Sharp Notes November 20 2003

Playtime is over at Kindercore: On Wednesday, Nov. 12, Athens indie label Kindercore, succumbed to the economic forces that plague all small record companies. That day, its parent company, IDEA, got instructions from its primary creditor to pull the plug on the label that had come to define the Athens scene nationally over the past decade.

In an e-mailed announcement, Kindercore general manager Jerod Gunsberg said Kindercore's current catalog will remain in print and that the label's recent releases — including one by Athens post-punk outfit Jet By Day and a split EP by post-rockers the Mercury Program and Athens-based Maserati — will get full promotional push.

Conceived in 1996 by Dan Geller and Ryan Lewis of now-defunct Athens band Kincaid, Kindercore aimed to represent Athens music. Its first release, the popular cassette compilation Treble Revolution, included material by Kincaid, the Mendoza Line and the Olivia Tremor Control. By early 1998, Kindercore branched out to include both non-Athens bands and bands, such as Athens orchestral post-rockers Japancakes, that fell outside "twee" sound that had made it a favorite of indie-pop fans.

That year, Lewis and Geller temporarily relocated to Brooklyn and, as the label gained attention through its association with Athens' Elephant 6 collective, it entered a distribution deal with L.A. indie Emperor Norton Records. Meanwhile, Geller began the electro-pop duo I Am the World Trade Center with girlfriend Amy Dykes and Lewis started the garage band the Four Corners with members of Kindercore bands the Sunshine Fix and the Essex Green.

Lewis and Geller came back to Athens in 2000 for cheaper rent and a return to the scene that birthed the label. When it lost funding from Emperor Norton in 2001, IDEA rescued it, and Gunsberg came in to manage the label from New York.

"Dan and Ryan really were just interested on focusing more on A&R and not dealing with the day-to-day operations of the label," says Gundsberg. "So I ran the day-to-day operations."

In 2002, Geller and Lewis tried to rid Kindercore of its twee-pop image, adding local post-punk bands Paper Lions and Jet By Day, as well as Lewis and Geller's straight-up punk band, the Agenda (while retaining pop-oriented acts Of Montreal, Dressy Bessy, and Masters of the Hemisphere).

Most recently, the label signed Brooklyn-based riot-grrrl poppers Palomar and Australian imports Gersey. And four weeks ago, during Kindercore's jam-packed CMJ showcase at New York's Tribeca rock club, there was nary of whisper of trouble ahead.

But when the end came last week, Gunsberg called the label's bands to break the news. "That was really cool of him to personally call and just say, 'Thanks for all your hard work,'" says Paper Lions drummer Josh Lott. "I feel like they really worked hard for us and did everything they could within their means to support us."

Geller and Lewis declined comment, saying only, "This has been a really hard week for us and we don't even know what to say at this point."

Gunsberg, however, attempted to be more upbeat. "We succeeded in taking what I think were absolutely the most talented bands I've seen anywhere, let alone Athens, and we tried to run them up the flagpole on a national level and see who saluted," he says.

Gunsberg left open the possibility that Kindercore's suspension would not be permanent. And Stanley Hartman, CEO of Kindercore and its sister enterprise, The Telegraph Company, indicated that the label's operations were not being suspended at all, only that some bands may be dropped.

Despite this, Gunsberg confirms that Kindercore is indeed history. "If the Kindercore and Telegraph labels do continue to put out new releases, which is highly suspect in of itself, they will bear no resemblance at all to the what the label released in the past," he says.