by: Evan Shields
Tooth & Nail Records began as a way for Brandon Ebel to pursue his passion of music, and take underground faith-based music to the forefront of the popular music scene. The most recognized artists that are, or have been, on this label include Anberlin, MxPx, Relient K, Copeland, mewithoutYou, Underoath, and Thousand Foot Krutch. It began with a vision, and with Ebel’s enthusiastic yet simple approach, he broke the wall of separation for these artists to find the mainstream.
In the summer of 1993, Ebel approached his grandfather with his idea for a new and exciting record label. His grandfather was more than willing and wrote him a check to get the ball rolling. Right away, Brandon got going and in the fall of 1993 he introduced Tooth & Nail Records with the release of “Pet the Fish” by Wish for Eden. Along with this release, Ebel relocated the label to Seattle, WA because of his unique vision. He didn’t want to get lost in the wash of all the music surrounding him in California, so he gave himself a new location and space in which to develop his artists. As Ebel said, “We do think outside the box a little bit. We’re not all going to the same coffee shops, talking about the same stuff and coming up with the same ideas. Why should all the labels be in one city? It makes no sense to me. That is our edge – to be from somewhere else.” And that edge was just what they needed.
Ebel didn’t try to be unique in only his choice of location, but many other ways as well that really defined Tooth & Nail and made the label so successful. One of those is loyalty. Ebel personally searches out his artists and once he finds something worth pursuing, he gives them his time and effort in developing and supporting them. One of his artists, Joy Electric, had this to say, “I’ve stayed with Tooth & Nail through thick and thin; and they, in turn, have supported the things I do,” he explains. “The business aspect can be very difficult at times with any label, but I’ve been able to treat it as more of a family atmosphere.” Another factor to this label’s success is the risks that Ebel takes in order to give fans of the music the highest quality product possible. KJ-52, one of the labels best hip-hop artists explains, “Tooth & Nail goes out of its way to make it happen and doesn’t play it safe like most other labels,” he says. “The company is extremely smart with its money but finds a way to make high-quality product.”
With all the growth to his record label, Ebel has formed two more labels under the Tooth & Nail family. Solid State Records, and BEC Recordings. These labels are more genre-specific in the roster of artists they have signed. Solid State is the more hard core group, while BEC is tailored more to the Christian fans. A third was started around 2000 called Uprok Records, and that handles the hip-hop side of the label. Combined, the Tooth & Nail family of labels has released well over 400 albums.
It wasn’t any accident that Tooth & Nail became such a popular label, but it was Brandon Ebel and his unique vision that made it happen. Today, Ebel still manages and leads the label, and he still continues to break new ground in finding new and exceptional ways to reach the fans. The label is engaged in discovering innovative ways to take the music and connect it with a lifestyle driven culture, all while keeping the music pure and the motivation healthy. That is the foundation of the label, and that is why Tooth & Nail has had so much success in the world of independent labels.