There has been a lot in the media over the last few years about the decline and fall of the traditional record label. Wyatt Parkins’ label Saint Marie Records, which is based in Fort Worth in Texas, is, however, not so much functioning, but flourishing.

It has been a little over a year since Parkins released in February Saint Marie Records’ first two releases, Patrik Torsson’s fourth album, ‘At the Line of the Border’ and Niels Nielsen’s ‘Welcome to the Promising Land of Hi5ers and Hopeless People’.

In the time since then, Saint Marie Records has gone on to release another ten releases. Parkins has declared his ambition is to keep “the hard format alive, alongside digital,” and Saint Marie’s releases have been presented largely on CD and sometimes in vinyl in beautiful and artistic packaging.

Other releases so far have included ‘Always the Light', the debut album of Elika, a Brooklyn duo, who mix together a shoegazing sound and electronica, and also ‘Sugar’, an album from the Sunshine Factory, a Gulf Coast act, whose music combines together psychedelia and a late 80’s/early 90’s dream pop influence.

Part of the reason why Wyatt Parkins has been to release so much quickly is that he has the backing of a Seattle-based venture capitalist Anthony Davis. Much of Saint Marie Records’ rapid ascension, however, also comes down simply to Parkins' energy and enthusiasm.

Saint Marie Records has become best known as a shoegazing or dream pop label, but it also specialises in electronica and indie rock and pop. There are currently over twenty acts signed to its roster, and over the next few months Parkins is planning several more releases.

These include 'Life Has Not Finished With Me Yet', the eleventh album of London-based post-rockers, Piano Magic; an expanded edition of ‘Telepathic’, the 2011 fourth studio album of Chicago indie pop duo, L’Altra; Blood’, the debut long solo player of Austin, Texas-based industrial act Bloody Knives, and the first album of Lotte Kestner, the new solo project of Seattle-based musician and former Trespassers William front woman Anna-Lynne Williams. Saint Marie will also be releasing a B –sides and rarities compilation from folk/shoegazing outfit Trespassers William, who broke up on New Year’s Day after sixteen years together.

Pennyblackmusic spoke to Wyatt Parkins and Anthony Davis about Saint Marie’s rise and success.


PB: Saint Marie Records seems in many ways to be a glorious throwback to classic labels such as 4AD, Nude and Factory Records in that its puts a strong emphasis on quality releases and sublime packaging. What are you looking for when you sign an act to your roster? Do you just have to be passionate about it, or is there more to it than that?

WP: We are all about passion. The artist’s passion for their music, our passion for the artist’s music, our passion for this industry and reviving what it means to be a record label, and of course the fan’s passion for the music. When I am considering a new band for us , it is all about how much they move me ,and if I am not in love with the music it will not bear the SMR logo.

PB: In this age of the internet in which so many labels have folded and more and more acts are self-releasing their own material, what can a label like Saint Marie Records offer bands or acts who sign to it?

WP: We are diving into this business head first. What people should know is that we are not experienced music executives. Instead we are successful business people with a huge passion for the genres of music that the label supports.

Since we did not come from this industry we are not trying to make the old record label business models work in the internet age. Instead we are working with our artists, working with the revenue streams available to us and creating a business that understands how to execute a strategy that will be profitable for our artists and for us.

What does this all mean to an artist? Well, it means we are hungry, and hungry people get off their asses and perform. We are not sitting around saying that physical sales are going to come back and turn the industry around. Instead we are investing in dedicated staff to drive licensing. We dump tons of cash into every artist’s PR and marketing campaigns, and put an emphasis on social marketing and placements that are going to attract the attention of music supervisors who can place our songs in high traffic television shows and movies.

I don't track every label out there but people are telling us that no one is doing what we are doing.

PB: Beyond excellent releases and packaging, what can it offer to music fans and the general public?

WP: A steady stream of excellent releases as well as constant communication regarding the goings on of the label and its artists. We are very active online including Facebook, Twitter and saintmarierecords.com.

PB: Saint Marie's first signing was with the Swedish musician Patrik Torsson album, 'At the Line of the Border'. Many of the label owners we have talked to in the past have put out their first release, and not even started thinking about a second release until the first one is in the shops, often using the money made from the first release to finance the second one. It seems that Saint Marie had more of a plan. Certainly the next batch of releases from Niels Nielsen, the Sunshine Factor and Sway all followed very quickly afterwards. How quickly did you start thinking about Saint Marie's next releases once you had agreed to release Patrik's album?

