Turning off 15-501, I attempted to navigate myself down dimly lit backroads using an iPhone. But even the Apple geniuses didn’t think to properly map the residence where I was scheduled to meet Martin Anderson and Will Hackney, the label heads of Chapel Hill-based Trekky Records. (Let’s be clear, it’s Martin and Will—not Anderson and Hackney.) As I squinted out of my car’s windows I realized why the street hadn’t been drawn on a map. The sign that informed me of my arrival on their street led me down a dirt road past a row of rustic mailboxes toward a small, two-story house. As I walked up the front porch, deer ran through the surrounding forest. I’ve never felt more like I was in North Carolina.
This unmapped authenticity is much the same with Trekky Records. The brainchild of a 12-year-old punk rocker, Trekky began with Martin distributing CD-Rs of his friends’ bands with labels designed and printed from his home computer. With the help of then-14-year-old Will, the label expanded as they managed to convince several local bands to allow them to release their albums.
Years later, Trekky Records has become one of the leaders in the revitalization of Chapel Hill’s legendary indie scene.
“There was this perception that the ‘golden age’ was in the past,” Martin explained. “But we were like, ‘We’re just getting here. It has to happen in a little bit.’”
“There was this myth that was around,” Will said in reference to the so-called golden years. “We wanted to bring it back to be just as true now.”
And it is. With a collaborative effort, the indie scene is as vibrant as ever.
“In the past, Troika has had two or three headliners,” Martin said of the recent local-centric Durham festival. “This year, the headliner was the scene.”
Will said he feels the same, mentioning that the festival affirmed his belief that the scene has regained its legendary status.
“Troika this year was one of those moments. It’s cool. It’s happening,” he said.
Sitting down in mismatched chairs in what I assumed to be the dining room of their new residence and office, Will and Martin are not the suits most people would associate with record labels. They are young—in their early 20s—shaggy-haired and bearded, casually dressed in jeans and sneakers, more the people who would attend shows rather than organize them. Their musical taste and enthusiasm are rooted in the community of local bands, stemming from their experiences in middle school and high school playing in bands and attending concerts as often as they could. And this intimate knowledge of the scene is what has helped with the revival of the once-fading community.
Perhaps this is best exemplified by their holiday concert, Christmas at the Cradle, which began as a CD release party for an album they recorded in a barn in Chatham County during a scorching three-day stretch in August 2006. Members from the so-called Trekky Mafia, including Will and Martin and some other friends, formed a supergroup, the Trekky Yuletide Orchestra, and recorded A New Old-Fashioned Christmas, an album born out of shared enthusiasm for Christmas music.
“The format, the album and concert came organically,” Martin said. “It is kind of funny and kind of cool. It became a tradition instantly.”
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The concert has become not only a scene staple, but also a holiday must for locals. In a season that already provides enough incentive to come home, the concert is one more reason for the season. An earnest celebration of family and friends, the concert emphasizes all the small things that made Christmas what it was when you were young and waited with eyes wide-open in bed to hear Santa jimmying down the chimney. And it’s more event than concert, with highlights including a photo-ready Santa and classic holiday tunes between sets. It’s a refreshing change of pace in an industry that has become overwhelmingly ironic and a season more associated with shopping than sharing time with each other.
This past summer, while touring with Trekky act Lost in the Trees, Martin was approached by a Chapel Hill native at a concert in Boston asking when the Christmas show would be. Martin said he was hoping it would be after his last exam, so he could make sure to book a flight and attend. Although the concert supports the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, the spirit of giving isn’t the main audience draw.
“Some people don’t even know that the concert supports a charity,” Will said. “They come to the show to have a good time.”
Will added there is a gift exchange at his house after the show. “There is a very familial vibe.”
The concert is more than an opportunity to play with each other. It’s an opportunity to play something new for an audience of faithful followers.
“I love a band like the Hammer [No More the Fingers],” Martin explained. “But I’ve seen them so many times. When they’re thrown into something different, it’s a unique experience.”
With an increasingly busy schedule due to their rising profile, Martin said he appreciates the holidays as an opportunity to relax, to enjoy the reason he and Will have poured so much effort into the label—the music and community that they have championed back to glory.
“We moved into this house. We toured with Lost in the Trees,” Martin said of 2009. “This year, we really hit the pavement. During the holidays, we can kind of let our guard down.”
As I walked out the front door, Will mentioned he was surprised to hear the doorbell ring, explaining that no one ever comes through that entrance, that they come in usually unannounced through the screen door off the back porch. Their residence and office feels more like a commune more than anything else. And it’s this feeling that has allowed Trekky Records and the indie scene in Chapel Hill to thrive, returning to its rightful place atop the musical communities.