How did Secretly Canadian start?
Overall, the “story” surrounding the formation of SC is not that exciting. It wasn’t as if we were in an 80s hardcore band and needed a way to release our own records. Nor was it because labels in the area were neglecting certain bands or styles of music. We aren’t in a band, and there really aren’t other labels in the area, so everyone was being neglected equally. Secretly Canadian began simply because we wanted to do it, it sounded like fun, and at least for me, it had always been a dream to run my own label. Everything started to come together in the spring of 96, at this time Chris Swanson and Eric Weddle were in enrolled here at Indiana University. They met while working at WIUS, the college radio station here. Jonathan Cargill (JC) was working as a cafeteria manager at one of the dorms, as was Chris, though he was just washing dishes. Over the weeks of working at the cafeteria, those two got to talking about music and aspects of the industry and hatched some ideas about starting their own label. Chris later spoke to Eric about it and he was in agreement with what they wanted to do. Then Ben, Chris’ brother who was living in Fargo at the time, was also brought in. This was all around April of 96.
What is your role at Secretly Canadian and what is everyone else’s role at the label?
There are three of us at Secretly Canadian. We all share in most of the responsibilities, but for the sake of efficiency and our sanity we each concentrate on a particular role. I handle all publicity and promotion issues. Ben Swanson handles all distribution and manufacturing concerns. Chris Swanson does all the accounting.
What is the philosophy behind Secretly Canadian? Do you try to find certain styles of bands, or is it an open ended label where many genres can come together?
It’s very open ended. We have released a record of Scottish Folksongs as well as the most spastic, heavy hardcore records. There is no philosophy really, more of an aesthetic. It’s not a tangible thing so it’s hard to explain, but for us, every band we work with just seems to make sense for Secretly Canadian. The music is solid and perhaps more importantly the people that make the music are solid.
What sort of niche do you see your label filling in the indie music industry?
I think every niche is already full or at least some one is clamoring to fill it. Trying to fill a niche can be the death of a label. I just try to release good records. I guess it’s hard for me to say.
Are there other bands that are not in your catalog that you would love to work with?
Way too many to name, but yes, there are always bands I want to work with, but can’t.
What is you favorite release on the label so far and why?
That’s tough to say, but it might be The Unaccompanied Voice: An A Capella Compilation. It was only our 7th release but it was a great opportunity to work with some of my favorite artists. I though the a capella comp was a good idea and a unique project and I’m proud of it.
Are there any other labels that you yourself keep an eye on?
Lately, I’ve been buying up everything released by or related to Anticon. I think those people are making some of the best and freshest music in the world.
How have you found such great artists for the label?
I guess, pretty much by luck. Though I do listen to and see a lot of bands. Sometimes bands we work with already suggest other bands. I always give those bands priority because I put a lot of stock in what they say.
Please describe the benefits and hardships of having an independent label. Do those who run the label do other work or is the label a means of self-support?
The benefit is simply being involved with great music and great people. The hardships are obviously money but I also get down about the hype and marketing of bands. I’ve never been good at nor eager to get into the hype game for bands, but I do get frustrated when there are only a handful of bands that get all the press coverage, etc. This affects every aspect of labels. Since only a few bands are in the limelight it makes it harder for the thousands of other (and probably more deserving) bands to sell records or secure distribution or get press. Which all leads back to money.
What discs are you personally spin’n at the moment?
I just bought a record that was released. “What Color is Love” by Terry Callier. It’s jazzy soul from 1972. Other than that I’ve been mostly listening to Secretly Canadian tiltes that are about to be released. (Impossible Shapes, Scout Niblett, Jorma Whittaker)
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