ROCK LABEL OF THE WEEK: Wichita Recordings

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Rock Label of the Week is focused on highlighting some of the biggest – or most obscure- labels that you may – or may not – have ever heard of.

  • Name Of Label: Wichita Recordings
  • Founded: 2000
  • Location: London, United Kingdom
  • Label Type: Independent
  • Distributors: V2/Cooperative Music
  • Genre of Focus: Indie Rock/Post-Punk
  • Current Roster: Best Coast, The Dodos, First Aid Kit, Conor Oberst, Bloc Party, Wild Flag, The Cribs.
  • Inactive Roster: Peter Bjorn and John, The Blood Brothers, Bright Eyes, My Morning Jacket, Northern State, Yeah Yeah Yeahs.
  • Website: http://www.wichita-recordings.com/

Wichita Recordings was founded in 2000 by friends Mark Bowen and Dick Green. Originally, the duo had both met while they were both working for Creation Recordings in London (Creation’s roster included Oasis, My Bloody Valentine, and The Jesus and Mary Train). When Creation dissolved in 1999, that became the beginning to Wichita, and in an interview with Bowen, he discusses the moment when Creation owner Alan McGee approached him about the idea of starting his own label:

 “When Alan and Dick stopped doing Creation, Alan took me to one side and told me to do my own label. I had never had any intentions of doing it, I was only thirty and thought I was too young. But a couple of weeks later me and Dick sat down for a drink and he said he wanted to do a label but he wasn’t ready to do one on the scale of Creation by the end. He wanted to do something which only involved us, something smaller but we would be really into. He wanted to build something slowly, and not be in any rush. So I thought, that sounds more like it, more my kind of scene! Starting a record company to sell a million records sounded like hard work, this sounded more like a sensible way to find my way back into life after Creation ended.” [Clash Music Interview] 

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Where it all began.

The first album to release under Wichita would be one to envy; Bright Eyes album Fevers and Mirrors. The story goes that Bowen stumbled upon Bright Eye’s music on the Saddle Creek website, and was compelled to buy an EP and check it out. Bowen was impressed, and the Bright Eyes were signed. However, Wichita Recordings had been under the impression that the band was already a huge success in the USA, when the band, in actuality, had only sold around 900 copies of their music. Apparently, they signed the band for a pretty good sum, but as it’s known, Bright Eyes would make that money back, becoming one of the bigger indie darlings of the decade. Today, Wichita Recordings still works with Conor Oberst (lead singer of Bright Eyes) in producing and distributing his solo music.

Bright+Eyes

Conor Oberst of Bright Eyes.

A few years down the line, Wichita had gone through some bouts of upset. Two of their biggest acts, Yeah Yeah Yeah’s and My Morning Jacket had moved to major labels after blooming success under Wichita. However, the guys at Wichita would accidently stumble upon a band that would change it all for the label. That band is Bloc Party:

“It was the Saturday before Christmas and I was meant to be home in Wales, but I missed my train and thought I’d wait and see this band. Went to the ICA and it was completely empty. I fell in love with them. It was really odd – my touchstones were The Smiths and for Dick it was New Order, and Bloc Party seemed to sound like both. Kele struck me as a Morrissey heir; his words were fantastic. He was a reticent star, but magnetic nonetheless.” [Time Out Bahrain Interview] 

Bloc Party would be asked to sign to Wichita Recordings, and their album, Silent Alarm, became a huge success for the band and the label. Silent Alarm (features songs Banquet, Helicopter, and So Here We Are) would sell approx. 61,000 albums in its first week in the UK, and in the USA the album reached #7 on Billboard Top Independent Albums in 2005. The album would eventually go to sell over a million copies, and Silent Alarm was certified platinum.

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First Aid Kit doing Karaoke.

It is typical for labels to be caught in controversy (Victory Records, Rise Records), but Wichita has seemingly avoided any problems within the label. The label’s focus: “no wankers”. Wichita has remained very focused on the quality of the bands they sign, and has refused the idea of selling out. Bowen highlights this in our close to this weeks Rock Label of the Week:

“To this day we look for something different, and if you look back over the ten years most of the records still stand up. Most of the bands still have careers. Starting with Bright Eyes and Conor Oberst, I mean they’re still going ten years later and probably will be making music in another ten years. But that was always the case at Creation – look at Teenage Fanclub, Primal Scream. That was the culture I was introduced into, that they could break through with their fourth record. If you look for the next big thing it becomes quite ephemeral.” [Clash Music Interview]

! On a side-note, did you know Wichita was responsible for the “whistling song that conquered the world?!

 

SAMPLE THE CURRENT ROSTER 

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