By Julie Lawrence Special to Published Jan 17, 2010 at 3:02 PM

When Decibully was dropped from its long time label Polyvinyl while sitting on a brilliant, unreleased record, the band had a decision to make. When shopping it around to other interested parties provided more frustration that fruition, a couple members took the situation into their own hands -- literally. They started their own record label.

In early December Andy Menchal (bass) and Nick Sanborn (keyboards) launched Listening Party, a boutique record label with a strong emphasis on high-quality (150- or 180-gram) vinyl in limited releases, and by Dec. 13, Decibully's highly anticipated third full-length, "World Travels Fast," was available to the hungry masses.

"Both Nick and I are big vinyl collectors and we've always been interested in starting a label, but we knew we wanted to do it very hand-made," says Menchal.

At Listening Party, details reign supreme. The focus is on small, hand-numbered runs with all hand screenprinted liner notes and covers. It is, in essence, a record nerd's paradise -- something that the current state of the record industry is quickly helping to diminish. But with net-based digital labels all the rage, is the fate of the indie doomed?

Menchal says it doesn't have to be.

"I think the reason that industry is so screwed up is because of the excess. Labels threw money at things that are unnecessary. We're trying not to do that and keep things at the bare-bones minimum. We're hoping that word of mouth and the collector's limited edition aspect helps us build an audience."

The industry pendulum has, in recent years, swung the other direction, resulting in the near-obsolescence of compact discs, but also bolstering the resurgence of vinyl sales.

But, recognizing the iPod's stronghold on music media, Listening Party also offers pay-what-you-want mp3 (as well as six other digital formats, depending on your quality and size preference) versions of all its records from its Web store. A digital download code also comes complementary with all vinyl sales.

"People love their iPods and want to keep a ton of music on it, but I also think there are a substantial amount of people who like the physical artifact that they can dust off and put on their turntable. It sounds better, it looks cooler, it smells better."

These thing matter in the audiophile realm and Menchal and Sanborn understand the need to keep resources like theirs available in the age of dying independent record shops. Their goal is to have eight releases in their debut year, and are currently seeking out potential candidates.

"We're not looking to take a band and make them huge radio stars," Menchal adds. "We're just looking for music that matters to us, release it in a way that we'd like to consume it and help give it a following."

Looking forward, Listening Party is planning the Feb. 23 release of the latest from Lookbook, a Minneapolis-based dance-y electro duo. Decibully shares the bill with the band at the label's first "showcase" at the Cactus Club, Saturday, Jan. 23.


Julie Lawrence Special to staff writer Julie Lawrence grew up in Wauwatosa and has lived her whole life in the Milwaukee area.

As any “word nerd” can attest, you never know when inspiration will strike, so from a very early age Julie has rarely been seen sans pen and little notebook. At the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee it seemed only natural that she major in journalism. When offered her an avenue to combine her writing and the city she knows and loves in late 2004, she knew it was meant to be. Around the office, she answers to a plethora of nicknames, including “Lar,” (short for “Larry,” which is short for “Lawrence”) as well as the mysteriously-sourced “Bill Murray.”