Images by Mojojo of Famous at Wilderness Record Store for Independent Venue Week 2020
Words by Hannah Tinker
Fiercely artist-focused and not constrained by any particular genre, the independent record label untitled (recs) was founded by Alex Putman whilst working at a major label in 2017, an idea that morphed from the plan to host a series of live music nights in London. Three years on, the label is host to a collective of musicians whom all embrace their skillset, stand at the helm and passionately follow their endeavours, with untitled hoisting the sails.
The beginning of untitled (recs) was an organic one; Alex met the psych-pop, shoegaze quartet Palm Honey, who at the time were holding on to three singles that they'd yet to release. At first glance, Putman booked them for the launch event of the aforementioned series of nights but, having soon heard of the three singles and with his own intention of someday beginning an independent record label already in tow, the series was axed and the record label established. With fast hopes and promises, the initial concept and branding required a rapid turn: "I had to find a logo and a name pretty quick which might explain a lot."
But the simplistic blue and white branding and clean typeface now so eloquently matches equally with the theory behind untitled, which is, as Alex mentions: "to be the facilitator behind an artist's vision, enabling creatives to do things and build a structure around them." Their hallmark doesn't shroud their artists it provides them with a whole platform; it's uncomplicated and understated but present and robust. It's fitting, particularly with the type of artists currently counted amongst untitled (recs)' roster: Jerskin Fendrix, deathcrash, Famous, TAAHLIAH and soon, two more acts that are yet to be announced. These artists are by no means similar to one another, though perhaps in their nature and their image - each present unadulterated, distinct stand-alone identities, be it Jerskin's Hello Kitty fanfare or Famous' London-centric theme, each is distinct and striking against the trademark "we’re the shadow-men behind the creatives" untitled (recs) backdrop.
Since the Palm Honey days, each act since has followed a similar timeline, each quite an almost necessary move, the team behind untitled (recs) rarely find their artists through going along to a show on a whim or cold emailing agents, it's often that the act and untitled have been put in touch or begin speaking quite naturally. Jazz-focused crooner Brad Stank followed up Palm Honey, then Famous who were friends of the label and performed at the launch night of untitled. Jerskin Fendrix and Tiernan (frontman of deathcrash) were both members of Famous so it was a peaceful transition to then have these other projects signed to untitled (recs). A word of advice to those looking to get signed by any independent label or start their own? Keep it casual - "most of the time we chat with artists for a while before signing them... and make sure you keep yourself in-line by asking repeatedly: 'am I bringing something to the table?'"
As you can perhaps tell if you venture into the soundscapes of their past and present artists, untitled aren't ones to stick to any specific genre: "we've released anything from house music, electro, post-punk, indie pop and… Jerskin!" There is no agenda when it comes to untitled (recs), no hidden motives or profit-led deviousness but a drive to work with unique, ambitious artists. Alex states that he admires labels that follow a certain sound or theme "like the early days of Warp, Blue Note, Creation, R&S - you just see that prancing horse sleeve and if you're into that type of electronic music you just know it's gonna slap." But, although this is admirable - and has perhaps inspired the recent launch of the sub-label u(r)blue, a focus on electronic releases that is open to any artist and fits a more casual formula, similar to most dance labels: "master it, press it, put it out!" To be so specific is not the route for untitled's main roster: "We don't want to be an Experimental label or a Pop label or a Vapourwave label we just go with what clicks... the driving force behind it was always to take actual bets on our artists and just say 'we believe in you full stop' even if it doesn't make sense in the short-term."
Since inception, untitled (recs) have established themselves as a prevalent independent label in London and the rest of the UK, with their first release debuted at Glastonbury Festival by Palm Honey, numerous signings including the current and prior mentioned as well as Shcaa who is now signed to R&S/Apollo, a rooftop performance from Famous, a dabble in electronic releases with D.KO in Paris which transitioned into the launch of u(r)blue, a management roster "shh!" and only more is yet to come. We're left on a humble, bittersweet note from Alex when asking what the plans for the future of untitled (recs) are: "Fail in grace - that's the destiny of every label isn't it? However successful you are you'll always be failing somewhat and vice-versa." untitled (recs) will continue with their leaps of faith for as long as possible and keep going, although the current climate sees the music industry experiencing perhaps it's most turbulent time yet. "It's a strange time for a lot of people in the business so if you like the fragile ecosystem that is music, please support record stores like Wilderness, buy merch (from musicians and labels), use Bandcamp - while we re-adjust!"