Ten years of Wichita Recordings

From Bright Eyes to Bloc Party, label co-founder Mark Bowen talks us through his favourite releases over the past decade

"The first release ..."

Bright Eyes – Fevers and Mirrors
I first met Conor Oberst when he was a Jack Daniel's-drinking teenager, seemingly dead set on destruction. At the time we were convinced he was already a big star in the US, but we recently discovered that he'd sold fewer than 900 records when we put this out. I still think this is a stunning album, Oberst remains a singlular talent and we've continued working with him on his recent solo records.

"The one that should have been bigger ..."

Her Space Holiday – Manic Expressive
I really thought this was a turning point for the label and maybe it was, mentally. Marc Bianchi has been with us from the beginning and his melding of guitars and electronics was really groundbreaking, paving the way for artists such as the Postal Service. It's a beautiful and overlooked record.

"The first hit ..."

Yeah Yeah Yeahs – Bang
This was the first band we discovered on the internet. After hearing this song we got in touch with them, but were amazed they had no record deal. We flew to America and saw them play fourth on the bill to Arab On Radar; Karen O was already a superstar in every way. Months later Jo Whiley played the record at lunchtime on Radio 1 (despite its liberal use of the word "fuck" in the chorus) and everyone went nuts. It was our first top 40 hit. One of the best bands of the last 10 years.

"The classic debut single ..."

The Cribs – Another Number
A publisher played us the demo of this song and we thought it was great because it sounded a bit like Pavement and had a big hook. We went to see them at the Metro on Oxford Street and completely fell in love with them. They seemed like such an obvious pop band. Every song sounded like a single. Unfortunately, it took several years for the rest of the world to agree with us. Now this song is an anthem.

"The first top 10 single ..."

Bloc Party – So Here We Are
It was hard to choose the breakthrough Bloc Party track. I could easily have picked Banquet or Helicopter, which changed both the label and the band, but So Here We Are proved to the world that this was a really special band capable of going beyond the boundaries that were already being placed around them.

"The viral hit ..."

First Aid Kit – The Big Black and the Blue
Here's a great example of how the internet has changed what we do. We flew to Sweden at Christmas in 2006 and saw these two incredibly talented but (at the time) impossibly young girls playing at a hostel for alcoholics. They blew our minds but were too young to be in a record deal. Six months later, they uploaded their Fleet Foxes cover to YouTube and had a gazillion views. So we had to get moving fast, because of what the internet can do for an artist's career these days. Three years later they've just completed their first (sold out) tour of America.

 

"There's always been a dance element to our label ..."

Simian Mobile Disco – Attack Decay Sustain Release
We found it frustrating that electronic records from the likes of Wauvenfold and Kid 606 got great press but never sold in great numbers, so when we put out this brilliant SMD album it was gratifying that it was a hit around the world and we showed we could "do" electronic music.
 

"Quality knows no genre ..."

Mariachi el Bronx – Mariachi el Bronx
We always said that we wouldn't be driven by genre but rather by quality, and this to me is the record that sums that up. An unlikely offering from the Bronx, the world's best hardcore punk band, that nobody was expecting but has proven to be an amazing experience, taking us everywhere from the Barbican to Glastonbury. Proof that the good will out.
 

"That whistling song ..."

Peter Bjorn and John – Young Folks
Sent to us by a dear friend in Sweden, one listen and we were hooked. It is pure pop. The whistling song that conquered the world!

"The latest hit ..."

Kele – Tenderoni   
To bring us right up to date, this brilliant slice of electronic dance from Bloc Party's Kele Okereke is from his amazing debut solo album, The Boxer. The guy moves heads, hearts and feet.

Mark Bowen

The GuardianTramp

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