An independent label based in Brighton on England’s South Coast, FatCat is renowned for the high quality of its output and the broad diversity of sounds, styles and approaches that the label and its various imprints (Splinter Series / 130701 / Split Series / 7” Series / E-RMX) has nurtured. Perhaps best known for the discovery of artists such as Sigur Ros, Múm and Animal Collective, as well as being instrumental in the re-emergence of Vashti Bunyan, the label has consistently unearthed and helped develop a stream of new talent.
Fired by an enthusiasm for the sounds then emerging from Detroit and Chicago, FatCat began life in 1990 as a tiny independent record store in the London satellite town of Crawley. Ending up in a small, dimly-lit basement in Covent Garden, the shop rapidly grew to gain a strong reputation as one of the country’s finest outlets for electronic music. Regular visitors to the shop included the likes of Jeff Mills, Juan Atkins, Ritchie Hawtin, Andy Weatherall, Steve Bicknell, Aphex Twin, and many others. Besides being a major supporter of quality techno / house, FatCat became closely associated with and an early champion of the UK electronica scene that began to emerge in the early ‘90s.
The very first FatCat release (the ‘EVA’ EP by Japanese producer Web) arrived in November 1996, yet it wasn’t until the shop was forced to close down in August 1997 that the label really started. Initially given space under the shelter of One Little Indian (both Björk and OLI owner Derek Birkett were regularly shop customers), the label spent its first year releasing a stream of 12” singles that quickly debunked the preconception that FatCat would continue life after the shop as a techno label. From the start, the label began to open up a more challenging and genre-defying space for itself, attempting to escape the fixity of any easily identifiable label sound or style, and to instead open out a more adventurous and broad-ranging spectrum of music. This early period also saw the launch of its pioneering and influential Split Series, a strikingly designed and boldly conceived output of records that would pit divergent styles and producers against one another, guiding the label into increasingly uncharted territory.
In late 1998, after releasing nearly a dozen 12” singles, FatCat left One Little Indian and went fully independent. Moving to a new office in Old Street, the label began to release its first albums, and attempted to build up an initial roster of artists - from the narcotic guitar haze of Transient waves to the improvised hiphop group Live Human; the post-rock explorations of Mice Parade and Fonn, to the pulsing, minimalist electronica of Process and Various Artists.
Year 2000 saw the label entering into a 4-year-long joint venture deal with PIAS (UK), an independent distribution / label network. This followed the signing of then-unknown Icelandic group, Sigur Rós, who were spotted playing a show in Reykjavik that FatCat were DJ-ing at. Two albums and three singles on FatCat saw the band receiving massive critical acclaim, rapidly rising from a complete unknown to an internationally-acclaimed phenomenon. With a whole new audience potentially turned on to the label, FatCat attempted to mix this new-found accessibility with retained ideals for adventure, diversity and experimentation.
2000 also saw the birth of the Splinter Series. Loosely running in parallel with the Split Series, this imprint was initially established for CD-only releases, remaining undefined by generic boundaries, yet largely seeing artists who worked in the margins or between genres, mixing accessible melodic parts with noisier or more destabilising elements. The first album came in the form of Foehn’s haunted ambience, followed quickly by releases from Janek Schaefer, Ultra-red, Xinlisupreme, Dorine Muraille, and Animal Collective, a brilliantly adventurous American four-piece who we discovered in early 2003 alongside their Brooklyn-based companions, Black Dice. Recent additions to the Splinter Series have included Aoki Takamasa & Tujiko Noriko and Our Brother The Native.
In early 2001, the label moved to Brighton, where the office has since been based. Another stunning Icelandic band, Múm, were signed and proved another success for the label, mixing electronica with great musicianship and a whole range of live instrumentation. The same year also saw the establishment of the 130701 imprint for the Set Fire To Flames album. A home for ‘post-classical’ music, the imprint was later appended with the signing of pianist / composers, Sylvain Chauveau, Max Richter, and most recently Hauschka. In the same period FatCat consolidated its roster with the inclusion of artists like David Grubbs, Giddy Motors, and Party Of One.
The departure of Sigur Ros to EMI in late 2004 lead to the end of the relationship with PIAS, since which the label has gone back to being entirely independent. In 2005, FatCat expanded its set-up with the establishment of a US office in New York, and with the FatCat Publishing arm. That same year saw the release of Vashti Bunyan’s ‘Lookaftering’ album, following two years of conversations and nurturing. Besides picking up European licences in Vetiver and Blood On The Wall, the past two years has also seen the signing singer / songwriter Nina Nastasia, as well as news acts like Tom Brosseau, David Karsten Daniels, No age, The Rank Deluxe, and Songs Of Green Pheasant. In 2007, FatCat put out the first FatCat DVD release by cutting-edge audiovisual artists Semiconductor, who had previously worked on videos for Mum and QT?, as well as taking part in a number of FatCat showcases. It also unearthed two amazing young Glasgow bands in The Twilight Sad and Frightened Rabbit.
Refusing to operate the chequebook a&r policy that many labels opt for in order to lure established artists onboard, the bulk of FatCat’s releases have come from music discovered via demos mailed sent in the post, by stumbling upon bands playing live shows, or by artists making direct contact. In January 2001, the label released ‘No Watches. No Maps’, a compilation devoted entirely to unreleased artists discovered via demos sent to the label. 2003 saw the creation of a ‘D.I.Y’ website resource providing a wealth of contact details, advice and information about the whole process of releasing your own music, from mastering, manufacturing and distribution, to case studies of other small labels, and links to other resources. At the same time, FatCat founded its own online ‘Demo Archive’ – a site devoted to the best of the myriad daily demos received, offering downloadable audio and information & contact details for each artist. This continually growing archive has continued to thrive, with now over 100 artists finding a home there, and remains an important part of the label and a great outlet for new music.
Over the roller-coaster course of the past ten years, FatCat have attempted to curate a continually shifting and adventurous series of releases, to introduce new / unknown artists and to maintain a consistently high level of quality. Currently based in Brighton (UK) and NYC (USA) and now past its tenth year as a label, FatCat are proud custodians of an immensely strong and sizeable catalogue, and have garnered widespread critical acclaim as one of the more interesting and divergent independent labels in existence.
Current Roster: <br><br> Brakes / Breton / David Karsten Daniels / Dustin O'Halloran / Ensemble / Gregory And The Hawk / Hauschka / Johann Johannsson / Les Shelleys / Maps & Atlases / Max Richter / Mazes / Mice Parade / Milk Maid / Nina Nastasia / Odonis Odonis / Psychedelic Horseshit / Silje Nes / The Twilight Sad / Vashti Bunyan / We Were Promised Jetpacks