In the space of five short years, Sydney-based imprint R.I.P Society has established itself as an intrinsic force within Australia’s ridiculously fertile musical underground.
To celebrate, the label will be putting on one hell of a birthday bash at Vivid LIVE, bringing together R.I.P luminaries along with Kiwi icons The Dead C and longstanding Sydney post-punk crusaders feedtime. R.I.P Society progenitor and Bed Wettin’ Bad Boys member Nic Warnock reels in the years and takes us back to the label’s beginning.
“Basically I saw this massive hole between small-scale, super-limited DIY products – tapes, CDRs and short-run vinyl – to extremely niche audiences, then there not being anything in the middle between [those and] huge indie rock. There was no outlet for all these bands in Australia to release their music as it should be released. I probably didn’t even think about it that much back then, I was just enthusiastic and just wanted to put out my friends’ records. But in hindsight, that’s why it worked. It was a hobby that eventually engulfed my adult life.”
Even during R.I.P Society’s infant years, Warnock has perceived a positive change in attitude amongst local music lovers. “For me, it was overcoming this idea and making people realise there is good stuff happening here in the tradition of underground punk, post-punk, rock’n’roll of the past; that there are modern-day equivalents happening right here in Australia who are as good as anyone in the world. I think that mentality has been changed. I see it when I work at Repressed Records in Newtown – people look to Australian music first. The challenge now is to expand people’s interests when they look to R.I.P Society. I’m not going to release ten bands that sound like Royal Headache. I don’t want to be associated with one particular sound, I want it to be associated with a mindset.”
The selection criteria for a R.I.P Society act are ill-defined, but potent with a sense of community. “There’s a cultural and artistic understanding that I think is hard to quantify,” says Warnock. “If you look through the R.I.P Society roster, there’s actually a few repeat people in there in multiple bands that can sound quite different, or go on quite different tangents. Naked On The Vague, for example; I released a seven-inch by them, and that was two dark post-punk pop songs or something. Then the Half High record I released this year is this sort of soundtracky, ambient synth experimentation. I find these people who I think have a good sensibility, who want to create music for the right reasons.”
You can imagine the responsibility of running a DIY record label can often be a thankless task, especially in terms of cash money, which is a factor Warnock is content with abiding. “I guess I’ve just accepted that I will have this lifelong dedication to supporting strange, underground DIY music activity in many different forms. A lot of the time, it’s not really fun running a record label. But it feels rewarding, it gives me a sense of purpose, like I’m doing something worthwhile with my life. I feel like I have to keep doing it, because if I don’t, no-one here will. If there were enough labels and institutes able to shed some light on this music that’s important, I would feel OK to back away from what I do. But that’s why I feel I need to do it, to keep what I feel are good traditions in music visible to the public. I want to counter the things that are cheap and impure in the music industry.”
R.I.P. Society’s 5th Birthday is being held on Saturday May 24 at the Sydney Opera House as part of Sydney Vivid LIVE. Catch The Dead C and Bed Wettin’ Bad Boys alongside Woollen Kits, Native Cats and more, tickets available here.