Originally founded by members of anarchist punk band Flux Of Pink Indians, One Little Indian was inspired by the DIY principles and anarchistic ideals of independent labels such as that created by anarcho-punk band Crass. Since its inception the label has prided itself on giving complete control to artists it feels deserve a shot at a wider audience.
Instead of rooting itself in the punk niche, in its first few years the budding label built up an eclectic roster of artists including Iceland’s finest avant-popsters/ pranksters The Sugarcubes (whose ’88 debut Life’s Too Good became the label’s first international release and million seller) shoegaze pioneers A.R. Kane, political tub-thumpers Chumbawumba, and rave-culture trailblazers The Shamen.
The early ‘90s were pivotal years for One Little Indian. In 1992 The Shamen recorded what would become a massive (and massively controversial) Number One hit in Ebenezer Goode pushing its parent album Boss Drum into the Top3. Björk’s Debut followed in ’93; swathed in forward-thinking beats, shimmering strings and spare brass, it became a worldwide hit and an introduction to one of the most innovative, vital and iconic stars we have today. 23 years later Bjork remains the cornerstone of the roster, releasing her hugely innovative album/ educational project Biophilia in 2011 (its formatting as an app another industry first, the label also issued the first DVD single All Is Full Of Love back in 1999) and its heartfelt follow up Vulnicura in 2015.
By the mid/ late 90s successes were coming thick and fast from rockers Skunk Anansie, country acid house collective Alabama 3 (who would later gain international renown for supplying The Sopranos with the soundtrack to its iconic opening credits sequence) and clubby ensemble Sneaker Pimps. In the ‘noughties’ One Little Indian’s continuing eclecticism turned it toward folk and Americana, it’s heavyweight independent status making it an attractive home for Paul McCartney to place his Fireman project with in 2008.
Since then the label has continued to host artists as diverse as Sinead O’Connor, Dan Sartain, Olof Arnalds and Stubborn Heart. Above the noise of more sensational issues, Sinead’s ‘How About I Be Me and You Be You’ was widely hailed as a serious return to form, as was Cody ChesnuTT’s stunning comeback, ‘Landing On A Hundred’ – a collection of heartfelt, grandstanding soul anthems – arriving a decade on from ‘The Headphone Masterpiece’. Jesse Malin was welcomed back to the fold in 2015 with his strongest set in years, ‘New York Before the War’ while Kathryn Williams hit a career high with her 11th studio album ‘Hypoxia’ in 2015, a beautiful musical and lyrical distillation of the themes embodied in Sylvia Plath’s ‘The Bell Jar’.
In 2014 a new star was in the ascendant when Ásgeir’s ‘In The Silence’ became an international hit. ‘In The Silence’ was the English-language version of his Icelandic debut ‘Dyrd í dauðathogn’ which broke all records to become Iceland’s fastest and biggest selling debut album ever – outselling even Björk and Sigur Rós’. His very first headline shows in London were sell-outs and he now commands huge festival crowds across the UK, Europe & Australia. A new album is expected in 2017.
There are similarly high hopes too for Sarah Walk who releases her debut single ‘Keep On Dreaming’ this summer. Signed to the label in 2014,Sarah’s music is about big songs and even bigger melodies, delivered in her distinct, androgynous voice reminiscent of Leslie Feist or Joni Mitchell. A graduate of Berklee College of Music, Sarah grew up in Minneapolis but has spent much of the last year living between Los Angeles and West London, working on her debut album with Steve Brown (Rumer’s Seasons of My Soul, Laura Mvula Sing to the Moon).
One Little Indian’s latest label venture is Cognitive Shift Recordings, a contemporary classical imprint in collaboration with Manners McDade Music Publishing (home to artists such as Nils Frahm and Throwing Snow). Its first album release will be Catalan composer Roger Goula’s ‘Overview Effect’ in November.
So now as then, there has never been a particular One Little Indian sound, but little has changed in terms of label philosophy “In the future we are just going to carry on in the same way” says label head Derek Birkett “We just want to carry on putting out records and some of them will sell better than others.” If that sounds prosaic, infact it belies a love of music, equanimity,and fierce loyalty to the artists that has now seen the label through 30 years – no mean achievement.