Champaign, Illinois. It’s your typical midwestern American college town, two hundred and seventeen kilometers south of Chicago, it’s home of 82,000 people, The University of Illinois, and most importantly, this week’s featured record label: Polyvinyl Record Company. I know what you’re thinking, why focus on a record label in a small American city, that’s over 15,000 kilometers away from us here in Melbourne? One word, my friends: roster. Well, actually, that’s kind of a lie. There’s a bunch of reasons why we’re focusing on Polyvinyl, but mainly because this company has one badass roster that is sure to grab your attention.
What do Of Montreal, Japandroids, STRFKR, Deerhoof , and our homegrown pals Architecture in Helsinki all have in common? Oh you’re a smart cookie, you now why I’m asking this, and I know you know the answer. Although the range of styles is quite varied, from the hard-hitting garage rock of Japandroids to the sweet indie croons of Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin, there is certainly that Polyvinyl sound that all of them share. And, strangely enough, you won’t really be able to put your finger on it. (Actually, it may be the sound of the Kinsella boys — more on that later) Anyway, after listening to these bands enough you’ll surely find yourself thinking, Oh hey, this sounds like a Polyvinyl band! Or maybe that’s just me, because I’m a little weird like that. But that’s enough of a little intro, so let’s delve in a bit deeper, shall we?
Japandroids Live Photo
Music Video for “Rawnald Gregory Erickson the Second” by STRFKR
Music Video for “Heart it Races” by Architecture in Helsinki
The year was 1994. The people: Matt Lunsford and Darcie Knight. The world of music as we knew it was about to change forever, for Polyvinyl Press had made it’s debut! What started as a fanzine for local music, Matt and Darcie started selling records at local shows, eventually Polyvinyl Press began to include releases of local bands in their issues and alas, the Polyvinyl Record Company that we know today had arrived. Some of the first artists on the label included Braid, Rainer Maria, Sunday’s Best, and American Football.
Wait, did someone say American Football!? The band formed by guitarist/bassist and singer Mike Kinsella, brother of musician Tim Kinsella and cousin of other musician Nate Kinsella? What a coincidence! Because those Kinsella boys are a huge part of Polyvinyl’s aforementioned badass roster. Though initially finding a cult following in indie-emo band Cap’n Jazz, the Kinsella’s went on (together as well as separately) to form quite a few bands that you can find in the Polyvinyl lineup, including Joan of Arc, Owls, Owen, and Their / They’re / There. If you enjoy the most perfect of math rock with a hint of old school emo (and I’m not talking Paramoresque emo pop-punk, mind you), then do yourself a favour and listen to some of these bands.
But there is certainly more to Polyvinyl than their roster of artists! It’s the little things that make this record label so lovable. They have a quirky little blog written by Chris, once a lowly mail order packager, now head of productions. Their twitter has #overheardinpvoffice, which gives us a little glimpse of what it’s like to be apart of the PV team, gems such as “Sorry, I don’t want to snot on you” and “Just ripped open Tom’s nutsack!” This label keeps us guessing. Who is this Tom, why was his nutsack ripped open? Questions we may never know the answer, but we know there is an answer, out there, somewhere…. But all out of all of these qualities, the one thing that is just the absolute cherry on top, the ultimate gesture that leaves you thinking Aw, this label is so sweet, they care about me! Order yourself one of their records, and you’ll receive that record…but, you’ll also receive an Airhead! Yes, the delightfully tangy chewy candy that comes in a plethora of flavours! Imagine the excitement of opening that flat, square box expecting that record that you’ve been oh so patiently waiting for, only to find included a delicious confectionery specimen, free of charge! Ok, so I have a huge sweet tooth, so it’s a big deal to me. Oh, and you get a sticker, too.
So what’s on the horizon? Indie glam-rockers of Montreal have a long-awaited documentary, “The Past is a Grotesque Animal” coming out on the 24th of June. To many fans delight, the original lineup of American Football has reunited and a deluxe reissue of the beloved debut is available. And be on the look out for up-and-comers Alvvays, who were the latest band to be added to the Polyvinyl family.
Trailer for The Past is a Grotesque Animal, Of Montreal documentary.
I’ll end this feature on this. I asked Polyvinyl to tell me anything that they thought worth knowing about their company, whether it be what they look for when signing bands, what the culture of the company is like, or even just what makes them special. They told me that “even as we’ve grown, we’ve kept the selection process pretty much the same. Most of the time we’re alerted of bands through artists we’ve already signed – it’s become this organic network of friends helping friends put out great music”.
Other PV Bands to Check Out:
Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltson
Music Video For “Young Presidents” by Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltson
Music Video for “The Hearse” by Wampire
If you’d like a little taste of what Polyvinyl has to offer, download their free sampler at https://www.polyvinylrecords.com/freesampler/