6 of our favourite indie record labels across Australasia. Find new music from out-of-the-ordinary labels in places like Cebu City to Lahore. These are the sounds you need in your earholes, stat.

In 2007, a Chinese power pop/punk band New Pants played a show in Melbourne. Relatively unknown then in Australia, the band took insanity to a whole new level. Their album Dragon Tiger Panacea was like Mario Smash Brothers on disco-punk and crack. What the hell were New Pants doing over in China to create this sort of sound?

When I looked deeper, I learnt about the maverick record label who released the album, Modern Sky. By 2007 though, the label was already 11 years deep with releases from seminal bands like Re-Tros and P.K.14. Something that I felt was so new, when I dug deeper revealed an underground culture that had been long brewing. Modern Sky opened the door to an incredible body of sound which I was oblivious to. Hence, the power of a record label – the power of visibility en masse. Further combine this with global accessibility to creation, publishing, distribution and consumption, and boom. We have a whirlwind of incredibly diverse DIY culture.

The dynamics of underground music the world over is fuelled in much the same way: through youth, angst, rebellion and opportunity. While the first 3 points haven’t changed much, the biggest gamechanger to opportunity in the past decade has been the Internet. Thanks to the web, we get to participate in the thriving sounds of Yogyakarta to Melbourne to Cebu City, with indie record labels who are in the business of the weird and wonderful undercurrents of culture.

While there are countless indie record labels out there, we’ve created a tiny listicle to whet your appetite. So let’s get to it, here’s 6 indie record labels whose music you need in your life, now.

1. Maybe Mars (Beijing, China)

Just over a decade old, Maybe Mars is one of China’s biggest independent record labels. In particular, Maybe Mars work intimately with the country’s underground music scene. They operate with an endeavour to promote the sounds of this generation’s Chinese music makers to international (particularly Western) audiences and have put together amazing tours to bring bands like Carsick Cars and Birdstriking to audiences in Europe, US and Australia.

Literally, everything on Maybe Mars is gold. Just to name a few, try the weird electronica of Snapline, psychedelic rock of Dream Can, or look through their back catalogue for the lovably quirky indie rock debut from Mr Graceless.

“We three can make more noise”, read our interview with Maybe Mars’ psychedelic band Dream Can here.

2. Kolibri Rekords (Jakarta, Indonesia)

Launching around 4 years ago, Kolibri was started by friends, for friends. Additionally, their founding members are in Bedchamber, an incredible surf pop band that they host themselves on the indie label. In truth with their earnest motto of “amplifying the little chirps”, what’s most endearing about the label is the close friendships and DIY independence they foster. The result? Glorious, glittery and vibrant releases from bands who are stealing hearts and minds the world over.

It’s all magic on Kolibri, but a few personal faves are dream pop band Seahoarse, punky trio Grrrl Gang and gazey, football obsessed group Gizpel.

Read our write up on Kolibri Rekords band Gizpel’s hypnotic double single, “No Surrender”.

3. Middle Class Cigars (Singapore)

Starting in 2016, Middle Class Cigars have managed to cultivate a loyal fan base in a short amount of time. It’s very much quality over quantity with the young Singaporean indie label. In doing so, they take their time with releases and cultivate masterpieces in dreamy sounds and quirky indie pop music. While all their artists are easily enjoyed via Bandcamp and Spotify, fans can also buy releases as colourful physical cassette tapes.

For lovers of dream pop, Middle Class Cigars is like finding the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Cosmic Child and Subsonic Eye are the bulwark for the label’s creation, while Sobs and Handsome Girl dive a little deeper into the quirky depths of youthful songwriting. But really, just listen to it all.

Read our write up on Middle Class Cigars darlings Sobs and their debut LP Telltale Signs here.

4. tenzenmen (Chiang Rai, Thailand via Sydney, Australia)

Clocking up 175 releases on his Bandcamp page, and still counting. Shaun tenzenmen is a one-man record label, touring, distribution operation and #1 music fan. Furthermore he has spent the past two decades tirelessly promoting counterculture sounds across continents. Being a specialist in music across Australasia, the label has created access to all things eccentric, innovative and alternative. I can certainly thank much of my excitement for music discovery and the aspirations for Cat Brain Land, to tenzenmen.

tenzenmen releases are always weird and wonderful. The label challenges listeners to venture into the unknown. Some places to start are Brisbane post-hardcore band Leavings, Beijing experimentalists Chui Wan, and Sydney grunge heroes Yes I’m Leaving.

5. Melt Records (Cebu City, Philippines)

The Philippines is the heart of the most diverse DIY music scene in the world. Powered by the disruptive ease of digital distribution, incredible indie labels such as Melt Records are championing a vibrant and fiercely independent music culture.

Formed since 2010, Melt Records has dedicated itself to being a platform for new and alternative artists in Cebu City. What’s more, the range of local music released through the label is breathtaking. From the passionate vocal pop of KRNA, guitar alt-pop band Loop to the wild punk mayhem of Tiger Pussy. Follow Melt Record on their social media pages because there’s always something exciting happening with these guys.

6. Echo Records (Lahore, Pakistan)

Established in 2016, Echo Records takes on what many indie artists in Pakistan are doing at the moment: they’re funding their own music releases when risk-averse major labels say no.

South Asia has seen a fantastic explosion of DIY music, particularly in electronica. Notably though, the large divide between major labels to independent music makes it a tough market for a small-scale indie label undertaking. Perhaps that’s why Echo Records feels so special. Their plight for viable, creative independence is creating a pocket of sound that’s riding the edge of mainstream and mysterious.

Echo Records has a vibrant roster of indie singer/songwriters. Our favourites include the dark croons of the label’s founder Ali Ashraf and the soaring minimalism of Zoha Zuberi.

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