Simple Machines

Last updated
Simple Machines
Founded1990 (1990)
Founder Jenny Toomey, Brad Sigal
Country of originU.S.
Location Arlington, Virginia

Simple Machines was an American independent record label in Arlington, Virginia. The label was founded by Jenny Toomey and Brad Sigal while both were living in the Positive Force House in north Arlington, but Sigal soon stepped back from involvement. Kristin Thomson stepped up and co-masterminded the project with Toomey and they started a new group house near Positive Force's. At its peak, the label had four paid workers: Toomey, Thomson, Pat Graham and Mickey Menard. The label was formed to "find creative ways to avoid the established and boring music business." [1]



The label came into existence in 1990 with the release of the Simple Machines 7" series. The Working Holiday! 7" series followed. Simple Machines promoted cooperation with other indie labels all over the United States, and the "sell it at a fair price" ethic. [1] The label also released a compilation of bands covering their "favourite Beat Happening covers". The profits were donated to a youth at risk home in Washington D.C. [ citation needed ]

The most famous release of the label is Pocketwatch , an album recorded by Dave Grohl, the Foo Fighters frontman, who was at the time the drummer for Seattle-based grunge band Nirvana. Unwilling to use his own name on the record, Grohl used the moniker "Late!", and was listed in liner notes as "Dave G". The album was released in 1 "Petrol CB".[ citation needed ]

The Mechanic's Guide

As part of the label's DIY attitude towards the music industry, they published a 24-page guide that was believed[ by whom? ] to be responsible for helping to set up many independent labels throughout the 1990s. [2] The guide gives detailed advice on many aspects of the music industry from recording and releasing singles through to the legal requirements of setting up a label as a legitimate business. [3]


Following Thomson's relocation to Philadelphia with her husband, and the subsequent six-hour weekly commute, Simple Machines found themselves under increasing financial pressures to keep putting out records and keeping them in print.[ citation needed ] Toomey and Thomson had also become disenchanted with the business aspect of their label, realizing that it overruled the musical side of it. In 1997 the decision was made to wind the label down.[ citation needed ]

The label released two final records by artists Ida and Tsunami, respectively.[ citation needed ] Toomey and Thomson organised a Simple Machines Finale Party at the Black Cat in Washington D.C. with 24 bands on the bill which took two days to conclude.[ citation needed ] On March 29, 1997, Simple Machines closed. [3]


Related Research Articles

Dave Grohl American musician (born 1969)

David Eric Grohl is an American musician, singer, director, and songwriter. He was the drummer for the rock band Nirvana and founder of the Foo Fighters, for whom he is the singer, guitarist, and primary songwriter.

Nirvana (band) American rock band

Nirvana was an American rock band formed in Aberdeen, Washington, in 1987. Founded by lead singer and guitarist Kurt Cobain and bassist Krist Novoselic, the band went through a succession of drummers, most notably Chad Channing, before recruiting Dave Grohl in 1990. Nirvana's success popularized alternative rock, and they were often referenced as the figurehead band of Generation X. Their music maintains a popular following and continues to influence modern rock culture.

Sunny Day Real Estate American emo band

Sunny Day Real Estate is an American emo band from Seattle, Washington. They were one of the early rock bands in the Midwest emo scene and helped establish the genre, despite not actually being from the Midwest themselves. In 1994, the band released their debut album Diary on Sub Pop Records to critical acclaim. However, shortly after recording their second album LP2, the band broke up. Rhythm section Nate Mendel (bass) and William Goldsmith (drums) joined Foo Fighters, while lead vocalist and guitarist Jeremy Enigk embarked on a solo career. In 1997, they regrouped long enough to record two more studio albums and a live album, but ultimately disbanded once again in 2001. The band reunited again in 2009. Bassist Nate Mendel, who chose to remain with Foo Fighters during the previous reunion in 1997, took part in this reunion. In a 2013 interview with MusicRadar, Mendel said Sunny Day Real Estate was inactive. According to Mendel, the band attempted to record a full-length album after the end of their reunion tour, but the sessions "just fell apart". In 2014 the band released one song from those sessions, "Lipton Witch," on a split 7" vinyl with Circa Survive on Record Store Day.

Foo Fighters American rock band

Foo Fighters is an American rock band formed in 1994 in Seattle, Washington. The band was founded by former Nirvana drummer Dave Grohl as a one-man project following the dissolution of Nirvana after the suicide of Kurt Cobain. The group took its name from foo fighter, a nickname coined by Allied aircraft pilots for UFOs and other aerial phenomena. Over the course of their career, Foo Fighters have won 12 Grammy Awards, including Best Rock Album four times. They were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2021, their first year of eligibility.

