Philadelphia-based indie rock act Dr. Dog will perform live at the Fillmore at the TLA on South Street Nov. 10.
For many listeners and fans of the band, this is where the mystery ends. But it isn’t the whole story – in fact, this isn’t even the half of it.
Behind Dr. Dog, The Teeth, The Capitol Years, Tulsa and many other talented Philly artists is a unique whirlwind force in the form of the Park the Van record label.
Originally based in New Orleans until Hurricane Katrina in 2005, Park the Van started under a different name, National Parking Records. In 2004, founder Chris Watson formed the label in order to produce an album for his friends. Today, these buddies are better known as Philadelphia’s own Dr. Dog.
“Park the Van started as a means to release the album Easy Beat from Dr. Dog,” Watson said. “It was really that simple.”
The label is now based in the Philly suburb of Royersford and has a large presence in the city’s music scene. It’s still a young enough label, though, that it hasn’t quite developed its own unique sound.
“The influence of Park the Van is yet to materialize. In my opinion, we’re influenced by the city. I guess it’s safe to say bands like Dr. Dog, the Teeth and the Capitol Years are now influencing younger Philly bands, but overall, it’s the city enforcing its majesty,” he said.
But how does Park the Van help define Philadelphia music? Is labeling the Philly music scene even possible?
“I don’t think I’m qualified to say what defines the Philly music scene,” Watson said.
“I guess it’s the freedom that musicians, artists and songwriters have to do what they want. Philly doesn’t have the same set of standards that other big music towns have. It’s just a bunch of folks that do what they love to do.”
And that’s the real crux of it all. The Philly scene is all about labels like Park the Van, which allow recording artists to have their own flavor without having to live up to a particular “Philly sound.”
In the tide of today’s tumultuous recording industry, independent labels like Park the Van will have to grow and change in order to stay relevant.
“We embrace the future of the music industry,” Watson said. “Digital downloads and vinyl [records] seem like a comfortable realm to operate in. For now, we’ll concentrate on delivering music we can’t live without, any way that is possible.”
Park the Van now has 10 recording artists on its roster. The inimitable Dr. Dog released its second Park the Van record, We All Belong, in 2007.
The Capitol Years released Dance Away the Terror in 2006. Tulsa, a group originally from Boston, released I Was Submerged in 2007. And Philly-based band The Teeth just released another Park the Van record, You’re My Lover Now. This list is an incomplete offering of what Park the Van offers, though.
What it all comes down to is this: what can we do to make sure that local labels like Park the Van are prosperous for years to come?
Watson has a piece of advice to offer to students interested in entering the music business: “Don’t stop buying records!”
Anna Aupperle can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.