For The Get Up Kids co-founder Matt Pryor, Vagrant Records were more or less a last-ditch effort by the band to get their music out to the public in the mid-1990s. The band was desperate for a label when all of their major label talks fell through.
“Well, like several people, I thought the label was somehow associated, if not directly owned, by Trevor Keith of Face To Face,” Pryor says.
Turns out Keith didn’t own the label, but Rich Egan and Joe Cohen did. And not only did they give The Get Up Kids the lifeline they needed, but the band’s sophomore effort, Something To Write Home About, helped put the four-year old label on the map.
“Rich made us the most artist friendly offer we’d ever heard of before or since,” Pryor says. “And, like I said before, we were desperate.”
To celebrate Vagrant Records 25th anniversary, Pryor is currently hosting a podcast about the label, Vagrant Records: 25 Years on the Street. You can listen to the podcast via Spotify.
“The focus is just to tell the story of the label,” he says. “It’s an oral history, as told by the people who were involved and the people who were and are fans of the label.”
Recent episodes have included interviews with Mark Hoppus (Blink-182), Max Bemis (Say Anything), and Chad Gilbert (New Found Glory). [Text Wrapping Break]
To be fair to Pryor, most musicians don’t know the entire history of their record label, let alone all of their bands, so there was a little homework involved in the hosting gig.
“The first person that I interviewed that I wasn’t really already friends with was Buddy [Nielsen] from Sense Fail,” Pryor says. “We have a lot of friends in common, so I knew it would be fine, but I really didn’t know anything about the band. So, for them I did do a decent amount of research. Everyone else, I kinda just kept their wiki page open while we were talking, as a reference point. Mainly to get the names and release order of their records correct.” [Text Wrapping Break]
Asked about why Vagrant was, and remains, so important to kids growing up in the ’90s and ’00s, Pryor is a little stumped at first.
“That’s a hard one to answer because I really don’t know,” he says. “If I was to guess, I think they were very good at listening to what was a growing scene at the time. They loved the music but didn’t force anything; they were very creative, and good at selling records. Probably the best thing they did was to let the artists make art and stay the hell out of the way. Maybe that’s why there’s such staying power.”
A Look Back
Throughout its 25-year history, Vagrant have helped launch a slew of remarkable indie bands. And while they were primarily known for an emo/pop punk-heavy roster at the beginning, they eventually branched out to indie rock, soul, and electronic, putting out records by acts as diverse as The Lemonheads, Black Joe Lewis, The 1975, Paul Westerberg, and PJ Harvey. Here are a few of the label’s biggest names.
The Chris Carrabba-fronted band came to define emo in the early aughts, thanks to painfully earnest lyrics and their knack for writing a pretty sweet, soaring chorus. They came to the label in 2001, with their sophomore effort, The Places You Have Come To Fear The Most and put out six more albums on the label.
The Get Up Kids
Pryor’s band turned to Vagrant to put out their classic Something To Write Home About, a record that brought The Get Up Kids to the masses and bolstered the label’s reputation for spotting emerging talent. Vagrant put out two more albums from the band, as well as music from Get Up Kids adjacent groups like The New Amsterdams, Reggie and the Full Effect, and The Terrible Twos.
Vagrant released this Brooklyn-by-way-of-Minneapolis rock band’s third, and wildly impressive record, Boys and Girls in America, in 2006. The fact that the album was neither emo nor pop punk helped to broaden the label’s fanbase. Vagrant went on to release two more records by the band, 2008’s Stay Positive and 2010’s Heaven Is Whenever.
Take a listen one of the label’s iconic releases, The Get Up Kids’ Something To Write Home About here:
For more from Vagrant Records, check out their official website.
Photo courtesy of Vagrant Records