Label Profile – Wichita Records

Inside the UK's hottest indie label

Perhaps Britain’s finest purveyors of indie, a rebellious, contrary spirit – named after a Glen Campbell tune? When Dick Green left the legendary Creation Records to form an exciting new label he took the name from 60s country anthem “Wichita Lineman”. Unusual, but in a way it defines the venture, outlining the pure musical ethos espoused by founders Dick Green and Mark Bowen.

After a career spent launching classic after classic into the consciousness of music lovers everywhere, Dick Green could have been forgiven for moving easily into retirement. But with music in his blood, Green couldn’t resist the lure of studying demo tapes and attending gigs by complete unknowns. Formed in 2000, Wichita was a world away from the bohemoth Creation had become – run on a shoestring, it harked back to the DIY spirit of the 80s.

Wichita was a world away from the bohemoth Creation had become

The label’s first break came when Saddle Creek entrusted the label with the UK release of Bright Eyes’ album, even though Wichita only existed on paper at that point! Establishing itself as a home for emerging US talent, Wichita claimed vital releases by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and My Morning Jacket, amongst others. Gradually, the label pushed itself into a position where they could afford to sign UK acts – among the first to sign were the nascent Bloc Party.

Becoming one of the most important groups in Britain today, the signing of Bloc Party moved Wichita to a place amongst the elite of indie labels. A host of wonderful releases immediately followed, as if on que. Wichita was earning a reputation as purveyors of important new music, but not without taking risks. The Cribs suffered a critical mauling early into their career, yet the label stuck by them and has been rewarded by the praise showered on the group’s third album “Men’s Needs, Women’s Needs, Whatever”. A testament to the true bond between band and label, a bond that has unravelled amongst the corridors of major labels in their thirst for the next “cute guys with guitars” hit single.

Now embarking on a run of golden releases, for every hit there is a great band you may not have heard of. Canyon, for instance, are Wichita mainstays, and released the cult classic “Empty Rooms” in 2003, to the baffling sound of silence. Brave Captain founder Martin Carr was a vital part of the Creation story with Liverpool Britpoppers The Boo Radleys, but there was always more to him than summer sunshine and chart hits. His new project is a vital move back into the left-field, and has produced unsung classics such as 2005’s “Better Living Through Reckless Experimentation”.

Now embarking on a run of golden releases

Currently, Wichita sits on a veritable gold mine of talent. Welsh twee wonders Los Campesinos! are set to release their debut album “Death To Los Campesinos!” to no doubt rapturous acclaim. The group hail from Cardiff and caused a big stir with their home pressed demos. Early singles such as “You! Me! Dancing!” were faultless slices of indie pop, and expectations are sky high for their album. Elsewhere on the label, Swedish pop princesses Those Dancing Days have released their debut single “Hitten” – a stunning slice of Motown inspired melody. Brooklyn’s stunning Les Savy Fav released their latest album “Let’s Stay Friends” through Wichita late last year, to outstanding transatlantic acclaim. Although Wichita have earned a reputation as an indie label, the roster also includes dance boffins Simian Mobile Disco and the take-no-prisoners punk thrash of The Bronx.

The future’s bright for Wichita, with a back catalogue already teeming with goodies and a release list more mouth watering than an ‘all you can eat’ buffet round Jamie Oliver’s gaff. A record label run by music fans, for music fans – what more can you ask for?

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