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Speading Indiana Music
Salad Days: talking Indy's DIY legacy with Three Carrots' Ian Phillips
Posted March 15, 2019 by Jim Rawlinson

The 90’s hardcore scene in Indiana was an insular one, like most subcultures. Part of a greater punk scene that in other places and times could be caustic and nihilistic, the 90s’s hardcore subculture was one that became focused on pursuing social justice. A collection of generally likeminded mostly kids who were interested in making music but more interested in making a difference in the culture at large. Using music more as a means to create a community where we felt accepted and understood. It was more than just music, it was a lifestyle that we chose. It wasn’t perfect, but it was ours. There were multiple underage venues (the most notable being the Sitcom Collective) run by the “kids”, independent record labels like Hawthorne Street, Happy Couples Never Last, Catalyst, and others (some of them internationally known)… Perhaps due to the insular nature of the scene, because we operated for the most part off the grid, or maybe just because a lot of us have gone on to other things, a lot of the history of what happened during that era has been forgotten. But for those of us that were there at the time, we know that members of this scene are still all over the place doing cool stuff, in their own way living out the Ethic of that era.

Ian Phillips was one of these kids and he continues to be the exception that makes the rule. Chef, restauranteur, outspoken advocate for veganism and social justice, dad, musician… he’s all of these things. Full disclosure, he’s also a longtime friend of mine and a former bandmate. Whether it was in his bands, or now through his business Three Carrots, Ian has always maintained a commitment to DIY ethic and a clear vision of how he could use his work to empower others.

Three Carrots recently announced SALAD DAYS: A Five Course Tribute To Punk presented by Founders Brewery new event in May in conjunction with Virginia Avenue Music Festival that pays homage to this scene and some of the best shows of that era. I went out and recorded this conversation with Ian talking about how music has impacted his life, and is reflected in his food.

MFT: Alright, can we list your bands? Cheeseweed; Birthright?

Ian: Yep.

MFT: Horizon; I forget, were you in Risen?

I was!

MFT: Rise Over Run; Maravich… was there something in between there?

Harper’s Ferry Arsenal!

MFT: Oh man, yeah! Wasteland DC; Slow Motion Enslavement; Chaotic Neutral… (and a handful of others that didn’t play much)

-So you’re from here, grew up here… Give me, it doesn’t have to be TOP FIVE, but a handful of some local bands that were important to you growing up in Indy…

Split Lip, they were like the first punk show I ever went to, Knights of Columbus in 1993 or whenever. That was my introduction to (local punk). I just remember being at that show and thinking “woah this place is packed with weirdos!” and it was maybe the first time I ever felt comfortable in a social situation.

Birthright, because they were vegan, straight edge. Bands like Birthright exemplified the Sitcom era for me. That was a real political take on DIY punk that attracted me to it.

Obviously Ice Nine and Burn It Down, all the John Zeps/Scoth bands that were blowing my mind back then. Later, the Dream is Dead was great.

And then there were a lot of other bands like Sloppy Seconds, who I wasn’t super in to but they brought like DOA and a bunch of other classic punk bands through Sloppy-Palooza and other stuff that happened around them. If I had to choose five it would be: Split Lip; Birthright; Burn It Down; Ice Nine; Dream Is Dead.

MFT: Hardcore is cool because it’s like a sub-genre of a sub-genre of local music that the people who were there really got, but for the most part people might not even know it existed.

Or like how Second Avenue is now a Menards. Or the Secret Location is just a house now.

MFT: Like how the Sitcom is a brewery now?

Ha, yeah, there’s a Hard Times article that is like “classic house venue now just a house”. It’s crazy how that house (Secret Location) had some kind of show going on in it for almost twenty years?

MFT: Well, and if we don’t record it, it just disappears, no one knows.

Yeah I mean, that’s been a hard part about this. Just trying to go back and find the dates of these shows.

MFT: Because we didn’t put years on the fliers!

Yeah and like… At the Drive In played in Bloomington and there’s no evidence of it ever happening!

MFT: You’ve always been someone I respected because you are willing to really go all in on things you believe in, whether it’s veganism, animal rights, feminism... In a way that I admire, because that’s harder for me. Give me the philosophy behind Three Carrots.

I tell people that the way I’ve operated, especially in the beginning, was just the same way I operated with all my bands. Where any money I made went straight back in to the business. For a year, even before we opened at City Market, we were just selling seitan. When you’re in a band you play a show, make some money, use that money to make a t shirt, then use that money to record a demo and all the money should be funneled back in to it.

