--Mac McCaughan - co-founder of Merge Records (founder of Superchunk)
The Story of Merge Records is more than just the story of Mac and Superchunk bassist Laura Ballance fatefully aligning in Chapel Hill, NC more than 20-years-ago and galvanizing their shared ideals of preserving the aesthetic of the crate-diving, record-collecting, music maven. It goes beyond their helping to establishing some kind of foundation, however amorphous or frail at first, upon which their friends... (i.e., their own favorite bands) could climb upon and stand together under the banner of a "record label."
It's also the story, as reporter/author John Cook pieces together in his new book, of "what went wrong at the major labels..."
"At this point," said Ballance, "we have artists coming to us that formerly would have been interested in being on a major label, which really tells me that people are fleeing that model like rats from a sinking ship and that (Merge) somehow represent ohw a record label should work."
Merge's story is a subtle indictment of the major labels and casts revealing scrutiny upon its evil agenda...rather, it's view of music with dollar-sign-eyeballs. Cook shows in his expansive book (- a blending of photo-album / oral history that sorta reads like a tome-sized magazine feature/interview)--music, rock n' roll specifically, has always been forged by the passionate DIY-ers first - and that goes for its early proponents, especially. Cook draws comparisons of Merge to Vivian Carter and James Bracken, the first to release the Beatles in the U.S. with their Vee-Jay Records label (as, at that time in the early 60's, Capitol had refused). Don't forget Sam Phillips at Sun Records, by the way.
In any case - I'll make two recommendations to you as we acknowledge the 20th Anniversary of Merge Records:
A.) Seek out this book (we have it at the Ferndale Public Library).
B.) Treat yourself to a tribute night at Woodruff's - June 8th!
Not to glorify them, but... they proved it... A simple, all-heart (long-slogging) formula to prop independent music - and coming out the other end with not just your integrity in tact, but surplus of integrity.
Credibility sounds like too fleeting of a word. But it's pretty nice when you can count some of the most respected, yet most popular indie rock bands, i.e. Spoon and Arcade Fire, as family members. They survived their first rough five years and then caught the "wave" of seminal post-grunge indie rock (along with their comrades like Dinosaur Jr.) and wound up signing acts like Magnetic Fields... One tries not to indulge the "and they never looked back" cliche). Ah well, ...most indie rockers know the lore of Merge and 'Chunk and all that... Just enjoy the weekend and check out the book--and Woodruff's.