In response to Indiana’s recent passage of the controversial Religious Freedom Restoration Act, Joyful Noise Recordings, the Indianapolis indie label based in Fountain Square, is releasing a charity compilation benefiting groups that advocate for LGBT rights in Indiana. The project, 50 Bands & A Cat for Indiana Equality, features songs from musicians concerned about the possible negative impact of the legislation, including prominent Hoosier bands and Joyful Noise artists with regional and national followings.
Among the “50 Bands” featured are Indiana’s Margot & the Nuclear So and So’s, Murder By Death, and The Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band, while Of Montreal, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, and Thee Oh Sees highlight the lineup of out-of-state groups. The “Cat” with top billing is Internet sensation Lil Bub, who provided a voice track, and her caretaker, Mike Bridavksy, plays on the compilation with his band, Memory Map (another Joyful Noise signee).
The full digital collection of 51 tracks is available for download starting on April 21 (through May 31) for a donation of $25, and includes a hand-numbered, clear, lathe-cut 7″ single.
Proceeds benefit Freedom Indiana, ACLU of Indiana, and Indy Pride. Karl Hofstetter, founder and president of Joyful Noise, hopes to raise upwards of $20,000 with the effort, and it appears he’s well on the way: Pre-order donations exceeded $14,000. Rolling Stone has already taken notice.
Hofstetter told IM about the motivation and planning behind the project—as well as the role of The Decemberists’ Chris Funk—during an interview in his Murphy Arts Center office, on the eve of the compilation’s official release:
How did you line up the bands for the compilation?
I came up with the idea for it and sent a mass email to all of our bands, and then another to all the bands we have ever released anything for, like on our flexi series. I let them know the idea for it. Everyone had already heard about the crazy Indiana stuff going on, and everyone was super-into doing it. Also, when we first came up with a digital and lathe-cut compilation, Chris Funk, from The Decemberists, got in touch with us, and he had already had an idea for a compilation to benefit the same thing. So we merged it with his. He had already lined up eight bands, so we merged it with his comp, and we ended up with something like 48 bands. So I said, let’s just make it 50 to help with promotion and the sales pitch.
What’s up with the cat?
Lil Bub is, like, the biggest rock star on the compilation. Lil Bub has like 2 million Facebook likes and millions and millions of YouTube views. Last week, Michelle Obama did a video with Bub, talking with Bub about childhood obesity. Yeah, it’s messed up. Lil Bub is just this weird cat that’s deformed, but, like, cute, with extra fingers and like no teeth. She is owned by Mike Bridavsky, who is on the label. His band is Memory Map. We also do all the website orders for Lil Bub. If someone orders a Lil Bub T-shirt, we actually ship it out of here. It was just natural to have Bub involved. Bub’s track is just a 30-second intro of sounds. Bub makes really weird sounds—they’re kind of like meows, but it’s also like she is talking. Mike did a little statement from Bub’s perspective [on the website]. The idea is that the intro is Bub saying that.
The project features a lot of bands from Indiana.
A lot of the Indiana bands were lined up by Chris, from The Decemberists. He originally was thinking it would be only Indiana bands on the compilation. That felt weird to me because most of the bands we work with aren’t from Indiana, but they have strong ties here. They wanted to participate, and it felt strange to tell them “no.” We wanted it to be more inclusive. It was cool to get some of these guys we had never worked with before, who are superheroes, like Godspeed You! Black Emperor.
Details about the single?
They are going to be clear, square 7” singles that will be cut in real time. We can make as many copies as we want. If people only order 10 of a band, it will be a limited edition of 10. They are 33 rpm.
And the groups the compilation benefits?
Freedom Indiana, ACLU of Indiana, and Indy Pride. We are going to split the donations between the three. Freedom Indiana and the ACLU are more political and trying to change the laws for rights, while Indy Pride is more cultural. We wanted to work with Indy Pride because they do scholarships and other things. We wanted to help the people affected directly by this bill.
Some touring bands cancelled their shows here during the RFRA fallout, even though Indianapolis, by and large, isn’t homophobic.
That’s what was messed up. This is a very progressive city. Everyone I know was horrified by this bill. We wanted to do something positive to change the bill. For bands to give something, not take it away. To make a change.