After starting out in 2011 with just two artists, Saint Marie Records has blossomed into a globe-spanning label with 46 artists and more than 50 releases.
The thought of a local-centric label simply never appealed to owner Wyatt Parkins. Based in Fort Worth, Saint Marie has drawn artists from as far afield as Germany, Peru, Russia, Sweden, Canada, and Italy –– and Texas (specifically Dallas’ The Capsules and Blackstone Rangers).
Though Saint Marie, as an independent label, can’t offer tour support, its partnerships with several global distributors, including Darla, Konkurrent, and Audioglobe, mean that Saint Marie records regularly appear in retail outlets all over the world.
That sounds like a full-time job for a team of at least 10 employees, but Parkins still works a day job as an IT specialist. The only help he gets with his label is from his wife, Kali Parkins. Well, their son Corbin, 16, and daughter Starr, 6, also pitch in. “It’s a family thing,” Parkins said wryly.
Saint Marie Records is the product of Parkins’ love of shoegaze or elegantly droning and frequently psychedelic loud rock music. Through Saint Marie, he’s been doing what he can to keep the genre relevant.
“I was introduced to [shoegaze] when I was 14 or 15 and could never let it go, even through the rough time from the mid- ’90s to the mid-2000s, when there were no new bands really coming out with music,” Parkins said. “But now kids from the first wave of the genre have grown up, and now we’ve had a huge wave of new bands.”
Parkins also loves vinyl, and he tries to offer as many of his releases as he can in that format. Every Saint Marie platter is accompanied by a digital download.
“Digital and vinyl is the perfect mix,” he said. “You have the digital version packaged in with the vinyl, so you have your portability, and then you have the vinyl for days [when] you want to sit down and really listen to a record. We know we won’t make our money back on the vinyl even if we sell them all, unless you jack the price up, but then you can’t sell them at all. And it was never about making money.”
Saint Marie has been self-sufficient for a while now, Parkins said. The profits from one record roll right into putting out the next one. He is interested only in surviving, knowing that to make Saint Marie his full-time occupation, “someone [on the label] would have to blow up in a major way,” he said.
During her 17-year career, The Capsules’ Julie Shields has worked with a few labels. There are a couple of reasons she and her bandmates decided to go with Saint Marie for their most recent album, The Long Goodbye. “We had worked with other labels in the past, but it was always kind of a long-distance thing,” she said. “We went to dinner with [Parkins and Kali] and talked about music and his vision for the label. We just felt after meeting with them and talking that it was kind of meant to be, so we signed with them.”
Shields said Parkins puts his heart and soul into Saint Marie. He designs some of the groovy, psychedelic album covers, concocts videos for some songs, and writes all of the press releases. (He recently created Gas Pedal PR to work with artists outside the label.)
“It’s pretty impressive,” she said. “He is putting out albums on a steady basis with just him and his wife. They are on top of everything. He set an early date for our release and got everything done on our end and his end, and it all came together and out on target. We hit the release date. All the press and marketing was done on time. It went off very well.”
Parkins likes where he is now with his side business. It’s all part of his plan to help revive the community aspect of buying, loving, and listening to music. “It’s always about bringing back the community vibe to music,” he said, “sitting around a record store talking about bands and just meeting people.”
He’s going to be really busy in November. Along with the label’s annual two-disc compilation, Static Waves, Saint Marie is launching a reissue series of albums by the ’90s bands that have influenced Parkins, starting with Blind Mr. Jones’ Tatooine and Sway’s Millia Pink and Green.
Yes, they will be on vinyl.
To contact Parkins, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or snail-mail Saint Marie Records, P.O. Box 48723, Fort Worth, Tex., 76148.