Pop and Rock 2012: Breakout Label - Arbutus

BY Cam LindsayPublished Dec 19, 2012

One of 2012's undeniable breakout stars was Montreal's Grimes (pictured above) and her Polaris-nominated album, Visions. The label behind her, Arbutus Records, experienced a similar breakthrough. Founded in 2009 by Sebastian Cowan — following a stint working out of the XL and Beggars office in London, UK — the Vancouver transplant set up shop in Montreal to take advantage of the city's rich arts community. Through the art collective Lab Synthese, Cowan began putting on loft parties and, through Arbutus, began releasing records by friends like Grimes, Sean Nicholas Savage and Silly Kissers.

Although Arbutus found its fans via music blogs, the success of Visions (on 4AD internationally) expanded the label's global profile, and artists like TOPS and Doldrums prepared to carry the torch. "Our growth has been truly exponential and 2012 for me represents our transition into becoming, as Don Wilkie of Constellation calls it, 'a real record label,'" says Cowan. "Now we can consider the potential of providing a sustainable living for [artists], which is so important. Arbutus has always been about building a community, and to see it transition into something concrete has been so rewarding."

Currently, the Arbutus roster consists of Montreal-based artists, but Cowan hopes to expand beyond the city and go global. "Growing Arbutus internationally is what I see on the horizon," he says. "Still there's a strong focus on a tight, curated and vibrant community — but with a more globalized and contemporary outlook."

Future releases: Majical Cloudz Turns Turns Turns EP (December 3), Blue Hawaii Untogether (January 22) and Doldrums Lesser Evil (February 26).

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