, booking their own tours and putting in the legwork independently. If any labels are reading this, hit 'em up.
Gloomsday: My favorite San Diego punk/noise/garage-pop duo can always be relied on for at least two things: They'll blow your puny PA speakers out with their gigantically raucous sound, and they'll always be touring (or planning a tour). Few bands in San Diego regularly release killer music (they just self-released their latest album "Worst Coast Scenario" on vinyl) and get out of town with the frequency and determination that Gloomsday do -- which, in the music industry, means they've got a headstart on 95 percent of the indie bands out there.
The Lulls: We try not to make a huge deal out of it around here (don't want him to get a bigger head), but Rutger Rosenborg -- my fellow SoundDiego associate editor -- is also the vocalist/guitarist of the Lulls. I can hear the chants of "Nepotism!" right now. And you'd totally be right ... if the band's music wasn't simply incredible. They're kind of all the rage right now too: The blogosphere's abuzz with their debut singles and music videos (recently premiered on Cultured Vultures and Glamglare), and they've got an upcoming album on the way called "Island of Daughters" (which -- bonus! -- they're pressing to vinyl). It'd all be for naught if they didn't back it with touring, but they've already spent July of 2015 on the road up and down Arizona, Idaho, Washington, Oregon and even Vancouver -- and that was all without any proper music to give folks along the way. With a new tour van, boxes of vinyl, videos and music to shop around, it's literally just a matter of time before we start seeing a whole lot less of Rutger in the office.
Plane Without a Pilot: This trio might just be your go-to pop-punk band in San Diego whose name doesn't end in 182. But I know three things for sure: They're willing and able to hit the road (just finished up a West Coast trek in June), they craft extra catchy anthems and when they play in town, they're paired up with familiar names like All Time Low, the Ataris and the Rocket Summer. Somebody sign 'em and thank me later.
Ruines Ov Abaddon: Ruines have been spreading their wicked death metal around San Diego and the rest of the West Coast like a virus for the last couple of years (you might've seen 'em on their latest Reign Ov Terror tour just this past January), but to my dismay, these local metal juggernauts remain DIY. Hey Prosthetic, Nuclear Blast or Roadrunner Records -- give these dudes a call pronto.
The Schizophonics: For a band that was handpicked to open for Cage the Elephant in both San Diego and Salt Lake City and who have various West Coast and European tours under their belt, they're still criminally underappreciated label-wise. San Diego's Ugly Things Records released their latest 7-inch in 2015, but c'mon, that was only two songs. Everyone knows Pat Beers doesn't hit his acrobatic shake-splits stride until song three. Labels: wake up already.
The Silent Comedy: Who would've thought these guys were unsigned? These days, the Silent Comedy fellas play their admittedly fewer and farther-between shows outside of San Diego for the most part. But with a touring pedigree (that includes European tours and stints with Dave Matthews Band, ZZ Ward, and the Heavy, among others), an electric live show and a fanatic fanbase -- surely there's an interested label or 10 out there?
Sister Speak: Either by herself or with a band of accompanying musicians, Sister Speak's Sherri-Anne has a wondrous voice and songwriting chops for days -- and she's always on the move. Heck, just this month alone she's heading to dates in Colorado and Canada (where she's from). Head over to her Pledge Music page and help her make a new record, which if SoundDiego's staff had our way, would be coming out on a legit record label.
Spero: A group after my own heart with their haunting, explosive blues/rock odes steeped in heartbreak, regret and good ol' fashioned vindication -- Spero's latest self-released EP, "Eclipse," is one of the year's best releases (recorded in Nashville no less!), and it needs to be taken to the masses. No stranger to the road (they made a hearty West Coast run last summer), the band needs to get back out there -- if only to prove to labelheads that they've made a huge mistake by not yet signing them.
Music. Community. Culture.
Taken By Canadians: This North County-based band would be on my list just on the merits of their latest self-released album, "we eat you like a person," which is an impressive amalgamation of indie rock, Americana and psychedelia. It's no secret we love 'em here at SoundDiego. But they also put their money where their mouths are, hitting the road constantly for audacious jaunts that take 'em from California up to Oregon, out to Montana, down to New Mexico and back. You gotta respect the hustle. Sign 'em!
Trouble in the Wind: I recently wrote about my, uh, appreciation of Trouble in the Wind's 2016 rock/pop/country masterpiece "Lefty," but it wouldn't really mean much if they didn't put the pedal to the metal and hit the road now and again. While they're not exactly on tour 100 percent of the time (day jobs and all that), they do their fair share of treks out to Arizona, New Mexico and elsewhere when they can. If only a label would do us all a favor, ink these guys and give 'em tour support so they can take the tunes all the way to the boonies. If only.
Dustin Lothspeich books The Merrow; plays in Diamond Lakes and Boy King; and runs the music-equipment-worshipping blog Gear and Loathing in San Diego. Follow his updates on Twitter or contact him directly.