Not only is that wise as a business decision, but it has allowed us to do things on our own terms. I’ve never had to pitch anything to investors, I’ve never had to go in to a meeting thinking “I really need this person to like me”. So I can have a lot more control over what happens. And even now, we’re a larger business, but I still treat us as if like… we’re just Against Me now. Like we used to be hitting trash cans in a basement and now we’re doing things on a bigger scale. For me, it’s that same sort of process.

I’ve always been focused on doing things sustainably as much as possible. And, we make certain we have very strict “no harassment” policy, we have a very open and diverse customer and staff base. The pursuit of justice was something that I got out of DIY punk and all of that is reflected in here. We treat everyone with dignity, I don’t yell at people in here, you know? And that is, in a weird sense, like revolutionary in this industry.

MFT: Yeah! Well one of my questions was: I don’t know the stats but it seems like you have one of the most diverse staffs of any restaurant in town… and I don’t think that just happens. Is this a conscious decision? What could other places learn from you’ve done so they could bring that mindset to their businesses?

Some of it has to be purposeful. I know some MRA guy will get mad if you try to promote women to work in a kitchen but you just have to do it. For me, what I’ve found out is you can find passionate people who are excited who may not have skills or experience and train them. Chefs complain about how “culinary schools aren’t doing a good enough job training kids” but like, no man, that’s your job too bub. That’s what chefs do is train people and teach people. And so I think for me, if you’re hiring a line cook based on the experience of having been a line cook then you’re going to get primarily men, because that’s who has been working there before. What we make a conscious effort of doing in both front and back is making certain that if we do have a woman or a member of a marginalized group that they are given opportunities too. We reach out with a lot of our entry level positions to get people in the door and allow them to grow. Anybody can do dishes, and then like, I can teach people how to cut an onion.

MFT: So beyond just being the right thing to do, have you found having this kind of diversity is advantageous to the business itself?

Yeah, I mean, our customer base is very diverse, one of the more diverse customer bases. So when we are hiring we want to make certain that our employees reflect the diversity of our customer base. There is a podcast that the Sporkful did called “who is this restaurant for” that was really good. It gives concrete, strategic ways to make restaurants more inclusive. And sometimes when you have a diverse staff then you are able to check your biases and are able to get feedback from a diversity of voices. That’s a good thing. You see some other restaurants get themselves in trouble because they are doing something tone deaf that maybe if they had more voices in their feedback loop they wouldn’t be getting in those situations.

MFT: How has your time in music influenced your work in food?

I wouldn’t be a chef if I wasn’t vegan and I wouldn’t be vegan if I wasn’t in to punk. So that’s a direct relationship but also… the scene we grew up in… every show was a pitch in. We’d do food not bombs. We’d make food for the bands. So once I found out I was kind of good at cooking I’d think “I want to take this to the show and have people talking about what I made for the pitch in” or I want this band to be hyped on this spread of food I made. And even, like, my second or third tour I realized that going out to eat all the time on tour sucks and is expensive but you’re also not guaranteed food, especially if you were vegan. So I would bring along like cans of vegetables. And we’d play a show and I’d go clean the kitchen and make everybody dinner.

Also I’ve come to terms with the fact that I’m really introverted, even though I can be gregarious. But in a lot of ways, cooking was a way to show that I appreciate people but also avoid people. I always loved cooking for my family on Thanksgiving and now that I’m cooking I don’t want to cook on my days off so now I have to like hang out with people? What am I supposed to do now? Watch some football game I don’t care about?

MFT: That’s what I’ve found my kids are great for. They can be a great mechanism for hiding from people.

Yeah it’s an out for anti-social activities. Ha.

But yeah, the punk scene was always so in to food and I think my love of food blossomed there. And that really led to me taking this on. And I was influenced by like… Soy Not Oi and the Post-Punk Kitchen that were vegan cookbooks for punk kids. There was such a visceral connection between food and punk at that time.

MFT: Yeah, and you almost miss it because it doesn’t really exist like that anymore because, well, music has changed but also because places like Three Carrots exist now and they didn’t really back then.

Yeah, being a vegan in Noblesville in 1997 there weren’t a lot of choices. But also I developed my palate by eating like Chinese and Indian and Ethiopian food because… there weren’t even vegan options at most restaurants. The Impossible Burger didn’t even exist. Even like black bean burgers at Chili’s didn’t exist. You’ve just gotta get French fries and steamed broccoli. That really motivated me to check out other cultures. 

MFT: Let’s go through the shows you are attaching to this event. I want to know WHY you chose them and how they impacted you, whatever you want to say about them.

