In honor of Independence Day, KEXP is saluting some of our favorite indie record labels whose DIY-spirit helped revolutionize the music industry. As an independent radio station ourselves, KEXP is thrilled to give a 13-gun salute to these pioneers with a series of label spotlights through the Fourth of July.
On their website, the About page reads only as follows: “Our version of music. Guaranteed to satisfy the most tolerant listener”. Since their beginnings, this short description has remained unwaveringly accurate. Drag City Records has released material by over 100 different artists, a handful of which bear some semblance to each other (most all of them fall under the huge umbrella of “experimental indie rock”). But for the most part, founders Dan Koretzky and Dan Osborn have been doing music their way and their way alone. With more than 20 years behind them, it doesn’t look like they are going to change anything about that.
Drag City was born in 1990 in Chicago. Their first release (that same year) was “Hero Zero”, the 1990 single by Royal Trux. Royal Trux returned later that year to release sophomore record Twin Infinitives and stayed there ever since. But Drag City’s first big name was Pavement who released most of their earliest EPs through Drag City before signing with Matador for LPs. Today, you can find all of Pavement’s Drag City-era material on the compilation album Westing (By Musket and Sextant).
Will Oldham — mastermind behind Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy — came to Drag City with his old band Palace Brothers in 1993 with There Is No-One What Will Take Care Of You. Since then, he’s stayed with Drag City for all future projects. All of the studio albums by Joanna Newsom are there. After many years of bouncing around labels, Ty Segall has stayed on Drag City for the last two. For most bands, there is a sense of loyalty around Drag City. Koretzky and Osborn wanted Drag City to be personable and embody the spirit of DIY artistry. It is evident with the artists that find their way to the label that this spirit of independence resides in all members of the family.
Here are some key Drag City records to check out:
Twin Infinitives – Royal Trux (1990)
Westing (By Musket and Sextant) – Pavement (1993)
There Is No-One What Will Take Care Of You – Palace Brothers (1993)
The Milk-Eyed Mender – Joanna Newsom (2004)
Neverendless – Cave (2011)
Wolfroy Goes To Town – Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy (2011)
Hair – Ty Segall and White Fence (2012)