It's no secret that running a tiny independent record label is as sound a financial investment as laying down your life savings at the dog track—and far less exciting. Nevertheless, over the past decade Magic Marker Records has established a legacy whose impact resonates far beyond the Portland city limits. This audio labor of love for longtime friends Curt Kentner and Mark Rothkopf is built upon a deep-rooted love for the music—primarily anchored to the genre of indie pop, or the slightly less complimentary tag of "twee"—they've released over these past 10 years.
Long before Portland became an independent music destination, this city (literally) housed a bevy of the country's top-tiered indie pop bands. And when they played, it was at 4306 SE 34th Avenue. The Magic Marker house was the go-to destination in a city that had yet to warm to the label's jangling pop aesthetic.
"That's the whole reason we had shows at our house," explains Kentner. "Because if we tried to have it at a bar, they didn't really want us, or they'd give you Tuesday night, and then not pay you."
Thus Kentner and Rothkopf opened doors to the indie pop masses at their home, where they hosted concerts and even provided residency to a large number of bands on the label (various members of Dear Nora, Kissing Book, the Softies, the Lucksmiths, and more have all, at one time, spun the communal chore wheel as roommates in the house). This close-knit relationship stretches to the bands as well, as Rothkopf explains: "If one of the Magic Marker bands goes out of town, another of our bands will not only set up the show, but they'll open or headline."
While Kentner and Rothkopf have both since vacated their previous residence, the label still carries on. The Magic Marker catalog is over 50 releases deep—ranging from the undeniably catchy hooks delivered by Tullycraft, to the quirky pop creations of BOAT—and the label isn't hindered by past regrets of the bands that got away. As Kentner jokingly recalls, "I remember my friend telling me at one point, 'Oh, I gotta get you the demo of my friend's band, they're called the Shins.' Well, I never got that demo."
And if there was ever a shred of doubt about Magic Marker's eternal devotion to product over profit, take a gander at their limited-edition anniversary 7-inch series, where 10 of their artists cover 10 songs from the label's catalog. These songs will then be pressed to five separate 7-inches, hand-screened, and finally sold to those in attendance at the label's anniversary show. That's just another illustration of how this dedication to the music they love just might be around for another decade to come.