Now, perhaps more than ever, it’s important for us to take a moment to appreciate the engines keeping dreams alive. The life of a young independent music label can be tumultuous and uncertain, often ephemeral—especially difficult in the modern era of music. While their small size doesn’t afford the same security or profile of the big names, this is the very reason we look to them—a reprieve the same old mass-produced, cookie cutter stardom.
Often, when we think of indie labels, the first thing that comes to mind is their ethos: a level of eccentricity and passionate commitment that breeds belief, and often leads to astronomical success as a result. Some labels are known for niche, genre-specific artists, some are known for their cohesive aesthetic, and some are loved for the spirit they embody, the passion that has defined small labels since long before their proliferation in the punk movement.
As we reconcile an industry decimated by the global pandemic, tapping into the devil-may-care determination and DIY aesthetic of our favorite bands and labels can be a fantastic source of inspiration. For me, one such beacon of hope has been Nice Swan Records, formed in London in 2016.
Nice Swan has come under the spotlight for some massive successes and a flurry of exciting releases—without a doubt proving itself as a successful incubator for some of the UK’s most promising artists. Recently, for example, Nice Swan has seen label alum Sports Team’s Deep Down Happy (released under Island Records in June 2020) rank at number 2 on the UK Albums Chart behind Lady Gaga’s Chromatica, as well as being nominated for a Mercury Award. Nice Swan Records was responsible for Sports Team’s debut EP Winter Nets (2018), which catapulted the group to wide acclaim. When it comes to their current roster, Nice Swan boasts an astonishing array of talent and promise, with standouts such as FUR, Hotel Lux, Sprints, Courting, and debutants Malady—just to name a few!
Nice Swan’s roster reads like a watchlist of the UK’s most exciting acts—a collection of unabashed, raucous indie bands sprawling out of England's resurgent (or, perhaps, eternal) punk and post-punk scene. This is a group that exemplifies a sense of community that we have been desperately missing since the start of COVID-19. The artists on the label, from the fuzz-fueled post-punk drive of Silverbacks or the jazz fusion experimentalism of Jelly Cleaver, are united by an undeniable commitment to selfhood, playfulness and poignance.
Without any clear end in sight for the pandemic, we look to the artists we love for inspiration, just as we always have. If you’re looking for a brilliant collection of such artists committed to the spirit of unapologetic self-expression, the roster of Nice Swan Records is a perfect place to start. We—like our favorite independent labels—can fashion remarkable beauty against the odds we face, finding and fostering community in the process.
[Image courtesy @niceswanrecords]