Few punk and hardcore labels have had a trajectory quite like Iodine Recordings.
Back in the early 2000s, the Boston-based independent imprint was on the verge of becoming a major force in the punk and hardcore scene. It established itself with the compilation Ghost in the Gears (featuring then obscure bands like Converge and Cave In) in 2000, before finding unexpected success with Brand New’s Your Favorite Weapon in 2002. That led to a massive signing spree, moving into an office, and striving to become the next Jade Tree or Equal Vision.
That goal looked achievable. Maybe even inevitable. Then, things took an unexpected turn.
Two weeks after the release of the experimental metalcore band There Were Wires’s second album, Somnambulists, Iodine Recordings folded, unable to recoup costs fast enough to support an aggressive release calendar. The record faded into obscurity, while the rest of the roster scattered. It was a bitter conclusion to a promising start, and it would haunt label founder Casey Iodine (who prefers to use his label’s namesake in lieu of his last name) for nearly two decades.
“I never really liked the way things ended,” Iodine says. “I feel like I let a lot of bands down. Let a lot of people in the industry down. It’s something that’s gnawed at me for the last 18 years, and not a week went by that I didn’t think about wishing I had the opportunity to make it right.”
It would have been easy for There Were Wires to have spent that time nurturing resentment. For context, they turned down an offer from Deathwish, Inc. in order to sign with Iodine. Yet if there are any hard feelings, they certainly aren’t apparent.
When the band began discussing re-releasing the record and asked Iodine about obtaining their masters, it could have been as simple as sorting out legalities and handing over the recordings. Instead, the conversation led to the decision to reboot Iodine Recordings and make the remastered record its first release back.
Things worked out much better the second time around. When Iodine Recordings released the remastered Somnambulists in early 2021, vinyl copies sold out in a matter of hours. That led to more bands—both old friends looking to re-release their back catalog and active artists alike asking to work with Iodine Recordings as well. It’s a comeback story so improbable that even Iodine himself seems surprised.
“Here I am thinking, ‘Wait a second, you do realize I haven’t been in the industry for 18 years and I once bankrupted a label, right?’” Iodine says, laughing. “So, why do you want to work with me?”
Chalk it up to the power of trust and second chances. Looking back, maybe what listeners and artists remember most about the label isn’t the way it ended, but what it tried to achieve, and what it could have been with just a little more time and money. A lot has changed since 2003, but for the label, the commitment to curating a quality roster that deserves attention has stayed the same.
“I’m trying to go back to that original mindset of, it’s about getting music to people who want to hear it,” Iodine says. “I’m lucky enough that I don’t have to live off of it at this point. If it does awesome, then I’m happy. And if it falls flat, I can always let it go.”
The Five Most Impactful Releases From Iodine Recordings
1). Brand New – Your Favorite Weapon
“It’s just a funny record for me because I did it as a favor to help these guys out, and nobody expected that band to blow up to the level that they did.”
2) Smoke Or Fire – Worker’s Union
“It got the attention of Fat Wreck Chords, who they continued the rest of their career with, and toured the world numerous times.”
3) Gregor Samsa – 27:36
“My jaw was on the floor. I never heard a band as beautiful as they were … I went up to them and said, ‘I want to sign your band. I’ll give you anything you want. Just tell me how I can make it happen.’ That’s how badly I wanted to work with Gregor Samsa.”
4) There Were Wires – Somnambulists
“We put more money into that record than any other record we had produced because we wanted it to be as perfect as we could make it. And when it came back, when we reissued it, it got so much more of a response than I ever would have dreamed.”
5) Garrison – The Model
“You never know what’s going to break a band. Sometimes, it’s just this unspeakable thing, but the band and the label and the producers and everyone put so much love into that record. It really is something special.”
Listen to the single from Iodine’s latest release, the 20-year anniversary of “Presents” by Jeromes Dream, here:
For more from Iodine Recordings, check out the official website.
Photo courtesy of Casey Iodine