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Miscellaneous - Interview

  by Mark Rowland

published: 12 / 10 / 2003

Miscellaneous - Interview


Co-founded by Conor Oberst of Bright Eyes, Nebraskan label Saddle Creek has grown over the last 10 years from being a small local tape label to a company with an international reputation. Mark Rowland talks to its European chain about its success

Saddle Creek is based in Omaha, Nebraska and has grown over the course of the last ten years from a small localised tape-releasing label to a large independent record company of international repute. It current roster includes local Omaha bands, Bright Eyes, Cursive, the Faint and Son Ambulance, but also from Athens, Georgia Azure Ray and Now It's Overhead and from Chapel Hill, North Carolina Sorry about Dresden. Saddle Creek recently put out its 50th release, the appropriately-titled '50', a double CD compilation which featured one new track and one old track form all the bands that have ever released records through it. It is run in America by former Commander Venus guitarist Robb Nanset and Bright Eyes frontman Conor Oberst. It opened its first European branch in London last year. Pennyblackmusic talked to Thomas and Gillian from the European branch about the Saddle Music success story PB : Saddle Creek and it's bands have been getting a lot of good press over the last couple of years. Is it something that you were expecting to happen ? Thomas: Well, speaking for Europe, the bands have been getting pretty good press in the US for a while now so we were definitely hoping that would convert to us over here. I think if I was to say we were expecting it, it might sound a little arrogant but we do think that we release awesome records so we should be getting it! I think the UK press, however, is a little different to US press. It definitely seems to be more style/hype orientated... I'm not sure if we have always fitted in with their flavours of the month... Gillian: The fact that the European office has only been running for the past year (from my spare room!) has made a difference in that now Saddle Creek has a permanent presence here. Before that, our records were only available via import or through licensing deals with other European labels - now we are re-releasing a lot of the back catalogue here and the records are available so we’ve been getting a lot of press.. PB : Saddle Creek's origins are quite humble, beginning with localised tape distributing in Omaha. Thinking about those origins, don't you think it's quite shocking how quickly the label has evolved over the last ten years? Thomas: That's a tough question. Especially for us as we have only really started the European stuff in the last year or so. I think actually that things have always moved quite gradually so it's never felt like there was a sudden change. It's not like there was one record which suddenly sold way way more than its predecessor. It's always moved bit by bit. But it's definitely amazing that it's happened! Gillian: I know that when Saddle Creek began-It was originally called Lumberjack Records-it seemed an outlandish dream to Robb and Conor and everyone to one day sell 10,000 records. Conor's parents made him a plaque in the early days to celebrate him selling 100 tapes! Now its at least 100k! It’s still a thrill to think that people who went to school together, lived on the same street, played and formed bands together had such strong self-belief to make everything happen that has happened. PB : Now that there is a European division of Saddle creek, will you be signing European acts to the label, or is it more for distribution of the US artists? Thomas: We are definitely interested in signing European artists. It is partly coincidence that a lot of the music is from Omaha - just because that is where the label is based. But there are already artists on the label from outside of Omaha - Rilo Kiley are based in LA, Sorry about Dresden in North Carolina, Azure Ray were originally from Georgia... So basically, yes we always interested in new bands, no matter where they are from! Gillian: We are looking yes. It would be nice to have a band based here for sure.. PB : You have alt-country, emo-punk, indie-pop and electronica bands on your roster. Is there any other kinds of music you'd like to see released on Saddle Creek? Thomas: We're open to anything as long as it's good! There's no unifying musical sound to the label, I guess the unifying is honest, intelligent music, no matter what the sound is. PB : Saddle Creek is portrayed as a everyone-knows-everyone else, 'family' label. Do you in the European division of the label feel a part of that family? In other words, do you get a lot of input from people like Robb Nansel, or are you just left to your own devices? Thomas: It does feel a little strange but we see Robb and Jason from the label over here a lot. The bands are coming over so we know them all pretty well and we are heading out to Omaha soon so we don't feel apart from them. Robb does have input but the reason he set up this office is because he has never really worked in Europe so he needed people who knew what they were doing. As we do... Sort of! Gillian: of course when the bands come over to tour we hang out with them and catch up on all that’s been happening for them in the States. Its fun for them to have a Saddle Creek office here too.. We work together with Robb and Jason on the bigger decisions.. But in Omaha, once a month, some of the artists meet and talk about what’s been happening, what needs to be done and where things are going and we all respond to that– it really is a co-operative label in that sense. PB : You've recently released the compilation '50' in celebration of your 50th release on the label. Do you hope that this compilation will win Saddle Creek more fans? Is that the reason that you're generously selling a double album for about a fiver? Thomas: I think that the compilation is less intended to win the 3label2 new fans than to open up the bands to people that may not have heard them ... But it1s also a celebration of the label, now getting to 50 releases. Gillian: It brings all the bands together on one record for the first time which they all thought was a great idea after 50 releases between them all. PB : How did the idea for having a new and old song from each band come about? Thomas: Well, we wanted to take stuff from the first 50 records for starters but then because it was a special release, being our 50th, we wanted to make sure that there was something exclusive to the record... Gillian: it was fun for the bands to write a brand new track without having the pressure of an album/single to go with it.. Just fun.. PB : Should we expect a '100' compilation at some point in the future? Thomas: Who knows what release 100 will be? It1s certainly a possibility. Gillian: Well we're up to 56 now already.. Something special will be bound to happen - but lets not get too secure that people will want 100 Saddle Creek Records! Enjoy the moment! PB :Is Saddle Creek, on both sides of the Atlantic, planning then to sign a lot more bands in the near future? Thomas: I don1t think we1re planning on signing loads of bands but we are definitely looking to increase our crew. There1s a few things we1re interested in at the moment for sure! Gillian: We'd like to release something from a new artist.. Looking looking.. PB : Thank you

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