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Beyond Labels 

When you talk about the Spokane music scene, there has always been one major piece of the puzzle missing. Sure, we have a nice chuck of local bands and finally enough clubs to accommodate the younger set as well as the big kids. But there is one thing this town has always lacked: a prestigious independent record label. However, a recent move by an established Bay Area organization could change all that.

Neurot Recordings is a small, independent punk label started about five years ago in San Francisco mainly as a means for the band Neurosis to have control over its catalog of recordings. But it was also a way to promote bands that share the members' musical vision in what their Web site (neurotrecordings.com) describes as "dedicated to the spirit of sound." The first major fruition of this ideal came in the form of the Neurosis side project, Tribes of Neurot, from which the label took its name.

Neurosis began humbly as a three-piece playing shows in the punk rock circuit of Oakland in the mid-'80s. Their debut album, Pain of Mind, was released in 1988 on Jello Biafra's Alternative Tentacles and instantly became a hardcore staple. The band has since gone on to include up to six members and has produced at least half a dozen albums for such other notable labels as Lookout Records and Relapse Records to much critical and commercial success. The group revolutionized the Bay Area punk rock scene of the '90s and proved that punk rock didn't have to limit itself to three-chord songs railing against the government or songs about a girl. The band's sound has evolved over time into a mishmash of post-hardcore and heavy metal, countered with psychedelia and tribal drumming. They have broken boundaries in just about every genre that people have tried to put them in and bridged the gap between punk rockers and metal heads.

Recently, Neurot Recordings relocated to the Coeur d'Alene area. It's hard to comprehend such a move, because the label has become synonymous in a lot of people's minds with what Bay Area underground punk has come to represent: post-hardcore genre-bending experimental rock. And Coeur d'Alene seems far from being a hotbed for post-hardcore bands. "The Bay Area music scene is in somewhat of a slump, and we've wanted to get away from an urban environment for a long time," says a freshly relocated Neurot exec who declined to let us use her name. "This part of the country has been appealing to us for a while now. A few years back, we came up for a visit and just totally fell in love with the geography. We've been working on moving up here for a long time, so we're thrilled to have finally made it. This area is just so beautiful."

Former Spokane resident and drummer Joe Preston (These Arms Are Snakes, Weight), who now lives in Portland, thinks the label's move will have an impact the Spokane music scene: "Almost every heavy rock band in the area will be pounding down the door of Neurot Recordings in hopes of getting something released by them." Bands as diverse as Belt of Vapor, Fumaric and Five Foot Thick all might fit into the Neurot roster. It's not unforeseeable that these bands would love to have a Neurot Recordings label on their CDs. The label's exec clarifies: "We are an office, a warehouse and an online store, not a recording studio. One of our guys is building a home studio up here, but it's for personal projects, not for recording bands." Bands that might be interested in working with the label will have to go through the demo submission process just like anyone else.

But Neurot Recordings does intend to get involved with local acts. The label plans to have their touring bands, the Red Sparowes and Made Out of Babies, play in the area, and they've even contemplated starting their own venue. When asked how serious they are about getting involved, the nameless Neurotic says, "We are a small but credible independent label. We moved up here to be here forever-we're not talking about staying here for a little while and then going back to the Bay Area. We're down for the count."

So could this be the dawn of a new era for the Inland Northwest independent music scene? It's hard to know what shape this move will take. But the relocation of a successful label such as Neurot can draw attention to what this area has to offer: cheap rent, great views, plenty of breathing room and a spirit of local independent music. And that beats being known for the Aryan Nations and an anti-gay gay mayor.

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