Owner/Founder: Joshua James and McKay Stevens
Year Established: 2006
Current artists: Joshua James, McKay Stevens, RuRu, Desert Noises, William James & the Underground Railroad, Brandon White, Southern War, The Vibrant Sound
Number of releases to date: Four
National Distribution: ADA
Is Roster Available on itunes?: Yes
Number of albums sold: 28,000
Website: northplatterecords.com, myspace.com/ northplatterecords
Photo by Jessie Huish
There are a few common stereotypes that Utah citizens face: 1. We’re all Mormon, 2. Our beer is non-alcoholic and 3. Everyone is a polygamist. Brigham Young has cursed us with an image that’s been hard to shake. However, inside our beehive bubble we have our own judging going on as well. You mention to some city-slicker that you’re from Provo, it’s more than likely they just stamped you as a small-town prude. The only things we Salt Lakers expect to come out of Provo are blonde babies, BYU graduates and return missionaries. It just takes a few down-to-earth guys with a common interest to prove us wrong.
Joshua James and McKay Stevens are two not-so-average Joes who are helping to create the counterculture scene in Provo. They met through mutual friends and because of their love of skateboarding and music found themselves the masterminds behind Provo’s local record label Northplatte Records. Alongside underground hotspot venue Velour, Northplatte is creating hype in the outskirts of the big city. The idea grew from casually playing shows and writing songs together, then one day they decided to make something more happen.
“We used to play around with our own independent label.” Stevens says. Unfortunately, a hip-hop label took the original name, Underground Railroad Records. Northplatte was the next name they settled on, which is the name of the city in Nebraska where James grew up. Things began to get serious about three years ago when James’ musical career started to take off and he was faced with the decision to find a label to back him. James had a DIY attitude and decided to test the waters on his own, but not without the help of Stevens. “The major label system, for how much they give back, is not really worth it. It seems you can do it yourself now-adays.” James says.
Northplatte’s roster features the label’s masterminds (James and Stevens), RuRu (whose new album was mixed by former Ben Harper and Kooks collaborator Todd Burke) and the more alternative Desert Noises. They are currently also in the process of producing releases by new artists William James & the Underground Railroad, Brandon White, Southern War and The Vibrant Sound. The Northplatte roster features a variety of genres, from folk-pop (James and RuRu) to hip-hop (Stevens’ experiment) and Band of Horses-esque indie-rock (from Desert Noises). As a label, Northplatte has released three albums from James: The Sun is Always Brighter, Fields and Floods, a Christmas record, a B-Sides collection as well as RuRu’s Elizabeth. Albums by Stevens and Desert Noises will be released later this winter. All recording is done in James’ home-based studio where he works full time.
Like other independent labels, Northplatte understands the importance of building community. Much like Salt Lake, Provo has a tight-knit group of people who are all looking out for each other. The college kids coming from UVU and BYU have expanded the art and music scene in Provo. “In L.A. there’s so many colleges. It’s such a large city no one can ever be unified,” Stevens says. “Here, these 50,000 [kids] are going to Velour.” Northplatte is part of that foundation that keeps the scene strong. As a label they do all the booking, make and distribute the posters, and through Facebook and Myspace, they make the public aware of new releases and events.
“We’re not just a label, we’re like a management team. We’re trying to really grow the artist.” James says. Growth and expansion go hand in hand. Northplatte hopes to broaden their name, their demographic, their genres and their artists. They aim to make good music so that when people hear the name Northplatte they will trust that whatever is on that label is bound to be good. Northplatte’s growing reputation was already seen last October when the label and Velour threw a listening party featuring their new artists and gave away records from Ruru.
It’s becoming clear that people are now starting to believe in the small town that was once the butt of many jokes. It’s nice to know that there is a youth culture movement in Provo that isn’t just concerned with getting married and popping out baby after baby.
NPR-001: Joshua James – B-Sides It’s Dark Outside – CD (2006)
NPR-002: RuRu - Elizabeth – CD (2008)
NPR-003: Southern War – Self-Titled – CD EP (2006)
NPR-004: Joshua James – Fields & Floods – CD (2007)
NPR-005: Joshua James – The Sun is Always Brighter – CD/LP (2007)
Upcoming Releases: NPR-006: Desert Noises – Self-Titled EP – CD (2009)
NPR-007: William James & The Underground Railroad – CD (2009)
NPR-008: Vibrant Sound – Self-Titled – CD (2009)
NPR-009: Joshua James – Build Me This – CD/LP (2009)