By Alex HudsonLast week, Western Canada met its newest label, when Jonathan Simkin of 604 Records rolled out his indie-centric Light Organ Records. Unlike 604's mainstream rock bent (it was co-founded by Nickelback's Chad Kroeger and is home to Theory of a Deadman), Vancouver-based Light Organ promises to favour indie music better suited to college radio than MuchMusic. The label's early signings include West coast acts like the Zolas, Sun Wizard, Adaline, Louise Burns and Adrian Glynn.
Talking on the phone with Exclaim!, Simkin speaks candidly about the need for Light Organ to distance itself from the stigma associated with 604 Records.
"Very quickly, with 604, we got pigeonholed," admits Simkin. "The public perception is it's all about Nickelback, Nickelback, Nickelback."
This made it difficult, he says, for the company to break into the world of indie music. "My background is as much in the world of alternative music as it is in the world of mainstream rock music," says Simkin. "I've been the attorney for Mint Records for 15 years."
He continues, "My love of alternative music has never ceased; it's never stopped. It was very frustrating for me that it felt that I was getting a lot of resistance to sign alternative bands, because alternative bands associate 604 with Nickelback and Theory of a Deadman, and in that world, those are negative connotations."
After signing Vancouver duo the Zolas last year, Simkin decided that the band's indie-leaning brand of piano rock wasn't a good fit for the 604 image. Now, over a year later, he has a solution to the problem: a new label. "That's kind of the genesis; it was a feeling of frustration that we were having problems marketing alternative bands under the 604 name," he says.
Now, Light Organ has assembled a roster of Vancouver-based indie acts and is getting set to roll out its first releases. This has begun with the holiday compilation Our First Christmas, which came out on Tuesday (November 23). In 2011, the label is looking to put out albums by some of its first signings.
One of the first records will come from Vancouver's Sun Wizard. "It sounds a little bit like Thin Lizzy, but it also sounds a little bit like Television," Simkin observes. "I absolutely adore that band." Other upcoming releases include Adaline's Hawksley Workman-produced new LP, plus albums from the other members of Light Organ's roster.
In addition to putting out records, Simkin is currently looking to sign more bands. But he isn't certain what else the future has in store, given the quickly changing landscape of the music industry.
"It's a great time to be an indie label right now," he enthuses. "I walk into the office every day, it's like the Wild Wild West now. How can I sell this band today? There's no rules anymore."
Keep an eye on Light Organ's website for new album announcements and go here to read more about the Our First Christmas compilation.