1. Indy Fest/ Hardcore Weekend Summer (Los Crudos, Day of Suffering, Avail, Hatebreed, Despair, Reversal of Man, Birthright, a million others)- Emerson Theater, Indianapolis 1997

This was this insane weekend where basically all of the best bands in hardcore played Indianapolis, like the fest was on Friday Saturday Sunday and then Avail played the Monday afterwards. And that’s where I sort of stopped being a weirdo kid who went to punk shows and really became a hardcore kid. I realized that I just really identified with this subculture now. And also my two best friends, the guys from cheeseweed, were both graduating high school and moving… so it was our last summer together. So now when I look back on it I get a little wistful… this was the transition from my youth to my adulthood.

But also… it was Los Crudos, Birthright, Day of Suffering, MK Ultra, Reversal of Man, Despair, Hatebreed… it was one of those fests where you just never wanted to leave because there was always a great band playing… But we did leave a lot and we ate at the Chinese place down the street in Linwood Square… and we’d just eat Happy Garden. So I’m doing a chilled ramen with this because we’d order like vegetable lo mein and take it with us and be eating cold noodles at the show.

MFT: Yeah looking back, one of my favorite things back then was… whether it was there or like at the Volcano Room they had the Chinese place around the corner… and like you’d go there and all the kids would be there. I remember going to Happy Garden in Linwood with Pete Wentz. Like the bands you were going to see that you think are so cool are just other kids and they’re going to be at the vegan restaurant because it’s the only place you can go.

I remember even… Earth Crisis, Misfits, Burn It Down… Fountain Square Theater… there were like three of the dudes from Earth Crisis (and this is a sign of the times, how far we’ve come) were like “where is there to get vegan food in Fountain Square?” and we were like “uh… well there’s Subway?”

2. At the Drive In- South Walnut House, Bloomington 1998

That was one of those shows where I wasn’t going to see At the Drive In. I was going to see Aussie Lake which was Duncan from Endpoint/By the Grace of God/Guilt… kind of a shoegazy band but we were going to see Duncan Barlow. And there was some band from Texas called At the Drive In. And there were maybe 25 people at this show and these dudes were just absolutely crushing it. You could tell, when ATDI got really big I thought “Of fucking course” because they were one of those band you see and know you’ll never forget it. They were a tour de force. My roommate Justin, we saw them on a Thursday and then we went to every show they played the next three days. We drove to Louisville and Columbus just to see this band we’d never heard of before just so we could experience it again.

MFT: There were always like… bands that we were friends with; bands that we were friends with that were good, and then every once in a while there was a band you’d see and think “holy shit, these guys have it figured out and they are playing with us for now but they aren’t going to be for very long”

I remember, they fell off my radar a bit later but all of a sudden they were opening for Rage Against the Machine and my first thought was “I bet that 7’ is worth some money” haha but my next thought was “yeah, of course”. It was neat then, it was like watching Vladimir Guererro Jr play baseball in the Dominican league and he’s like 16 years old, hitting monster bombs and you think “this guy is gonna be special”. And like… Metallica played here and it was $150 for a ticket so you can go sit in the balcony but like, at this show Omar was standing next to me yelling in my face. I saw Fugazi for five dollars. That really kind of spoiled me on how I value shows. A show like this was one of those moments that you can’t NOT be changed by. You’ve just experienced something so cool and visceral right in front of you that now I could never like, go to Deer Creek and listen to Dave Matthews Band from a mile away.

3. Fugazi- Second Ave Indianapolis, 1995

MFT: This is the big one to me, for me Fugazi has been the most punk rock band that ever existed. And… I’ve always associated you with that mentality, and I associate, like, Three Carrots as the Fugazi of local restaurants. It’s the exception that makes the rule.

Wow, yeah, that’s quite a compliment! Yeah, I happened on Fugazi by total chance. We were at the Nora Target and I was shopping with my mom and my sister conned my mom into buying a Paula Abdul tape and I was like “well that’s not fair I want something” and she let me go pick something out… I didn’t know what to get because I already had all the Nirvana tapes and all the Pearl Jam tapes and like a week before that I read some Guitar World magazine article that listed Fugazi as one of the best Alternative bands of all time. And they happened to have In on the Kill Taker at this fucking Target. Which is funny. Remembering when we’d have these arguments in the punk scene about whether a punk band could have a barcode on their albums and stuff and punk was this DIY thing that I totally got in to because I found it in a Target.

But that was the first band I immediately fell in love with. It was mind blowingly awesome. That album is still one of my favorite albums, I still listen to it and find unique things happening. It informed my music tastes a lot, with that rhythm section being so insanely good. I could go on about that record forever. But the show itself was… like another earlier Indy Fest. It wasn’t just Fugazi. The Makeup played and they were just insane. Like the Friday night was Dischord night with all these DC bands and the next two nights were like chuggy hardcore stuff.

OH, and I also had a 102 degree fever. And that morning I was like “I’m sick dad, I can’t go to school” and he was like “well I guess you can’t go to that show either” and so I just crushed a bunch of Tylenol and powered through. And I think that informed my work ethic, haha.

