Exclusive: Wilco forms own label, aligns with Silver Lake's Anti- Records
Chicago's rock 'n' roll shape-shifters Wilco have formed their own label, dBpm Records, whose releases will be distributed and marketed by eclectic Silver Lake independent Anti- Records. A full announcement is expected soon.
"This is an idea we've discussed for years,” Wilco's Jeff Tweedy said via his publicist. “We really like doing things ourselves, so having our own label feels pretty natural to me. And, to be working with Anti- -- a label that was started by a punk rock guy to sell his own records -- seems like a perfect fit for us.”
Wilco became free agents after its 2009 Nonesuch release, "Wilco (The Album)," and the move marks not only a shift to the independent world for the band, but also quite possibly Anti-'s biggest coup since inking Tom Waits, whose 1999 album, "Mule Variations," was the label's first release. Anti- is an offshoot of Epitaph Records, the punk label founded by Bad Religion's Brett Gurewitz.
A timetable has not yet been given for a new album. An Anti- spokeswoman could not be reached for comment early Wednesday afternoon. Wilco spokeswoman Deb Bernardini said the band is currently recording its follow-up to "Wilco (The Album)" in Chicago.
The Wilco camp already has a connection with Anti-. Wilco architect Tweedy produced the most recent album from Chicago soul legend Mavis Staples, "You Are Not Alone," which was released last year on the label. At the time, Pop & Hiss spoke with Tweedy and asked the singer about the possibility of signing with Anti-, an adventurous imprint that's home to rock legends (Roky Erickson), rock weirdos (Waits), rock elegance (Neko Case) and rock mercenaries (Grinderman).
"I think they’re pretty smart," Tweedy said at the time. "I think they’re music lovers. I really respond to it. It’s very similar to the way I am. It’s a lot more like the way the world exists now than when I was growing up. There are less lines drawn in the sand between genres. Punk rock was a line in the sand for a lot of kids when I was growing up."
Tweedy had hinted that the band would soon be going the indie route. In the summer of 2010, Tweedy told Billboard that it "seems unlikely that we will be under the umbrella of a major label." Indeed, Wilco is already one of the more self-sufficient working rock bands. The band staged its first-ever festival, Solid Sound, in North Adams, Mass., last year, and will be bringing Solid Sound back to the area for Round 2 in June.
"As we reached the end of our last deal, it felt like it was time for a change, and the one thing we were certain we did NOT want to do was to sign another traditional recording agreement," said manager Tony Margherita via a written statement. "Our discussions with Anti-, coming on the back of a great experience working with them on the Mavis Staples record, led us to thinking we might be able to come up with something quite different from the norm that could potentially be better for us and, frankly, a lot more interesting."
Margherita will oversee the label, based in Easthampton, Mass. The label will release "all future Wilco recordings and more," according to the statement. As for what the "more" entails, details have not yet been unveiled.
Wilco tours endlessly, owns its own studio in Chicago -- the famed Loft is a drive-by tourist stop for rock geeks -- and is known to fund its own recordings. As for Anti-, the label is a subsidiary of Epitaph, and the imprints are no stranger to working big albums, having recently issued new sets from Weezer and this week's top 10 debut from Social Distortion.
Wilco has somewhat of a Los Angeles connection, as guitar slinger Nels Cline makes his home in the West, and Best Coast's Bobb Bruno, in his bunny guise, has been known to make an occasional appearance at a Wilco gig.
Wilco released three albums for Reprise Records, beginning with 1995's country rocker "A.M." and ending with the electronic-infused folk-pop of "Summerteeth" in 1999. The band was released from the Warner label after recording "Yankee Hotel Foxtrot," a split documented in Greg Kot's book "Learning How to Die" and Sam Jones' documentary "I Am Trying to Break Your Heart."
The album saw an eventual release on Nonesuch, another Warner-owned label, in 2002, and Nonesuch ultimately released four studio albums from the band, as well as various live projects. With the move to Anti-, Wilco doesn't entirely escape the Warner Music Group system, as releases from Anti- are ultimately distributed via the major's Alternative Distribution Alliance.
-- Todd Martens
Photo: Wilco in 2009. Credit: Jake Stevens / Los Angeles Times