Lots to look for as indie labels Vagrant and Drive-Thru Records expand with new releases and large fan base

By on January 30, 2002

Vagrant and Drive-Thru Records have been two independent labels on the rise for a few years, and have tried doing so side by side. Early in 2001 an incident with Dashboard Confessional drew a rift between the labels and put the two at odds. Dashboard had an oral agreement with Drive-Thru to have their CD released, but instead Dashboard jumped ship to Vagrant. After a lengthy battle of insults between the labels, they ended mutually in disagreement, but the competition to become the biggest indie label has produced some of the best music you’ve never heard.
2001 was special for Vagrant and Drive-Thru. Each label saw newly signed bands take off with samplers, EP’s and compilation spots. Two individual bands from both labels became the hottest of up and coming groups in the pop-punk genre. Vagrant’s Saves The Day and Drive-Thru’s New Found Glory toured the country and played sold-out venues wherever they went.
With their July release of “Stay What You Are,” Princeton, New Jersey natives Saves The Day showed their hard-rocking side while staying true to their emotionally powerful roots. The band’s first releases were extremely depressing and punk, thanks to songwriter Chris Conley’s testimonies about how much he hates girls. With “Stay What You Are,” Conley still expresses angst and toiling with the opposite sex, but the band does it in a more upbeat pop-punk way.
Saves’ first single “At Your Funeral” has been getting heavy airplay on college radio and the video premiered on MTV2 in late November. The group also got their first live television exposure this past month on Craig Kilborn’s Late Late Show and Late Night with Conan O’Brien.
In a few weeks Saves will be opening several shows for Weezer as they tour throughout the northeast. Upcoming dates to catch Saves and Weezer are: Feb. 8th in Lowell, MA; Feb. 9th in Wilkes-Barre, PA; Feb. 10th in Kingston, RI; and Feb. 11th in East Rutherford, NJ.
Vagrant Records has many other indie hits with bands such as Alkaline Trio, The Get Up Kids, Hey Mercedes, and The Anniversary, all with 2001 albums and many Spring ’02 releases. Each band has toured year round in support of their releases. The Alkaline Trio supported Blink-182 over the summer before touring with The Get Up Kids by the winter. Dashboard Confessional, Hey Mercedes and The Anniversary supported label mates Saves The Day as part of the Vagrant America summer tour, drawing full capacity crowds to tight clubs like Toad’s Place in July.
One-time New Haven natives Hot Rod Circuit will have their second full-length disk released next month. Also look fot releases from Get Up Kid Matthew Pryor’s acoustic band The New Amsterdams and The Anniversary’s second LP of synthesized indie rock, “Your Majesty.”
Most recent and one of the most significant feats thus far for Vagrant is the signing of indie garage-rock veteran Paul Westerberg. The former Replacement lead singer’s new album is entitled “Stereo,” and is due out in late April. Westerberg added a scruffy acoustic rendition of Beatles’ classic “Nowhere Man” recently for the “I Am Sam” soundtrack.
Drive-Thru Records used its own moderate pace in 2001 signing a handful of amazing artists like Fenix TX, Midtown, RxBandits, and Homegrown. The label signed a distribution deal with MCA Records, giving them a chance to have their music heard by more people.
Drive-Thru still controls which bands they sign, when the new records are released, and everything they did before the merge. Now that Drive-Thru is under MCA’ wing, all of their releases will be distributed nationally by MCA. This puts all Drive-Thru disks in stores across the country, which was something that was difficult for an indie label from California.
2001 was a year that saw Drive-Thru sign four bands. The Starting Line, the emo-hardcore Finch, piano-based rockers Something Corporate, and The Movielife were taken and put under the Drive-Thru banner in 2001.
The label’s biggest act, New Found Glory, took only about six weeks off from touring all year in support of their self-titled release. Playing with Blink-182 and headlining large-club venues, New Found Glory has become one of the hottest bands on the punk scene. The band has remained loyal to Drive-Thru, even though any major label could easily sign them.
With the new signees to Drive-Thru, the label released many EP’s in 2001. These releases from the new Drive-Thru bands typically had five to seven songs per disk, previewing tracks from upcoming full-length releases. The Movielife, Finch, and The Starting Line all released EP’s on CD and vinyl.
Only the RxBandits, Something Corporate and FenixTX released new albums this past year. The RxBandits’ “Progress” is easily one of the best albums of the year in alternative music.
Scheduled for early 2002 releases on Drive-Thru are new albums from Midtown, Finch, and The Starting Line. New Found Glory are currently in the studio, and hope to have a summer release of their third full length album.
Whoever said rock is dead lately definitely hasn’t seen what the many indie labels have to offer. Vagrant and Drive-Thru lead the pack with an indie and punk rock following. Both have kept rock alive by constantly signing new artists who put out incredible, hard-rocking releases.

Editor’s Note: Additional reporting by Entertainment Editor Mike Schoeck.


About Matt Kentfield - Staff Writer