Support K Records
It’s who we are.
There was a time in our lives when indie music was a reason to wake up in the morning. One could easily place that time between 2002 and 2007, a good six years of pure fun and excitement even from our peripheral point of view: Bologna, Italy.
Back in 2006 I was listening to a lot of K Records music. In fact, I figured I had been listening to plenty of K Records music forever, so I took a somewhat crazy decision. I had just graduated and was pretty sure I wanted to write about indie rock when I was all grown up, so I gathered a bit of information and got in touch with the thing itself, with K.
It was all surprisingly quick and easy and, before I could even notice, I was an intern at my favorite label in the whole wide wide world: the early home of Beck and Modest Mouse and Built To Spill, the eternal home of the wonderful, still obscure but indeed seminal Beat Happening. Calvin Johnson’s band. Calvin Johnson’s label! What a hit.
A few things I remember with fondness. The (wonderful) people at K were always a bit skeptic about the fact that a 26 y.o. from Bologna, Italy would travel across the globe to work for free for a label which, even at the time, seemed to have lost a bit of its own magic sparkle. But so it goes, I mean, it was 2006 and things were shaping up to be the way they’re now: download was becoming big and for us Europeans, with the import taxes and all, buying music in a time of crisis was becoming more and more expensive. Just to mention one aspect of the ordeal. Anyway you could feel that the enthusiasm which had us eagerly listening to new records all the goddamn time was starting to fade out. Was starting to change into something else, at the very least. Something I cannot quite describe even now.
But, back to Olympia, Seattle… Those were great months. I learned a lot, was always treated with huge respect by Calvin and the people who worked there and felt, well, loved. Which is an important thing for someone who, then again, had actually spent a lot of money to experience something that would have been impossible to otherwise even fathom from the spot of the world where she had been born and standing (I had already studied in San Francisco and Paris at the time, but those are different stories). I had such a good time. I went to SXSW with the label while I lived in Oly, I met a lot of people, witnessed fantastic live gigs in venues we only dream of in Italy, bought a shit fucking ton of records that cost me so so much in extras at the airport, learned about how music was made, how myths come into existence, and a lot about the shield around the K, a tattoo that even Kurt Cobain had had drawn on his arm.
I was there where and when the beat was happening. Even if I could definitely feel it was about to end.
But for that same 26 y.o girl things really started to turn around when she got home. I basically started to work BECAUSE I worked at K: important journalists suddenly noticed what I was writing on my blogs, my favorite club in Bologna asked me to dj after The Organ’s concert (god, were they big at the time!) and, well, wanting to be a journalist myself, I got in the midst of a huge attention I had not anticipated at all. I even wrote an article about K Records which was, mmm, like 15 pages long for a big publication that I won’t mention. Why? I hold a grudge. They forgot to write my name on top. It was a mistake (or was it) but, still, that big effort does not bear Marina Pierri as an author, it just bears nothing. It’s basically as if I never signed that big K Records feature that I wrote with my heart on the tip of my fingers. You can imagine the disappointment; it still hurts now.
It’s been ten years since I came back from K Records in Olympia, Seattle. The world has changed so much. I have changed so much. Indie music, they say, is dead. Eventually I started focusing on tv series and film, and stopped writing about music altogether. I might begin again someday, but for now it just doesn’t feel like society has a great need or wish or desire for music writing. Call me traitor, call me quitter, but I need to make money with my writing, which is my job, and I abide.
So, it’s February 24th 2016 and I woke up to an article that made me really sad.
Olympia-based K Records-a bastion of DIY indie music since 1982-lately has been weathering some harsh criticism from…www.thestranger.com
I love Microphones and Kimya Dawson but I love Calvin Johnson more, so this article about K Records building up badwill from its own phenomenons made me cringe. Memories that had been buried suddenly surfaced as did thoughts of the faces I knew, struggles I witnessed. Because now I know that feeling of ending wasn’t really related to K Records but to what was going on in the indie music world in general. Something that in my head, and — I’m sure — in many other people’s heads, K stands as a monument for, a metaphor for, an ensign for.
Seems like the shield around the K has been rusting for a long time now, but so has THAT, that emotion, that hunger, that pleasure, that engagement, that need for independent music. Could it be?
Because, yes, K Records proves itself once again a metonymy for the movement it was so crucial in creating while I read the statements of a man, Calvin, who after all still declares that his creature will stand no matter what happens, who declares that he will find a way. And while he declares that, I feel like I’m hearing the cry of a thousand small labels who just don’t get the same attention from the media even as they face, everyday, death.
Support K Records. It doesn’t have to be like this. What we felt as burning voices and ears of the 2002–2007 indie era (can we call it that, now?) doesn’t need to end up in a pathetic box of nostalgic recollections of a time that was.
The beat might not be happening anymore in the ways we were accustomed to, but it’s hard to move on because we keep making sense of that beat using categories that do not exist anymore. We need new categories to even think about the artists we have loved and love.
We need to start imagining again. We need to start spending again in records, and gigs and t-shirts not as an act of charity but as an act of self-preservation. This is us, for Christ’s sake. It’s who we were, it’s who we are.