Sheiks of Industry
Austin record labels, part 1
By David Lynch, Fri., Nov. 14, 2003
Misra: Charging Michael StipeSearch for "misra" on the Internet, and you'll generally find three things: Indian names, the Motor Industry Software Reliability Association, and Misra Records. While all three are seemingly unconnected, two are in fact linked. Label founder Phil Waldorf explains how he picked the tag for his new label in 1999:
"I was looking for a name that meant nothing to you," he says. "Something that could have been an invented word."
Mission accomplished. Waldorf can probably count on one hand the number of people who make the connection between the label moniker and Indian music. In his thirst for all things musical, Waldorf came across the term, which denotes the rhythm cycle used in Indian music, while studying Sufi scholar Hazrat Inayat Khan's seminal work, The Mysticism of Sound and Music. The label name symbolizes Waldorf's all-encompassing approach to running an independent label.
Weaned on punk rock in high school, Waldorf graduated to college radio deejay-of-all-trades, then impresario, hosting shows by the Promise Ring and Neutral Milk Hotel in his Athens, Ga., home and charging Michael Stipe $3 for cover. How did this turn into a viable business? Waldorf asked himself a motivating question:
"What am I going to do to turn this into my day job?" he laughs.
Misra's current location in Austin's fashionable Windsor Park neighborhood is its second, as Waldorf moved from Brooklyn after enjoying the Austin staples of breakfast tacos and bright weather during a recent SXSW. Most Misra music exists under the admittedly fuzzy indie rock umbrella, but more accurately reflects its founder's tastefulness.
"It mirrors the music I get excited about," declares Waldorf. "Lately I've been more interested in songs than when I started. I've put out albums by Centro-matic, Shearwater, the Mendoza Line, and Jenny Toomey, and songs are the strong points of those records."
Would Misra ever consider deviating from the hazy margins of indie rock? How about an album of speed metal?
"If it excited me, absolutely," declares Waldorf.
With an extant catalog of more than 20 full-lengths, distributed primarily by Indianapolis indie Secretly Canadian, and a packed release schedule for 2004, Misra's outlook is promising.
"I'm very proud of every record," Waldorf beams. "I think on their own merits, they're all worth hearing."
Kingpin: Phil Waldorf
Notable Releases: Destroyer, Streethawk: A Seduction; Centro-matic, Love You Just the Same; Shearwater, Everybody Makes Mistakes
New & Upcoming: Marshmallow Coast, Antistar; Centro-matic, Flashes and Cables EP
Average Print Run: 5,000