As anyone who’s ever tried to use a cellphone outside of Whitehorse knows, the Yukon is not a high-tech mecca. So it’s kind of fitting that the territory’s newest record label is doing things the old fashioned way.
Headless Owl Records is set on putting out new music on vinyl records.
The boutique label is mostly a labour of love, said co-founder and Whitehorse-based musician, Kyle Cashen.
“We know we’re never going to make a profit,” he said.
But Andrew Stratis, Cashen’s business partner, who has financed everything so far with his credit card, is a little more optimistic.
“It might not be ‘never make a profit,’” he said. But he’s resigned to the fact that it’s going to take a bit of time before the label finds its footing.
They formed the label in late last summer.
“We wanted to see something happen so we figured the easiest way to do it was just to do it ourselves,” said Stratis.
“Andrew just has a massive record collection and I’d just go over to his place and we’d drink coffee, eat food and just listen to records and talk shit,” said Cashen.
That’s how they came up with the idea of creating their own record label.
“We started talking about it as if it was real even though we hadn’t made any steps to make it real,” said Cashen. “We kind of trapped ourselves into it.”
When they ran the idea past their mutual friend, St. John’s-based musician Mathias Kom, he jumped on board, and the duo became a trio.
While the label is very much a group project, it was Stratis who came up with the name.
Last winter, on his way back from Haines Junction, Stratis saw an owl sitting on the road ahead.
“I couldn’t swerve but I thought, ‘It’s going to get out of the way,’” he said. “Turns out it did not get out of the way.”
Stratis hit it with his truck and decapitated it.
“I figured the best way to honour this owl that I killed was to name something after it.”
On Feb. 20, Headless Owl Records will release its first album, a 10-inch LP by Mathias’s band The Burning Hell.
The record, Old New Borrowed Blue, will be a limited release of 250 units to start.
The smaller size and the custom-made, 180-gram, blue-marble-coloured vinyl records are expensive to produce, but they’re the kind of thing that record lovers, like him, go crazy for, said Stratis.
They’ve already got several artists on board and an entire year of releases planned out. However, they are tightlipped about the roster.
At the moment, the plan is to produce the records and merchandise and distribute it through their website www.headlessowl.com.
The focus is on established artists who already have a fan base and a platform to spur on sales.
“Most of them are people that are already on labels that just want to do a special project like a one-off,” said Cashen.
The response has been great so far, he said.
“It’s also the kind of thing that artists sort of geek out about,” said Cashen. It’s very much project focused.
“We want to do things that focus more on the experience of an entire album and really kind of slow everything down and focus on quality instead of mass producing,” said Cashen.
That’s why they’re set on vinyl.
“There’s something to vinyl,” said Stratis. “Playing a record is an experience.”
The analogue format means you to listen to songs that you might otherwise skip over if it were on a digital format, he said.
“When you put a record on, it’s a pain in the ass to skip songs so you force your way through and I’ve found a lot of songs that I like by listening to the record,” said Stratis.
It also sounds better, said Cashen.
“You hear things in a different way,” he said. “If you’ve only ever heard the digital version of something and then you listen to the vinyl it’s a completely different experience.”
Next year they plan to release eight albums and a compilation record made up of unreleased tracks from every artist they produce.
“And for the year-end we have big plans,” said Stratis, though he wouldn’t elaborate on what those are.
Contact Josh Kerr at email@example.com