It’s a tired story. A band starts in the Bay Area, builds an audience, starts touring, then gets stuck playing small venues and moves to L.A. or N.Y.  Beyond being old hat, it’s frustrating and depressing to watch the seemingly perpetual exodus of homegrown talent. This is part of what three co-founders hope to combat with the launch of their indie record label, OIM Records.

OIMRecords_Logo-03“There are a lot of bands here that are really, really good, and I hate the idea of bands leaving and going to L.A., or New York, or wherever they’re trying to make it,” says Sarah Sexton, sitting in a chair opposite Jeff Saltzman at Skyline Studios in Temescal. Angelica Tavella joins over speakerphone while on a bus travelling from Boston to New York.

OIM (Oaktown Indie Mayhem) Records is a natural progression for its founders. Sexton has made a strong name for herself in the music world with her booking, promotions and productions company Oaktown Indie Mayhem. Tavella has been in the music business as a musician under the moniker Nyx and as the founder of Oakland Drops Beats, while Saltzman — owner, engineer and producer at Skyline Studios — has been recording bands for decades, including Blondie and The Killers. The three all share a desire to sign local bands and, in effect, boost the music industry here.

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Nyx, aka Angelica Tavella. Photo by Odell Hussey.

“I feel like there’s a possibility to be homegrown, and to make your money and your community, and be around awesome people that you love, and not go to, like, a shark-infested city just because it’s the only place you think you can make it,” says Sexton.

Tavella, coincidentally, has recently made the move to L.A. Laughing, Saltzman chimes in like an older sibling. “It’s probably because I kept telling her not to, so it was like rebellion,” he says.

Tavella, laughing too, quickly moves back to the goal of a stronger music industry in Oakland. Even when a band finds their city has a great music community with great musicians, they can find they easily and quickly reach the cap of a band’s music career without moving to a city with a bigger music industry. Hence, the impetus for OIM Records.

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Sarah Sexton of Oaktown Indie Mayhem.

“There needs to be more things like this to kind of help propel bands,” says Tavella, “to make sure that there’s the next stepping stone for bands when it comes to things that you can’t really do on your own.”

Sexton believes that if there was a stronger industry here, more people would take advantage of them and stay local.

“I know artists who just feel like they’re not going to get any further but they love this town, and I think that there’s a way,” says Sexton. She believes there’s enough heat on the city right now to potentially get the indie music scene better noticed at a national level.

A new music label isn’t going to tip Oakland into a big music industry overnight, but it’s an important addition to bolster what’s already here.

“We need industry in all ways. We need good places for people to play, we need labels that will help push these artists in the business sense of things and get them out there into the world, and it just starts with people taking a little chunk out of it at a time,” says Sexton.

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Engineer and producer Jeff Saltzman.

The first released track off the compilation, OIM Vol. I, was released online last Friday. Over the next two months, more songs will be released and a digital download for the compilation will be available for free starting in early June with a limited edition vinyl to follow. The album features mostly Oakland artists, such as Waterstrider, Foxtails Brigade, and Jennifer Johns. The artists on the compilation will be featured at a series of Thursday night residencies May 21st, May 28th, and June 4th at Leo’s Music Club.

“Essentially this compilation will be a nice introduction to get a gauge for what people can expect from the record label,” says Sexton.

The album, while firmly standing on an undercurrent of rock, is cohesively experimental in nature.

“It’s just what we like,” says Saltzman. “I don’t want it to be a potpourri kind of label at all. I don’t want to put out a little of this a little of that. I want to define a sound.”

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