Three independent record companies are making music that matters

By Rob Brunner
Updated February 22, 2002 at 05:00 AM EST

In this prefab age, it’s more impressive than ever when up-and-coming indie labels care more about the bands than the bucks. Here’s a look at our recent favorites.

Startime International
Home Base: Brooklyn
Claim to Fame: Stylishly moody bands the Walkmen and French Kicks
Back Story: ”A lot of the music business is incredibly bleak and depressing, but I really love records,” says honcho Isaac Green. ”So I started a label. I bought Business Plans for Dummies and did it with extremely little money.”
What the Name Means: It’s from James Brown’s Live at the Apollo (”Ladies and gentlemen, it’s star time!”)
Upcoming: Albums from overlooked former Virgin singer-songwriter Brendan Benson and new signing the Natural History.

Yep Roc
Home Base: Chapel Hill, N.C.
Claim to Fame: The latest from the great Nick Lowe, as well as impressive discs by Swag and the Mayflies U.S.A.
Back Story: Label manager Glenn Dicker built Yep Roc from the ashes of his defunct Upstart Records. Signing Lowe (who recorded for Upstart) was the turning point. ”That means a ton to the people we’d be interested in,” says Dicker.
What the Name Means: It’s a term invented by oddball jazz singer Slim Gaillard.
Upcoming: New CDs from Whiskeytown’s Caitlin Cary and former dB Chris Stamey.

Home Base: New York City
Claim to Fame: Eclectic fare like gospel jam band the Word and Questlove-helmed fusion project the Philadelphia Experiment.
Back Story: When ‘dope head Andy Hurwitz ran the Knitting Factory’s label, he wanted to sign DJ Logic but ended up quitting and managing him instead. ”Nobody wanted to sign him, so I decided to put out his record on my own.”
What the Name Means: It’s from the Beastie Boys’ Sounds of Science.
Upcoming: A record from the Roots’ Scratch (featuring Jill Scott and Bilal); the Detroit Experiment, with DJ Carl Craig and jazz musicians like Geri Allen and Regina Carter.