Just before the year 2000, musicians Laura Carter and Andrew Rieger found “Elyse,” a 1960s psychedelic folk rock album by Elyse Weinberg in a thrift store bin in Missoula, Montana. The record caught their eyes with its striking cover art of detailed, colorful sketches. The pair had no idea that the find would lead to the start of their own record label.
Carter and Rieger are members of the popular Athens based band, Elf Power, and quickly fell in love with Weinberg’s album. However, they soon discovered that it had been out of print for quite some time.
“We were like, man, more people should hear this. But nobody knows who this is,” Rieger said.
This began a year-long quest to track Weinberg down, finally ending when they found her living in Oregon, surprised anyone still cared. Because Weinberg did not own her master tapes, Carter and Rieger eventually remastered “Elyse” off of a vinyl record.
“It’s all we had to work with, so you can actually hear the needle hit the record,” Rieger said.
While this provided a challenge, the remastering ended up enhancing the record’s old, authentic feel. That’s when Carter and Rieger realized they enjoyed pursuing personal projects helping albums reach a larger audience. Thus, Orange Twin Record Label was born.
Much like its origin story, Orange Twin is far from typical. Today, the label’s office sits five miles outside of Athens on 155 acres of land called the Orange Twin Conservation Community. The property offers a swimming hole, amphitheater and even houses goats.
Such a large office space provides the record label with a sense of musical and environmental freedom. According to the Orange Twin website, their mission is to support “community growth through experimental and natural building.”
Though unconventional, the label has found great success in the music production industry. In the past 20 years, Orange Twin has put out close to 60 albums, according to Rieger. But it hasn’t been easy.
“Being a small, two-person label is a lot of work,” Rieger said.
Rieger’s relationship with Carter as bandmates and business partners for decades, along with their joint interest in Orange Twin’s productions, has allowed them to keep doing what they love.
As musicians themselves, Carter and Rieger’s company has a different approach to handling business and the pair prides themselves in taking good care of their artists. Few label owners know what it feels like to be on a stage and play for a crowd. Considering the artists’ personal wants and needs, Carter and Rieger give their artists regular financial statements and payments.
“Some of our artists have been like, ‘man, we’ve been on a bunch of different labels and nobody ever pays us on time,’” Rieger said.
The label has not only become a place for reissuing obscure or forgotten albums, but works with current local bands as well, like Neutral Milk Hotel, Nana Grizol and David Barbe. Barbe serves as the head of the University of Georgia’s Music Business Certificate Program, where Rieger works as a part-time lecturer.
Barbe got serious about his music career when he was a college student at UGA.
“I saw R.E.M. play in a club for $2 and decided a life in rock ‘n’ roll is what I needed to do instead,” Barbe said.
Barbe has been making music ever since, and has worked on multiple projects with Orange Twin Records.
“You want a label that does cool stuff. You want association with cool stuff. And I like all the stuff they put out, so I think the world of Andrew [Rieger] and Laura [Carter],” Barbe said.
Rieger attributes much of Athens’ reputation as a music hub to bands like R.E.M. and The B-52s inspiring other musicians to associate such a small town with musical success.
“We’ve got a pretty rich musical heritage as a town and I feel like Orange Twin is a part of that,” Rieger said.
While an important part of Athens’ past, Orange Twin also has plenty of plans for the future. According to Rieger, the business partners intend to remaster and reissue two Elf Power albums, including bonus tracks that were previously excluded.
Orange Twin is not the only group with big plans. Elf Power is still very much active and will perform with Portland, Oregon group Eyelids in Athens on March 25 and Flicker Theatre & Bar.
In addition, Elf Power is touring the West Coast this summer and according to Rieger, the group is even playing in European music festivals.
“Even though we’ve been around forever, we’re still pretty much as active as ever,” Rieger said. “We feel thankful that there’s enough people around the world that care enough to come see us. We’ll keep doing it as long as people are into it.”
For Rieger, the most important part of Orange Twin is how the label began in the first place — finding music that more people should hear and making it happen.
“It just feels good to have given people so much joy from putting that stuff out there,” Rieger said. “That’s definitely rewarding.”