in the Attic
The story of Light In The Attic Records begins, curiously enough, with a motor crash in Madrid, Spain. Light In The Attic founder/co-owner (most of us call him Matt) was but a teenager in the middle of one of those requisites of American post-high school life―the "find yourself" hostel-hop through Europe. The journey usually involves, at the very least, a Eurail pass, a backpack, and a pair of hiking boots.
This particular sunny day in Madrid back in 1997, however, was to have lifelong consequences for young Matt Sullivan. Aside from the sight of the totaled Fiat (tin cans, they are), something of even greater interest immediately caught Matt's eye. The unlucky car he had just hit was filled to the brim with records―Stooges, Spacemen 3, Suicide, Love, Monks, MC5―in other words, REALLY GOOD records. Matt introduced himself to his unwilling yet amiable "crash mate," Iñigo Pastor, who just happened to own the stellar Spanish labels Vampi Soul and Munster Records. The shock of the accident suddenly took a proverbial backseat in the scheme of things as the two immediately began to talk music. Within an afternoon's time, a transatlantic bond based on the love of music was formed.
Matt immediately ditched his plans for the rest of his European sojourn and soon began camping out at the Vampi/Munster headquarters in Madrid. Though Matt and LITA co-owner Josh Wright's love of music began at their high school radio station, KASB, way back in ‘93, in Spain, Matt was able to see firsthand the actual BUSINESS of putting out records. He soon discovered that the thrill of finding a long-lost gem and reissuing it to a grateful public was often tempered by the more loathsome side of the music business―endless unpaid orders, flaky artists, and threats of lawsuits from myriad hustlers and frauds. But Matt remained undeterred and, with guidance from his Spanish mentors, began making more concrete plans for a record label of his own.
Once back in the States, the Master Plan began at once. The idea was to build a label which placed as much emphasis on releasing quality reissues as it did developing new talent. As the dot-com boom went bust, Sullivan was thankfully laid off from one of those shaky establishments. On that glorious day in July 2001, Light In The Attic's humble roots came to be from a little basement apartment in Fremont, Seattle. Suddenly unemployed, Matt wasted none of his newfound free time. Instead, he began building LITA from scratch. His tools? A little savings and a lot of tenacity.
Light In The Attic first became a player in the Seattle music scene by producing live concerts by rising artists like Saul Williams, Interpol, Peanut Butter Wolf, and The Walkmen. Many of LITA's shows were sold-out affairs, and the production side of the label's business quickly gained a reputation in the Emerald City.
But the plan was always to be a record label first and a production company second. Armed with much-needed funds that the shows provided, the company began to focus on the business of making records, starting in October 2002 with deluxe album reissues from hip-hop pioneers The Last Poets. With the LITA ball finally rolling, Matt soon called upon lifelong friend Josh Wright for help with the business. Josh provided the necessary energy and business know-how needed to transform Light In The Attic into the thriving company it is today.
Since that first release, Light In The Attic has proven that its company mission is simple: put out great music, wherever it may be found, however it may sound. It's this dedication to music―first and foremost―that has created a diverse and respected catalog of releases. In addition to its own catalog, LITA also distributes over 50 excellent labels and has grown to be a truly well-curated machine, selling direct to hundreds of record stores and retailers around the globe. Most recently, LITA has seen the expansion of its traditional music licensing department into a full-service, customized team of music supervisors, composers, and consultants, placing catalog tracks and original music in film, television, and advertisements.
With its commitment to quality as well as its disdain for convention, LITA has released over 200 instant classics. Highlights include Wheedle's Groove, an exuberant affirmation of Seattle's soul heritage; the reintroduction of Sixto Rodriguez, a Detroit-born artist and star of the Oscar-winning film, Searching For Sugar Man; and the critically acclaimed Native North American Archival Series. And who can ignore the reissues of funk goddess Betty Davis, larger-than-life crooners Serge Gainsbourg and Lee Hazlewood, folk great Karen Dalton, private press classics from the ultra-enigmatic “Lewis,” singer-songwriter Jim Sullivan, and teenage farmers Donnie & Joe Emerson.
The music is timeless and a must-have for any aficionado. Since those early basement days, the LITA family has vastly expanded, opening an office in Los Angeles and a brick-and-mortar record store in Seattle. LITA has also launched three additional labels: Modern Classics Recordings, a label focused on contemporary re-releases from D’Angelo to The Stone Roses, film and soundtrack imprint Cinewax, and reissue imprint Future Days Recordings.
Signings by Light In The Attic of current artists like The Black Angels and Nicole Willis only confirm its dedication to the original mission. Whether releasing classic reissues or grooming young artists of the future, Light In The Attic continues to defy convention by refusing to pigeonhole itself. It's safe to say that you can expect more surprises―and more great music―in the very near future.
And they owe it all to a badly mangled Fiat.
Well, sort of...