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Ten years of Wichita Recordings

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Bethan Elfyn Bethan Elfyn | 11:55 UK time, Friday, 30 April 2010

This year one of my favourite record labels, Wichita Recordings, will be celebrating its 10th anniversary. From Simian Mobile Disco through to Euros Childs, First Aid Kit, The Cribs, Conor Oberst and many many more, I've had countless amazing nights out thanks to the label, and many an evening in drenched in incredible music thanks to Wichita Recordings.

I thought it was time to pay my respects to the incredible achievement, and catch up with head honcho, and Cardiff boy, Mark Bowen, to see what the highs and lows of the past 10 years have been.

Mark Bowen

I've met Mark a handful of times, at Glastonbury two years ago watching Sky Larkin, at Primavera last year watching Neil Young and Sonic Youth, at SXSW this year at his own showcase with The Wave Pictures, and one thing stands out, well he does for starters, a giant of a man, but also - he's funny, friendly, obsessed with music, and incredibly down to earth.

Hi Mark. What you up to today?

It's a busy day in the office, following the premiere of Kele's new single on Radio One last night, and then this afternoon I'm off to Nottingham to see one of my favourite bands in the world, Times New Viking.

Could you give us a bit of background? You're a Cardiff lad aren't you?

Kairdiff born and bred like my parents. I'm from Splott, I went to college in Liverpool at 18, met Martin Carr and my life changed irrevocably.

Congrats on the label reaching 10 years. Tell me more about the plans for 10th anniversary celebrations. Have you got some special releases planned?

Thank you. Its gone so fast! Well we did a bunch of releases for Record Store Day that were historically significant or hard to find. We're hosting stages at Stag and Dagger, Great Escape, and Lounge on the Farm Festivals. There's a party at Primavera in Barcelona. Then on the anniversary itself we have a week of special shows at the garage in London, with tons of our bands headlined by the Cribs, Los Campesinos!, First Aid Kit, Lissy Trullie. There's more coming that I can't mention yet. I still need to plan one in Cardiff though, if you know anyone who can help!

Ten years ago, what inspired you to start a record label?

Dick Green, my partner and I had worked together at Creation Records and when that ended we wanted to do something "back to basics" on a smaller scale so we ran Wichita out of our respective bedrooms for five years.

What was the first release?

Bright Eyes' Fevers And Mirrors, a pretty good start. He'd put out an album and some demos in the US and I thought he was already a big star. I only found out recently that he'd only sold 900 records at that point.

What have been your favourite moments in the past 10 years?

Far too many to mention, and they keep coming. Only this week The Bronx played the Barbican in their Mariachi guise which if you'd told me would happen seven years ago I'd have laughed. So, so many though. The rise of The Cribs, Bloc Party, playing huge shows, Bright Eyes having two records in the US top 10. The first Yeah Yeah Yeahs and My Morning Jacket tours. Los Campesinos! at Koko, SMD at Roundhouse. Mainly gigs, I guess. Bloc Party having a number one midweek album, on the night of the Cardiff show with all my family there. The Cribs midweeking above The Beatles. YYYs going top 40. It's been an amazing trip.

You've certainly got an eclectic roster of artists. What's the common thread, and what attracts you to signing certain bands?

We've always said that the label just reflects our record collections or listening at home. There's times when I want to listen to Judee Sill/First Aid Kit, or Husker Du/The Bronx, or Plastikman/SMD. Like anyone, we listen to all kinds of stuff and the only things they have in common is that we think they're special and we're hopelessley in love with them.

Are you planning to keep running the label for another 10 years?

If people will still have us, and I haven't been asked to manage the Bluebirds in their first season in the Premiership...

Go check out all their fabulous music and bands and all the 10th anniversary gigs at wichita-recordings.com, and to follow Mark on Twitter he's @wichitarecs.



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