Scream (band)

Scream is an American hardcore punk band from Washington, D.C.; they originally formed in the suburb of Bailey's Crossroads, Virginia, United States. Scream originally formed in 1981 within the vanguard of the Washington Hardcore explosion. In 2009, the band reunited, and as of January 2012 were on tour in Europe. As of 2017, the band was still touring in both America and the United Kingdom.

Triple Fast Action was an indie rock/alternative rock band started by Wes Kidd and Brian St. Clair, both previous members of Chicago band Rights of the Accused, in 1995. Kidd went on to manage such bands as Cheap Trick, The Damnwells and bandmate Kevin Tihista while working for New York-based Silent Partner Management. St. Clair joined the band Local H after stints as tour manager for Chicago's Liz Phair and served as drum tech for Bun E. Carlos of Cheap Trick. Triple Fast Action member Kevin Tihista released several of his own solo albums after the band's breakup.

Indie pop is a music genre and subculture that combines guitar pop with DIY ethic in opposition to the style and tone of mainstream pop music. It originated from British post-punk in the late 1970s and subsequently generated a thriving fanzine, label, and club and gig circuit. Compared to its counterpart, indie rock, the genre is more melodic, less abrasive, and relatively angst-free. In later years, the definition of indie pop has bifurcated to also mean bands from unrelated DIY scenes/movements with pop leanings. Subgenres include chamber pop and twee pop.

<i>Pocketwatch</i> (album) 1992 demo album by Late!

Pocketwatch is a cassette album by Dave Grohl, under the pseudonym Late!, released on June 30, 1992 on the now defunct indie label Simple Machines as part of their Tool Cassette Series.

Ida is an indie rock band from New York City. They are known for their three-part harmonies; sparse, minimal, often quiet arrangements; and their three singer-songwriters. Their music shows strong folk, pop, punk, world, R&B, and American roots music influences, but there are also avant garde and experimental aspects to their sound.

Jennifer "Jenny" Gillen Toomey is an American indie rock musician and arts activist.

Elizabeth Mitchell is an American singer, songwriter and musician. She began her career performing with Lisa Loeb as the duo Liz and Lisa, then founded the indie rock band Ida in 1991, of which she continues to be a member. As a solo artist, she has been recording and performing music for children since 1998.

WGNS Recordings releases music recorded by WGNS Studios.

Tsunami was an American indie rock band from Arlington, Virginia, United States, formed by housemates Jenny Toomey and Kristin Thomson in late 1990 to play at New Year's party. They enlisted former housemate John Pamer to play drums and Andrew Webster from Bricks and Jenny's previous band Geek to complete the line up.

<i>Deep End</i> (Tsunami album) 1993 studio album by Tsunami

Deep End is the first full-length album by American alternative rock band Tsunami, released in 1993.

<i>A Brilliant Mistake</i> 1997 studio album by Tsunami

A Brilliant Mistake is a full-length album by American alternative rock band Tsunami, released in 1997. It was the band's last album.

Zac Brown Band American country music band

Zac Brown Band is an American country music band based in Atlanta, Georgia. The lineup consists of Zac Brown, Jimmy De Martini, John Driskell Hopkins, Coy Bowles, Chris Fryar (drums), Clay Cook, Matt Mangano, and Daniel de los Reyes (percussion).

The Beechfields Record Label

The Beechfields Record Label was an American independent not-for-profit musician's cooperative record label, from Baltimore, Maryland, noted for an artist-centered approach to releasing records.

<i>Ten Small Paces</i> 1997 studio album by Ida

Ten Small Paces is the third studio album by the American indie rock duo Ida, released in 1997 on Simple Machines Records.

Future of Music Coalition (FMC) is a U.S. 501(c)(3) national non-profit organization specializing in education, research and advocacy for musicians with a focus on issues at the intersection of music technology, policy and law.

Grenadine was an indie rock 'supergroup' from Arlington, Virginia comprising Jenny Toomey, Mark Robinson, and Rob Christiansen. The band released two albums and three singles in the early 1990s. In contrast to the band members other work, the band's sound has been described as "lounge-pop".


  1. 1 2 "Simple Machines Records | Story". Retrieved 27 March 2022.
  2. "About FMC | Future of Music Coalition". Retrieved 27 March 2022.
  3. 1 2 "Hello from Jenny Toomey & Kristin Thomson and welcome to the 2000 digital version of the Mechanic's Guide. Between 1990 and 1998 we ran an indie record label called Simple Machines. Over those eight years we released about 75 records by our own bands and those of our friends. We closed the whole operation down in March 1997" (PDF). Retrieved 27 March 2022.