As we celebrate their tenth birthday, here are the seven best bands we’ve been introduced to by our favourite indie label, Transgressive Records
This week marks the ten year anniversary of Transgressive Records: the record label that, for anyone who was a teenager in the early 00s, came to define the soundtrack to every first: our first show, kiss, week at Uni – you name it and Transgressive were behind it. Responsible for the success of bands like Bloc Party, the Noisettes, Mystery Jets, The Subways, they’ve taken the old trope of indie labels being small and largely unsuccessful and turned it on its head, expanding in their ten-year lifespan into management, music publishing, and two smaller sub-labels, Jen Long’s Kissability and Paradyse Records.
To celebrate this landmark birthday we’ve made a list of our 7 most loved acts on the Transgressive roster.
Kele Okereke and Russell Lissack met at Reading Festival in 1999, and decided to form a band, finding the last two members of the group, Gordon Moakes and Matt Tong, via an advert in NME and an audition respectively. Their first album, Silent Alarm, released in 2005, made massive waves – topping NME’s albums of the year list and influencing countless bands that sprung up in the indie wake they left behind them.
Perhaps even more importantly they were the catalyst for the creation of Transgressive: the label’s founders, Tim and Toby, met at a Bloc Party show, introduced by lead singer Kele. They went on to release the band’s first single “She’s Hearing Voices”, the track that allowed them to break into the mainstream.
Another band whose sound came to define a period of time in the mid-late 00s, with their early track “Hummer” featuring on cult series ‘Skins’, and becoming the soundtrack for disenfranchised teenagers everywhere. They’ve since gone from strength to strength, following their exceptional debut LP Antidotes with their stunning sophomore effort Total Life Forever, while 2012’s Holy Fire shows they’re still (unlike many of the bands who came after them,) going strong.
Largely considered to be one of the most important American indie bands of recent years, the Shins’ third effort, Wincing the Night Away was released in 2007 via Transgressive in the UK. The album was a huge success, thanks in large part to the following the band had built after their single “New Slang” was featured in the cult film Garden State. Sadly for Shins fans everywhere lead singer James Mercer left the band after the LP’s release, forming (the still brilliant) Broken Bells with Dangermouse instead, citing “aesthetic differences”.
Formed by a very young Blaine Harrison and his dad Henry Harrison, along with Blaine’s friend William Rees, Mystery Jets were responsible for (amongst other things): making Eel Pie Island cool again (hosting parties that featured early sets from the Noisettes and Jamie T) and reminding us that the 80s were a hideous time for fashion (thanks to their fabulous take on the decade in their video for “Two Doors Down”). However in the course of their careers they’ve also managed to straddle the divide between indie and pop with a potent amount of charisma and charm, writing songs that capture the heady confusion of youth, and which will no doubt continue to enrapture teenagers for generations to come.
Handsome blonde folk singer Johnny Flynn was never going to be a tough sell, much less given his place in the nu-folk scene that birthed Laura Marling and Mumford and Sons. However his pedigree lies in acting rather than singing, and these days he spends more time on stage reciting Shakespeare than in a studio laying down tracks. All that being said you could do far worse than to take a moment to listen to his work: he’s a deft storyteller, imbuing his lyrical style with a musical simplicity that belies the clear effort that must sit behind such perfectly honed compositions.
Probably the most exciting ‘act’ on Transgressive’s roster, Africa Express is a collective of Malian musicians, whose debut LP Africa Express Presents: Maison des Jeunes was recorded in a youth centre in Bamako, Mali, over seven days, in collaboration with Damon Albarn, Brian Eno and Nick Zinner of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. The result is an album that captures the diversity and energy of a country renowned for its musical output, albeit one in which music was (in many areas) briefly banned following a coup and military takeover two years ago.
Two Door Cinema Club
Arguably the best present day example of an indie success story, Two Door Cinema Club are a trio of lads from Northern Ireland whose debut album Tourist History propelled them from relative unknowns to the top of festival bills the world over. A wonderful example of how Transgressive can still spot talent in its nascent stages, Two Door Cinema Club perfectly embody the Transgressive brand: writing music that’s intricate, thoughtful and always inclusive.