And if anyone should know how to do it, it’s Nadia and Sara – after all, they’ve discovered gems such as Everything Everything, Bombay Bicycle Club and Noah & The Whale over their five years as a label. To celebrate, they’re releasing a compilation album, and we’ve taken time out to pay tribute to our favourite small labels – it’s not meant as a definitive list, just a small section of writers’ favourites…
Located in a tiny British Columbia seaside town, Gordon Dufresne’s label Deranged has shone a zillion-candle torch on the cream of Canadian hardcore. Most of the early Fucked Up singles were on Deranged, and smart cookies should be down with Career Suicide, Brutal Knights and The Bayonettes too. They’ve released a glut of powerpop-ish produce of late, but it’s all gold.
Key release: Career Suicide, ‘Attempted Suicide’.
Oh! Inverted World
A nascent limited edition vinyl label – roughly only 300 copies (and unlimited downloads) per release, mates – Oh! Inverted World was started by three young music industry upstarts, off the back of their eponymous monthly club night.
Key release: Tristram, ‘Someone Told Me A Poem’ EP. The label’s debut release, Tristram defines all that is good about O!IW- young, hip and home-grown.
‘Fractured and melodic’ is the mantra of a London-based label that serves its records in crepe paper and keeps the spirit of eccentricity alive in scratchy heart-bearing indie pop made by folk more concerned about the crispness of their hooks and oddness of their lyrics than they are the cut of their jeans.
Key release: Let’s Wrestle’s fizzing slacker rock debut, ‘In The Court Of The Wrestling Let’s’, is the jewel in their skewiff crown.
Big Scary Monsters
The key to BSM’s success is its simplicity: great bands given the creative freedom to do something unique, every single time. Wade through the hefty back catalogue (the 100th release is imminent) and sparkling indie rock sits next to gutsy post-hardcore, punk rock and feather-light acoustic balladry but it’s all tied together with the utmost care, passion and integrity. A DIY inspiration.
Key release: Meet Me In St Louis, ‘Variations On Swing’.
Song, By Toad
A blog, record label and general first port of call for DIY music makers, Edinburgh’s Song, By Toad aims for eclecticism and to build a community from their roster and the bands they write about. And their honesty is refreshing; the outfit openly admit that they are into the less commercial side of the music scene and have no ambition to sign big stars. It’s all about creating an environment and “a sort of nursery” where under the radar artists can thrive.
Key release: Meursault, ‘All Creatures Will Make Merry’.
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Having released a recording of letters written to Page 3 models (‘Dirty Fan Male’; sample endearment: “My special message: penis”), the music from legendary retro TV kids’ show The Clangers and Radiohead-influencing soundtrack to Life On Earth, Trunk fully lives up to its “Music, Sex & Nostalgia” tagline. Beautifully idiosyncratic, this is the label for anyone with a penchant for music compiled by true British eccentrics on instruments they invented themselves.
Key release: Edward Williams, ‘Life On Earth’.
Dance To The Radio
It’s all too easy for small labels to fade out when their moment in the spotlight does, but with New Yorkshire a distant memory, this Leeds lot’s 4X12” series is still seeing them champion the thrilling likes of Esben And The Witch, Milk White White Teeth and Holy State, plus Rose Elinor Dougall’s gorgeous recent single ‘Find Me Out’.
Key release: DTTR main man Whiskas’ own former band iForward Russia!’s fervent, fervid single ‘Twelve’ sums the exhilarating energy of the label up best.
Best known as the label that called it a day citing the success of Cornershop‘s number one hit ‘Brimful Of Asha’ as the deciding factor, Wiiija – named after the postcode of founders Rough Trade Shop in London – also helmed the UK branch of the splendidly confrontational riot grrrl movement. Huggy Bear‘s definitive ‘Taking The Rough With The Smooch’ was its most crucial moment, laying down a modern day feminist scree over its bristling, wiry musical assault.
Key release: Huggy Bear, ‘Taking The Rough With The Smooch’.
By their own admission, Brainlove put out records by bands “too arty, weird, fucked up or far out to fit in anywhere else”. True to the
ethos, the first release, ‘Sympathetic Sounds Of The Wild West Midlands’, was an ode to the loopy sounds of Wolverhampton, featuring
the likes of Pram and End Of Level Boss, and the output’s been relentlessly brilliant ever since.
Key release: Keyboard Choir, ‘Mizen Head To Gascanane Sound’.
Geoff Barrow self-deprecatingly said Invada was set up to lose money and friends. Skint and lonely they may be, but the Bristol label’s ethics are peerless. There are no contracts, no advances, and the label’s cut of profits goes straight back into making more ornately packaged releases. Their roster is relentlessly experimental, taking in doomy post-rockers Crippled Black Phoenix, Barrow’s krautrock band, BEAK, and garage crate digging from Malakai amongst prime drone, hip hop and noise cuts.
Key release: Crippled Black Phoenix, ‘200 Tons Of Bad Luck’.
Which are your favourite labels? What’s so brill about them – an amazing roster, fancy packaging, a peerless work ethic – let us know in the comment section below…