SUICIDE SQUEEZE RECORDS
The Pacific Northwest music community has a long tradition of reacting to its relative geographic isolation by forgoing standard industry protocol in favor of forging its own path. Maybe its something in the water—some sort of intoxicant that’s fueled underground rock scenes ever since The Wailers and The Sonics got out of the garage and started performing in any hole-in-the-walls that would have them. It’s a phenomenon that fell into the limelight in the early ‘90s when a handful of Washington groups inadvertently harnessed the zeitgeist of a generation who were tired of the panache and excess of the ‘80s. Though grunge was the most widely recognized manifestation of this musical counterculture, it was alongside the twee-core of K Records, the art-rock of Kill Rock Stars, and the cerebral pop of Up Records that Suicide Squeeze Records founder David Dickenson carved his niche.
Starting with a 7” from the stripped-down indie duo 764-Hero, Dickenson used his label to release singles and EPs by local acts like Modest Mouse, Elliott Smith, and Pedro The Lion. These artists were to become indie royalty, and by extension, Suicide Squeeze grew from a part-time hobby into a full-time operation. The label stepped up from the 7” game and began issuing full-length albums by growing Seattle exports like The Magic Magicians, Minus The Bear, Past Lives, and These Arms Are Snakes. By the time the label hit it’s 10-year birthday, it boasted releases by The Black Keys, Of Montreal, Melvins, Russian Circles, Black Mountain, Les Savy Fav, Hella, Black Heart Procession, and Iron & Wine.
Over the past nineteen years, the Suicide Squeeze roster has grown from a stable of regional indie rock bands into a diverse, international array of artists. The current line-up includes the ecstatic Southern feminist garage rock of The Coathangers, the dusty Texan doom-drone of This Will Destroy You, the Canadian noise-punk of Nü Sensae, the analog blitz of Seattle’s primitive punkers VHS, the bucolic studio explorations of Michael Nau, the sardonic social commentary party anthems of Childbirth, the Orange County power-pop of Audacity, the riotous rock n’ surf revival of Guantanomo Baywatch, the American Primitive Guitar compositions of Shana Cleveland & The Sandcastles, and the nostalgic beauty of Julia Kugel’s singer-songwriter project White Woods. In addition, the label has issued one-off releases by the likes of luminaries such as The Black Keys, Of Montreal, and Melvins.
Despite this growth, Suicide Squeeze rejected the common label practice of throwing a bunch of stuff at a wall to see what sticks. The label avoids issuing more than five LPs a year, preferring instead to make sure every release gets the full and proper attention it deserves. Additionally, 7”s are still a beloved format at Suicide Squeeze, even in the millennial age of the mp3. While keeping abreast with the times with digital download options, Suicide Squeeze continues to cater to vinyl collectors and music fans that enjoy the tactile experience of putting a record on the turntable. It’s a mission that falls in line with the aims of those early Northwest musical pioneers—to make something for the pure joy of it, and not because it mirrors the prevalent industry standard.