By Anthony J. Machcinski
Since 2010, a great deal of things have changed in the area. Among those things, the Pulaski Skyway shutdown in one direction, Kearny got a Wawa and Lyndhurst completed the building of a new football field. Heck, even the Passaic River continues to get cleaned up.
While many of those things have changed, one thing that has remained constant is the Killing Horse Records recording label, a strong independent label out of Kearny that celebrated its fourth anniversary this year.
“We’re psyched to be able to still be doing this thing,” said Killing Horse co-founder Mike Sylvia. “A lot of labels that start from the ground up, like us, have fizzled out. We feel like we are consistently moving forward which is all we can ask for.”
Sylvia and co-founder Ryan Gross founded the label in 2010 out of a Kearny Ave. apartment as a chance to get better publicity for the Kearny band Secret Country.
“During that time, Secret Country was putting out their first full length record,” Sylvia said. “We started the company to take care of all the behind the scenes stuff and from there, we were able to help out other bands.”
Sylvia and Gross also saw an opportunity to aid other bands in the area, not just Secret Country.
“We saw that there was a need to document the music that was coming out of the area,” Sylvia said. “Also, we felt that if a few of us could pool our resources together we would be able to get things done more efficiently. That model still seems to work for us.”
While the label started booking shows at the Kearny Irish- American Club with local bands, its real success was gaining valuable resources throughout the music industry.
“What we found was that we made a ton of contacts,” Sylvia said. “Between bloggers, press people, all the people you need to know to stay afloat. It was really essential for us even though it didn’t translate monetarily.”
Even with Killing Horse’s success, Sylvia said he never looked at the long-term future of the label early in his career.
“We don’t really think in those kinds of terms,” Sylvia said. “We just try to put out records and look to fund the next record.”
Since they started in 2010, Sylvia said the label has accumulated lots of valuable information.
“We’ve had a chance to learn about lots of different parts of the industry, so putting out a record for us is easy now,” Sylvia said. “As long as we have the budget, we plan on putting out lots of records in the future.”
However, the biggest lesson the label founders have learned is to stick to their guns and not be afraid.
“One of the biggest lessons we have learned is that it’s okay to make mistakes,” Sylvia explained. “Keep your ideals, don’t change.”
Even with all the label’s growing pains over the last four years, Sylvia and Gross never wavered from their dream.
“We love doing it,” Sylvia said. “There was a time we thought we couldn’t afford doing what we love, sure, but we do what we can and we are fine with that.”
While the label has continued to grow and gain experience, the number of the bands under the Killing Horse label has increased as well. Those bands include Secret Country, Cicada Radio, Overlake, Wreaths and TV Sound.
As for the future of the label, Sylvia hopes to continue building the label’s reputation as a cornerstone for the independent music scene.
“We just want to continue to grow, to put out records and help make it a little easier for the independent music scene to stay alive,” Sylvia said.
With several new records on the horizons, including a new Life Eaters record and other projects, Killing Horse Records enters its fifth year stronger than ever and with an even brighter future.