Label Mates

While the bottom drops out for the big boys, many locals are doing just fine

Although Porter and the gang have modest hopes for the label, one Denton businessman has approached them to invest. Porter wouldn't divulge the investor's name, but says he is an entrepreneur and is also involved in music. One of Porter's goals for the label is to "brand Denton." The TXMF crew wants to shine the spotlight on the Denton they know, describing a community of blue-collar artists who bond over backyard barbecues, front-porch beer drinking and 'shrooms. Thanks to Midlake and Robert Gomez, the label most associated with the city these days is the Union Jack-waving Bella Union. Porter and the others count Gomez and the men of Midlake as friends but don't want them to be the only representation of their city.

"You go on these blogs, and everyone's got a real fun fucking opinion of what Denton, Texas, is that has nothing to do with what's going on," Porter says. "That was one of the things that started it, was we were looking at what Bella Union was doing, and they're getting all this international press, and it's like, 'What, you guys have been here twice? And once was seven years ago?'...I think there's a lot more going on than what they see, and I think a lot of it is superior quality."

Other than providing a foil to Bella Union, the guys' ambitions don't extend much beyond putting out good music from a tight-knit collective of friends. They don't expect to get rich or even quit the day jobs that provide the frustrations they channel into their music. Particularly telling of this laid-back approach was an anecdote Porter told about Secret Headquarters, the DIY venue he, Cody Robinson and Rob Black operate from the former Art Prostitute location. Someone once asked why he wasn't applying for a liquor license. "Then we'd have to sell beer," he responded.

Erv Karwelis' studio has gold records and a washing machine; that says it all about homegrown music.
Jesse Hughey
Erv Karwelis' studio has gold records and a washing machine; that says it all about homegrown music.

Like a team of superheroes, everyone in the TXMF camp contributes a special skill or two; as we spoke over beers at Dan's Silverleaf, J.C. worked at a laptop on a flier for an upcoming show.

"We just kind of figured that all of us, with our frustrations and complete disbelief in the system, could do a little better with a small, regional focus," Porter said.

Though the music they promote could hardly be more dissimilar, a friend and day-job co-worker of Porter is taking a similar approach with a collective of like-minded musicians. Lars Larsen, frontman for the Undoing of David Wright, along with his wife, Heather Larsen, and others are forming the Eighth Continent Arts Council (8CAC) to experiment with alternative approaches to distributing all forms of art, including music. Larsen is certain the music industry as we know it will cease to exist within a few years, but he and the others in 8CAC view the impending death with optimism.

Larsen's philosophy is that all art, including music, should be free. Though 8CAC sells CDs and DVDs, he thinks of paying for music as a donation and doesn't mind if someone circumvents 8CAC to avoid doing so. And while the 8CAC business model could hardly be farther from that of Idol, he has a view of the industry's future similar to Karwelis', believing not only that superstar musicians may soon be a thing of the past, but that professional musicianship in general may go extinct, leaving music to hobbyists; he doesn't think that's necessarily a bad thing.

"I think the potential exists where, money aside, [there would be] an environment where the musical landscape is more conducive to projects being judged on the merits of uniqueness and quality, rather than being controlled by more of a music industry marketing budget, which still exists on even the smallest independent label," he said.

Another goal of 8CAC is the development of community. Everything on the Council's Web site at—the pagan symbols, the sci-fi-meets-mythology allegorical "transmissions" explaining the collective, even the color choices—creates the impression that you've entered some otherworldly commune in a time far in the future or the distant past. Maybe the Eighth Continent refers to the Internet itself, a virtual land where people can trade ideas in anarchic freedom, where they can leave filthy lucre out of the art world completely, if they so choose. I forgot to ask.

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