WP: Actually, as soon as Patrik and I agreed on the release, I started looking for the second release. I wanted to start the label with two releases right out of the gate. The Torsson record and the record by Niels Nielsen, who is also from Sweden, were released on the same day. I am always two to three releases ahead in my mind.

PB: Wyatt, you said at this time last year that you hoped to put out 50% shoegazing releases and 50% releases in other formats. Yet it seems that in many ways Saint Marie has become recognised predominantly as a shoegazing label. Even Anna-Lynne Williams from Lotte Kestner and formerly Trespassers William has said "Wyatt's become known as the shoegazing label." Do you still hope to stick to that initial plan or do you think that, given the reputation the label has developed, there will be more shoegazing releases?

WP: I think it is great that we are known as the shoegaze label, but I don’t want to have that be a limitation. We have had and will have many great releases that do not fit that genre. Patrik Torsson, Niels Nielsen, the Spiracles, Piano Magic, L’Altra, Lotte Kestner etc. Shoegaze/dreampop will continue to dominate a large percentage of our releases.

PB: You have got a day job as a business analyst for a security firm chain. You are also married with two young children. How easy is it balancing your working life and parenthood with running a rapidly expanding label such as Saint Marie Records?

WP: It is not easy and I would not even consider it if I didn’t love running the label so much.

PB: Anthony, as a venture capitalist you have largely invested your money in the past in technology. What was the appeal to you of investing your money in Saint Marie Records?

AD: It is a mix of Wyatt and the business model. Wyatt has great energy and is so passionate about this genre that he is going to be successful no matter what. I on the other hand got excited about the business model. It is very much like the venture capital model where you invest money into ten businesses and hope one of them makes enough money to cover your losses on the previous nine. We are doing the same thing except with smaller amounts of money and with artists.

PB: The Elika album , ‘Always the Light’, came out in vinyl as well as on CD and digital. Was this a trial experiment or will all other new Saint Marie releases also have a vinyl edition?

WP: It is definitely a trial, but hopefully one that is successful. Vinyl is great, but much more expensive than CD or digital. Our next vinyl release will be the L’Altra album later this summer.

PB: The artists page of your website features a lot of artists from all over the world -the Blessed Isles, Bloody Knives, broaddaylight, the Flir, L'Altra, Lotte Kestner, Presents for Sally and Tip Top Tellix to name but just a few of them-who are yet to release records through Saint Marie Records. Is your plan to eventually release records by all of them?

WP: Yes, they are all hard at work on their first SMR releases, in which most will “drop” sometime this year or early next year.

PB: The label's next big release will be the London-based cult act Piano Magic's eleventh album, 'Life Has Not Finished With Me Yet'. How did Saint Marie become involved with them? Will you be releasing that album worldwide or is it something that is just exclusive to the United States?

WP: Piano Magic has been one of my favourite acts for the last ten years. Glen and I have been friends most of that time. He and I started communucating mostly by email shortly after I bought my first Piano Magic record. I even managed the Piano Magic website for a while some years ago.

We will be co-releasing the album with Second Language which is Glen's own label. It will come out on SMR in North America and Second Language everywhere else.

PB: You are also going to be putting out an album of rarities by Trespassers William, who broke up at the beginning of the year. Could you say more about that?

WP: We signed Anna-Lynne to release her next Lotte Kestner album earlier this year. Once I realized that Trespassers Willam was going to be no more, I started asking her about the possibility of doing a final rarities release. Anna-Lynne and Matt were both excited about the idea and felt it would be great to give their many loyal fans a final release to say goodbye with. The two-disc album is currently in production, and a release date will soon be set.

PB: After the Piano Magic album what will be the immediate next set of releases for Saint Marie Records?

WP: Panda Riot - ’Serious Radical Girls’ on seven inch
L’Altra – expanded/remastered ‘Telepathic’ album on CD/digital/double vinyl
Bloody Knives – ‘Blood’ album on CD/digital.
Trespassers William – ‘Cast’ rarities and B-sides double album on CD/digital.

PB: Thank you.















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