Pretty Green

Shoegaze in a New Decade: Northern Star Records

Scott Causer is the co-founder of Northern Star Records, an independent record label that is dedicated to unearthing the best sounds that the underground psychedelic and shoegaze scene has to offer. Home to the critically acclaimed Psychedelica series of compilation albums, the label has launched a multitude of bands and simultaneously featured some of the big names of the industry. Causer recently talked to Britpop News and here traces the constellations of the label’s history and speculates its starry future.

Driven by the influence of a life-long love of psychedelic music, Causer co-founded Northern Star Records with Andy Oliver in 2005 and launched it in March 2006. He puts the creation of the label down to demand (“At the time no-one was putting out the music I like. It was pretty much as simple as that,”) but admits the beginnings of the idea were inspired earlier – when he witnessed an exceptional live set of an unsigned band.

“I was in the Atlas Bar in Manchester for the annual In The City festival and a bunch of 18 year olds came onstage and proceeded to blow my mind. They reminded me of a more psychedelic Stone Roses. They were unsigned and I couldn’t believe no-one had picked them up. I knew there and then that I had to start a label. I took a demo and held onto it for future reference. That band was Pioneer 4 who was featured on our very first release, Psychedelica Volume 1.”

The first volume of Psychedelica was no incidental creation, instead coming together through much thought and interaction with the music scene after Causer moved to London and formed his band The Electric Mainline.

“We’d put up a MySpace page and bands started getting in touch like The Black Angels, Stevenson Ranch Davidians, The Dolly Rocker Movement, The Vandelles. We were swapping demos with these bands and no-one had signed any of them up to this point. We wanted to do a release, so I hit up on the idea of doing a compilation with these bands. I’d recently reviewed The Brian Jonestown Massacre and The Telescopes and also asked them. Both bands agreed to come on board and in March 2006 Psychedelica Volume 1 was born.”

On the album name (a play on Screamadelica), Causer elaborates: “The bands who were sending us music all had a common thread. Although the bands were all very different, the music was essentially psychedelia.”

Gaining cult status in the process, the Psychedelica series has been the launch for many psychedelic bands including The Black Angels, The December Sound, The Dolly Rocker Movement, The Vandelles and The Hiss. The series has also featured bands like the Brian Jonestown Massacre, The Telescopes, The Electric Prunes, Brian Ritchie (Violent Femmes) and Kim Deal (Pixies/Breeders). But, as Causer explains, the series doesn’t aspire to carry only the big names of the industry and takes pride in being a launching pad for new psychedelic bands.

“The main inspiration behind the whole series … was to expose the new bands we loved to a wider audience and it’s continued in that vein.”

Northern Star Records’ discography goes well beyond the Psychedelica series, with a huge diversity of releases from the acts it has signed including The Nova Saints, Dead Leaf Echo, The Lost Rivers and Punk TV.

2013 is already looking to be busy for Northern Star Records. Both Psychedelica 5 and a new Electric Mainline release are due out in May, with Youngteam’s second album set for release later in the year.

“I’m also going to be working with a fantastic band from Scotland called The Early Morning Satellites. There’s a couple more bands I wouldn’t mind working with too, they know who they are and if it’s meant to happen, it will happen. Other than that there’s no real big masterplan, I kind of make it up as I go along but as long as there’s great new music out there I’ll continue to find it and put it out there for the beautiful people to find.”

It’s this passion that Causer’s always ran with, but he admits his ambitions for the label have changed since its founding.

“When I started Northern Star I thought world domination was inevitable purely on the basis of how great the music was and is. Seven years on and now I realize how naïve this was, but there is undoubtedly a real beauty in naivety. However, I still believe and although our reach is small, our influence stretches far and wide.”

As for the future, Causer seems set to remain driven by the same philosophy the label was founded on.

“Whatever happens in life I believe Northern Star will have its place in music history. I’ve always believed that and the fact that I feel we’re doing something very special and important is keeps me going. Whether it happens now or whether people will appreciate us 20 years after we’re gone is another matter, but if I didn’t think that I what I was doing was so important and so beautiful, I wouldn’t do it.”

Motivated by and justly proud of the successes of Northern Star Records, Causer is assured by experience.

“We made everyone realise that by pulling together we could make a difference and make things happen and we have achieved so much with so little. The fact that we’re still going strong seven years later, and still sell out shows and records without any outside help from the music industry, is testament to the fact that we’re doing something that people believe in.”

And believe in it people do. In the cluttered, ever-expanding universe of the music industry, there exists an underground of brilliant new psychedelic artists who stay true to their music yet remain the unsighted comets of our time. Orbiting the same love of music as the artists are a legion of loyal music fans: spacemen who dodge space junk in search of legendary showers of cosmic colour. And Northern Star Records? The intergalactic catalyst for their celestial meetings.

Psychedelica 5 is due out in May. Full track listing and pre-order details here:

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