According to the “About” section of their website, Carolinas-based indie label Tiny Engines is “an evolution of ideas and gathering of like-minded people who dig inspiring music, a tight-knit community of friends and strong, independent DIY ethics.” Since its inception in 2008, the label has gone to great lengths to stay true to this message, signing bands from all over the country and effortlessly maintaining a roster and discography that is noticeably unique and well-rounded.
As such, 2017 was perhaps one of the label’s best years to date, working almost non-stop to get fourteen full-length releases on shelves — including a re-release and a brand new LP from dreamy synth rockers See Through Dresses — in a twelve-month span. In fact, a couple of the label’s long list of 2017 releases ended up on our lists of incredible underground efforts you may have missed this year and the year’s best rock records.
From Adult Mom’s rocking indie pop on Soft Spots to Spirit Of The Beehive’s almost psychedelic plucking on Pleasure Suck to the hazy reverb-soaked beauty of Wild Pink‘s self-titled debut, Tiny Engines’ 2017 catalogue has been massively encompassing, showcasing different sounds and attitudes that serve and promote the national DIY scene.
In recent years, Tiny Engines has revealed itself as something of an incubator for young bands to perfect their craft and tour like hell, growing a fan base and national acclaim to use as a springboard to continue growing their career. What was once an out-of-pocket passion project has become something of a feeder label, with artists like Beach Slang utilizing the Tiny Engines resources to release and tour in support of their incredible first two self-recorded 7-inches before making the jump to Polyvinyl in late 2015 for their debut full-length The Things We Do To Find People That Feel Like Us. Cayetana took a similar approach, but they stuck with Tiny Engines for their 2014 debut LP Nervous Like Me before forming their own Plum Records for the release of their fantastic New Kind Of Normal, one of the best rock records of the year.
In a world that is dominated by music and artists molded by major labels to maximize commercial value and marketability, it has become increasingly difficult to break through the noise as an independent band. However, it is labels like Tiny Engines that are working tirelessly to keep underground music alive, serving as almost a beacon of hope for those who feel like they will never be able to be heard.
For a band with a smaller following, a label showing interest in devoting their small, but strong resources to spreading your music and message goes a long way, fostering a sense of confidence that is sometimes hard to come by when trying to break out of the basement scene. In the near-decade since its inception, Tiny Engines has epitomized and demonstrated the value of an independent label in an increasingly conglomerated mainstream music world.
Aside from the incredible music, Tiny Engine’s ethic of giving back has set them above the rest, making donations on a monthly basis to organizations like the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), National Immigration Law Center, Planned Parenthood, Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), and many more. Releasing records is an expensive business, and selling copies of said records very likely only barely allows the label to break even on the money they put into production, which makes it an even more valiant effort for a label like Tiny Engines to dedicate funds to charities advocating for the well-being of those less fortunate.