Mark Turley started playing in bands while at Cicero-North Syracuse High School. He studied sound recording and production at SUNY Binghamton and interned with Ulf Oesterle at Aux Records in Syracuse. Yet starting his own record label still seemed like an elusive dream when he graduated in 2007.
Meanwhile, Turley’s former classmate, Nick Oliver, was thinking about his own childhood dream. “I never was a musician,” Oliver says. “So my goal as a little kid was that if I can’t be in a band, the next best thing would be to start a record label. I love records. I want to put out my own.”
Oliver, who owns more than 10,000 records, went on to study electronic media and photography. When he and Turley met again after college, they decided to put their collective passions together and launched L.R.S. Records in the fall of 2012.
There was only one problem. “We didn’t totally know how to do it,” Turley says. “We had a few ideas. My band (Bridge Under Fire) and an Albany band wanted to put out a record together and had to scrounge enough money to do it. So Nick and I each put in half of the money to put out one record. And it took off.”
As the record started selling and the bands went on tour, Oliver and Turley started making enough money to keep reinvesting in the label. More than two years later, they’ve released 11 recordings from artists in Syracuse and beyond, specialized in vinyl record releases as well as CD, cassette tape and digital download and host a monthly open mike night.
They’ll celebrate the L.R.S. two-year anniversary at Roji Tea Lounge, 108 E. Washington St., on Friday, Feb. 20. Bands including Operation Hennessey, Mike Watson and Son, Shore Acres Drive and Dave Mallon will jam during the party, plus an exhibit featuring Oliver’s photography.
“The music industry isn’t the most reliable money-making industry,” Turley says. “But we love music and art and we went for it from there. As an artist, it’s incredible to have someone in your corner, someone else who believes in you and helps other people get into the band.”
While Turley handles the business side of things, Oliver’s creativity gives artists the option of in-house artwork. And Turley’s home studio also gives musicians the ability to record for less.
“We’re really there to offer whatever the artist wants,” Oliver says. “Can we do it all? No, but we’re getting pretty good at a lot of it.”
“How can we support the artist so the artist can go out and play shows?” Turley continues. “We’re doing what we love to do so they can do what they love to do.”
Their open mike series, which takes place every third Monday at Roji Tea Lounge, also has the best intentions. “I think back to when I was 14 or 15 and if I knew a record label would be at an open mike to check artists out,” Turley says. “It’s a career boost. And we’ve had people who can only play two songs come in, then a year later they’ve got a full set and we’re saying, ‘Do you want to open this show we’re putting on?’ We can help them take it to the next level.”
While both Oliver and Turley hold day jobs, they are still satisfied with the results of their budding label. “We are far more successful than we ever thought we’d be,” Oliver admits. “We’ve been able to sustain the business for two years now, and not only that, putting stuff out regularly.”
Turley agrees: “I just want to have some way to keep music in my life forever. It’s really cool to work with other artists and watch everything go, to nurture young artists.”
“The goal isn’t to make money,” Oliver concludes. “The goal was to put out a record and we did that. And did it again and again.”
Just the Facts
L.R.S. Records’ two-year anniversary party
Friday, Feb. 20, 7 p.m.
Roji Tea Lounge, 108 E. Washington St.
Tickets are $7. Visit facebook.com/LRSRecords for more information.
Cassettes are cool
The L.R.S. label has released a cassette mix tape, with plans to issue another within the next few months. Nick Oliver assembled the tape, which features two tunes from 14 different bands. The tape holds one track from each artist along with a free digital download, meaning that buyers get 28 songs with the purchase.
“It goes from weird, electronic to the heaviest, most abrasive thrash bands out there,” Mark Turley says. “It’s everything. It’s a weird trip to go on from the beginning to the end, but the final product is really good.”
They are currently accepting submissions for the next mix tape. To apply, email to firstname.lastname@example.org.