Headless Owl carries indie talents to Whitehorse

Headless Owl has taken flight. At a time when digital records are pervasive, the tiny record label is turning a profit by selling limited-edition vinyl records.

Headless Owl has taken flight.

At a time when digital records are pervasive, the tiny record label is turning a profit by selling limited-edition vinyl records.

The label launched in early 2013 under the guidance of Yukoners Andrew Stratis and Kyle Cashen, who teamed up with Mathias Kom of The Burning Hell fame.

At the time, they set a goal of producing eight albums by 2013. So far, they have six down.

Now Yukoners have a chance to take in some of the talent they’ve signed.

Having recently produced indie godfather Michael Feuerstack’s new album Singer Songer, the label is throwing an album release show with the Frostbite Music Society this Sunday at the Yukon Arts Centre.

The show will feature two other bands on the label. The EONS is a solo project of Bruce Peninsula’s Matt Cully. This will be Cully’s first solo performance in the North, having played in Bruce Peninsula at the Dawson City Music Festival.

The Radars is one of the newest additions to the Headless Owl roster and are entirely homegrown featuring Jordy Walker, Micah Smith, and co-founder Cashen. The group will be accompanied by Scott Maynard.

Headless Owl fills a void created in 2007, after the unfortunate demise of Yukon’s only indie label, Caribou Records. At a time when digital downloading cut deep into pockets of records labels across the globe, Caribou was one of the many that had to fold.

But as Headless Owl has found, to many music aficionados both young and old, vinyl is in. Go to a merchandise table at any of today’s music festivals or venues and you’ll find it there.

“The reason why people are still digging vinyl is because there’s something inherently valuable about it. It’s globally important to people to have music around them and to have a ritual around doing it. The same way that it is with coffee and whatever else,” says Cashen.

Vinyl makes music tangible again, he says. People listen to music all the time, it’s everywhere: playing in the car, at work, on an iPod. But the vinyl revolution speaks to those who want to experience music in a different way, slowing it down, making it count.

It appears that the musicians who work with Headless Owl, too, get a specialized experience.

While only established artists with similarly established fan bases need apply, Headless Owl’s founders say they have no desire for the competitiveness and exploitation found on the big label end of the music industry spectrum. Freedom and collaboration are keywords. Co-founder Andrew Stratis breaks down the process.

“The way we essentially decide what we’re gong to do with an album is the three of us get together, talk about it, and see if we loved (the artist) – casual liking is not enough. We make sure that we are all passionate enough about it to want to spend the money and time on it. But then we also email the artist and say, OK, this is what we want to do, what we’re prepared to offer, this is what our contract looks like. But if that’s not what you’re looking for, we completely understand.”

Becoming the next Universal is not on radar. Tapping into the rise of vinyl with products that are unique, specially crafted, limited and artist-approved puts the label in a niche market.

Headless Owl Records isn’t seeing much profit just yet. But this doesn’t concern Stratis.

“My girlfriend asked me about this when we started. ‘How are you going to measure success?’ I said, well, you have to define success in a different way. Normally we pay our publicist to get music on blogs and get it onto CBC. We get a lot of positive responses on the projects we work on and the albums we make. So that’s how you have to measure success for a little while especially working in the music industry where there’s not a lot of money to be had.

“We’re not bleeding money but we’re not rolling around in millions before we go to bed.”

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