Though K Records are based in Olympia, Washington, the heart ot the US indie and grunge scene, they have an international outlook with connections in Scotland. As well as co-owner Calvin Johnson being the force behind Beat Happening, he and Candice P find time to issue records by the likes of the Pastels, Bis and Heavenly. We talked to Candice P, co-owner of K, while Steven Pastel gave us the lowdown on the label and Bis's manager John Williamson chipped in.
Was the label actually set up as a vehicle for the Beat Happening or more to promote (other) bands you liked?
CP: K exists as a label to put out punk rock. It's a "vehicle" for no particular band.
So there's no worry that other K artists may be overshadowed by Beat Happening, or indeed the Halo Benders?
CP: No. Each band clearly stands on its own. Each project is equally important to us.
How did the Beat Happening get involved with the Vaselines/53rd & 3rd?
CP: It's a very small world. We all liked some of the same music and through letter writing hooked up.
Similarly, how did you come across Melody Dog? (Steven-produced duo featuring Katriona, now of the Pastels)
CP: I met them in 1990, as they are friends of the Pastels.
Steven, How did you first come across K?
SP: The first Beat Happening was out on Rough Trade at the time and I saw the name, liked the look and decided to buy it... I think there was a small buzz around the Rough Trade people at the time. Anyway, I really loved the lp and wrote to Calvin to say hi, I think I might have sent him somePastels records. He'd already heard the Pastels anyway and we had stuff in common. So we put their 2nd lp Jambouree out in Europe on 53rd and 3rd - and were proud to do so.
And the Pastels also released a single on K - do you still have connections there?
SP: Still in touch with one and other, we've worked with Alan Larson from Some Velvet Sidewalk, and had Lois play live in the Byres Road shop. And the Pastels played at CMJ last September. We feel an affinity or spiritual bond to K - the likes of K and Drag City aren't part of the corporate bullshit but are doing things that are relevant and exciting and have their own aesthetic, on the periphery of CMJ. They have a simplicity of approach and honesty but are also inspiring - completely unique... consistently interesting.
Is a lot of the stuff you get in from demos? Your web page is very clear about the do's and don't of these!
CP: We get tons of demos, but have NEVER worked with a band that we didn't already have a personal relationship with.
What do you look for? ok, obviously great music, but are there any particular styles you're more/less amenable?
CP: We like punk rock. We have released punk, pop, hiphop, orchestral...
And the Scotish connection continues?
CP: Yes, we have released a bis/Heavenly split 7"
John, how did bis get hooked up with K?
JW: The band were friendly with someone at K's UK distributor and a combination of things meant this was really on the cards for a while. Also bis toured the US in January so this single is really just a lot of loose threads coming tgether.
Any other K releases planned?
JW: It'll be more difficult to do one-off singles now they have a record deal sorted out though nothing's impossible.
The styles on the label are pretty varied - Snuff and Heavenly after all. Do these bands come to you looking for a US deal or did you hunt them out after hearing them?
CP: No one hunts. We met Snuff while they were touring the US. I was a Talulah Gosh fan and when I heard of Heavenly (through Everett True) I called Amelia and that's how it happened.
Do you think its practical to have 'commercial success' through an independent?
CP: Why not! We are hot against success.
I know that Beck did one lp and went to Geffen; was it necessary for him to do that (huge advances and other 'perks' aside)?
CP: I can't speak for Beck, but I do know that he loves K.
Looks like he's not the only one... forthcoming on K: Beat Happening reissues, Built To Spill and Talulah Gosh compilations. The Pastels/Alan Larsen 'Sandy Dirt' ep as well as full length records from Karo and the Spofties have alsop recently appeared.
K are distributed in the UK by Southern meaning they should be available in most good record shops (but especially John Smiths!)
Reprinted from bigwig 1996