And the show itself, like… I got into it for $5 and a can of peas because it was a benefit for food not bombs. And by that time I’d discovered the Dischord catalog and just ordered all the tapes of all those dudes. So first I got like every Fugazi album and then I thought “what other bands were these guys in?” so I got into like Minor Threat and Embrace and Rites of Spring and other Dischord stuff like Faith and Void. It was kismet in a way because I was already starting to have ideas about politics then and just by happenstance I become obsessed with the most legitimately successful DIY operation in the history of American music… having that be an influence on how I perceive my life was so important. It really did set me on this path to think the fact that they were able to do everything on their own terms. I saw that Ian MacKaye is still worth like millions and he made that playing $5 shows and selling $7 records.

I do remember at the show this guy was like “Hey play Minor Threat” and I’m like 14 and I think like “(whispers) that would be kind of cool” but then Guy is like “WTF Man?” and Ian was like “You’re just some dumb punk mother fucker who doesn’t get it” and I’m like “oh yeah, screw that guy!” haha

We are actually making as part of the swag for this, we are going to make some mixtapes for people and I’m going to put that on it with some of these bands too.

I saw them again when they played Knights of Columbus in like ’03 (it was '01) on the Argument tour, right? And that was awesome too but… at this time I was still niave and still had idols and here I am two feet away from this icon of everything I’m about and I got to do it for $5.

4. By The Grace of God (Last/Not Actually Last Show)- Rhino’s, Bloomington 1999

This was a peak Bloomington moment for me. It was like the first of their last shows. They were one of my favorite hardcore bands at the time, like of stuff that came out on that record label (Initial records). For the most part they were vegan/sxe but their songs weren’t necessarily about that…

MFT: Like a Snapcase… a straight edge vegan band that was “A Straight Edge Vegan Band”

Yeah! And like their singer Rob Pennington has always been very empathetic and into humanitarian cases, and I’ve always gravitated towards that. It was one of those moments where there are 300 people and it’s the nicest pile on ever. One of those shows where you think “this is how punk should be”. You know, you get a bigger show and inevitably you get ten dudes looking to mess it up but there was none of that. Just everyone here just have a good time and celebrate the legacy of this band. I had a bunch of friends come in from everywhere and I was surrounded by 40 of my friends having this wonderful time watching this band that meant a lot to us.

MFT: Seemed like back then Bloomington was sort of the nexus between the Louisville and the Indy scenes…

And that was before there was all this animosity between scenes. That was when like, all the North side straight edge kids went to college and then there was acrimony between the people who left and the people that stayed… but that was before that drama started.

5. Sick of It All- Melody Inn, 2006

I had plenty of opportunities to see Sick of It All but I never did because I didn’t care to because they’d be at the Emerson with a bunch of other bands I wasn’t in to and it would attract like tough guy crowds that I didn’t want to be around… there’d been a bunch of fights at Sick of It All shows and I was like “I don’t want to go to that” however… Jared Southwick (*edit: Andy Skinner actually booked this show) had managed to get Sick of It All to come in. They were on tour with some other big band and they had an off day and Jared was like “I’ll book you at the Melody Inn” and SOIA got there and realized everyone there was like over 28 and had no interest in any of their new stuff. And so they played… the one alum of Sick of It All that I had and loved was Blood Sweat and No Tears which was their more straight up hardcore album and not a crossover metal album and I liked that a lot and basically that show they realized “Oh, we are just playing for a bunch of old fans who want to hear our punk stuff” and played the entire first album. That’s another one of those moments I look at and the Dream is Dead was on the show… and here I was in this bar with fifty of my best friends and we got to see this band that normally plays festivals and stuff play a very intimate environment. It was completely fan service. It was like the Solo of shows.

MFT: How do the shows you picked correlate with the food being served?

Yeah so they are in that order because those are going to be the courses as they are served. So the first course is chilled Szechuan noodles with a tofu skin, reminiscent of the cold Chinese food we got at the show. The At the Drive In show we are taking some of my favorite spots from Bloomington and combining them with my stuff. SO like Himalayan potato dumplings as a tribute to Little Tibet and Café Django. Fugazi show I’m still working out but it’s going to have a pea puree on it because I saw Fugazi for $5 and a can of peas. By the Grace of God is gonna be an homage to the Chocolate Moose in Bloomington. And Sick of It All is going to be NY Style Cheesecake with “Blood Sweat and No Tears” with a strawberry syrup…

MFT: What’s next for Three Carrots or Ian Phillips?

I don’t know I’m just doing this. People are always like “when are you opening up in Carmel” and I’m like “wow, this is hard enough!”


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