Independiente’s artistic and commercial breakthrough came remarkably quickly. Riding the Britpop wave, Travis’s 1999 release The Man Who was soon sitting in one in eight homes in the UK, opening the way for Coldplay and Snow Patrol.
Andy Macdonald, Independiente’s founder and managing director, signed the Glaswegian band in 1997. “I heard a cassette of All I Want To Do Is Rock and Funny Thing; one was a manic feedbacky song and the other a gentle ballad so I was intrigued to see what else the group could do,” he says.
Impressed by their range and maturity, Macdonald signed them, putting out the first album, Good Feeling, in September of that same year. The first record did not bring overnight commercial success, but Macdonald, who measures success by cultural impact as well as sales figures, was confident.
He was proved right. The second album broke the band, selling over five million copies. Despite being ridiculed as musical suicide by some reviewers at the time, and still disliked by many today, it would be hard to deny that Travis are an important link in musical history. The phenomenally successful Britpop era was running out of steam and Travis’s soft guitar tunes paved the way for the melodic rock of recent years.
The next artist to join the label was Paul Weller. Macdonald had released his albums on his previous label, Go! Discs. Although not as touted as Wild Wood, on Independiente Weller released the number one album Illumination.
In the early noughties, Macdonald made a further similar signing with Embrace. “I had Travis playing at T in the Park and an hour before they went on stage I nipped across to another tent to see Embrace and thought what they were capable of live was amazing.”
At the time the band were signed to Hut but their manager rang up when they were looking for a deal and Macdonald was impressed by Danny McNamara’s writing. He signed them and put out Out Of Nothing in 2004, followed by This New Day in 2006. Both albums went to number one.
But with post-Britpop music passing out of fashion, will Independiente’s profile diminish? Macdonald is confident it will not. “That music is still doing well if it’s good enough,” he says, “and we’ve never been genre-specific despite the label’s first few signings.”
A look at Independiente’s roster provides testimony to this – the guitar bands are augmented by a number of diverse acts. Macdonald signed South London UK garage collective So Solid Crew in 2001. “They were all teenagers or in their early twenties, but they didn’t really need development as there is lots and lots of talent there.” Debut album They Don’t Know included the number one single 21 Seconds.
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Independiente has also released records by the late R&B diva Aaliyah, Swedish singer Stina Nordenstam, as well as British musician David Ford.
In May, Martina Topley-Bird will release her new album, The Blue God. Macdonald describes her as “a phenomenal singer with a really beautiful voice and good writing talent.”
He is also enthusiastic about African band Tinariwen. “Some music is just so beautiful that people should be exposed to it.”
This year the label is returning to guitar music, developing a rock band from Australia, Howling Bells. But as well as putting out good music, Independiente is committed to the industry and what it can do for good. 2005’s Help! A Day in the Life was the label’s contribution for the charity War Child.
In the future Macdonald wants to keep Independiente’s roster down to about seven artists. The music business may be in trouble, he says, but music is not.
“The music coming from the UK is just about to be very good. The stuff I’m hearing on a weekly basis includes a whole raft of interesting bands. Music is so ubiquitous – the whole world is turning into one big jukebox.”
Introduction: When Go! Discs was taken over in 1996, Andy Macdonald decided to found a new label.
History: Travis (above) signed in 1997 and brought the label success two years later with The Man Who. Paul Weller joined a few years later followed by Embrace, Gomez, former Tricky vocalist Martina Topley-Bird and David Ford. Recent additions include Howling Bells and Tinariwen.
What they say: “I like to find culturally interesting music and artists I get on well with,” says Andy Macdonald.
Notable acts past and present:Travis, Paul Weller, Embrace and So Solid Crew .
Top tips for 2008: Topley-Bird releases new album The Blue God on 12May.
Pub fact: The Independiente building is haunted by the ghost of a soldier.
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