We understand the appeal. Using the District of Columbia flag as your business’s logo is an opportunity to show some hometown pride. Those red stars and bars are a marketer’s dream, too, with an immediate visual impact and plenty of branding potential. And if your business happens to be selling music, all the better: The flag’s long-standing association with the District’s legendary hardcore-punk scene lends a little ready-made street cred. To anyone trying to move a few units of rock ’n’ roll, that’s the next best thing to a distribution deal with Interscope.
When District Records announced its Feb. 14 launch last month, it became at least the fourth label to adopt the D.C. flag as its logo. The press release says something about making a “unique contribution to the musical tradition of Washington, D.C. and the surrounding area,” and we’ll give District at least this: It’s the only flag-flying label actually based in Washington. The others—DC Flag Records, District of Corruption Recordings, and District Line Records—all make their headquarters nowhere near the capital city.
District Records founder David Ridgeway, 36, insists that he doesn’t intend to start a turf war. Instead, he cites only the noblest of political intentions. “D.C. needs help,” he says. “The more people see the District flag, the more they’ll be interested in what happens in D.C. Maybe they’ll learn that D.C. doesn’t have voting rights in Congress.”
Exporting the flag—much less your pro-statehood politics—comes with challenges, though. Aaron Hedges, founder of the Washington-founded, Berlin-based District of Corruption Recordings, says he’s received e-mails from people asking him why he uses the Latvian flag as his logo. He even had to create a line of T-shirts to explain the meaning of his label’s name to a European audience.
To avoid further confusion, here’s a handy clip-and-save chart that shows who’s got the hardcore bona fides, who’s got a shadow rep, and who’s probably got an unsuspecting listener or two in Liepaja.
Flag Modification: flipped upside down and tagged
Musician Founder: David Ridgeway, bassist/vocalist for Los Hermanos Rodriguez and Originators
Launch Date: 2006
Musical Specilizations: “Noir,” surf rock, “Skunk Rock,” “rock/rock/rock,” “lush guitar melodies in combination with a thick, aggressive, distorted sound,” acid lounge
Latest Release: District Records: Volume One compilation (2006)
Number Of Releases: 1
Sample Lyrics: “I got my eyes on you/Because you dance so sweet/And if you’re in the mood/Why don’t you come right here and dance a little closer to me”—“Get Up,” by the Nuclearsw
Local Inspiration: “Growing up here in D.C., there were always two things—go-go and punk rock. But there’s a lot of other stuff coming out of this city that’s very, very good.”
DC Flag Records
Flag Modification: superimposed with label name, emblazoned on a shield, stenciled with an image of a cassette tape
Musician Founder: Joel and Benji Madden, vocalist and guitarist for Good Charlotte
Launch Date: 2004
“the sound of New York City hardcore’s second generation getting older, wiser, and clearly more experienced,” alt-pop/rock
Latest Release: Hazen Street, by Hazen Street (2004)
Number Of Releases: 2
Sample Lyrics: “Everybody’s so down when it’s safe and sound/You wanna prove something, well do it now/Are you ready to die for us, are you ready to lose your freedom?”—“Are You Ready?” by Hazen Street
Local Inspiration: The Madden brothers wouldn’t return calls for comment. But in November 2003, Joel told MTV that “D.C. Flag is kind of us waving the flag for D.C. and just representing our hometown”—except their hometown is Waldorf, Md.
District Line Records
Location: Los Angeles
Flag Modification: superimposed with label name
Musician Founder: Henry Rollins, former S.O.A. and Black Flag vocalist, spoken-word artist
Launch Date: 2004
Musical Specilizations: “rare and unreleased music from the Washington DC area”
Latest Release: :30 Over D.C.—Here Comes the New Wave! compilation reissue (2004)
Number Of Releases: 2
Sample Lyrics: “Avoid excitation/Distract erectile action/Veto reaction and keep your trouser snake in traction/Stay limp” —“Stay Limp,” by Raisinets
Local Inspiration: “I miss my hometown and am rarely there. That’s why I put the flag in the logo.”
District of Corruption Recordings
Flag Modification: stars replaced by dollar signs
Musician Founder: Aaron Hedges, techno DJ
Launch Date: 2003
Musical Specilizations: “fusing techno, electro, and punk”
Latest Release: Insert Coin, by Isometric (2005)
Number Of Releases: 8
Sample Lyrics: “Watching me/I think they’re watching me.”—“Watching Me,” by Aaron Hedges
Local Inspiration: “When Washington reached a point where I could not walk into a record store and buy a techno record, I asked myself, What am I still doing here?”