Anyone who’s handed me an aux cord in the past few months has heard me geek about Speedy Wunderground and their ridiculous output in the past year. The London upstart record company has been kicking ass and taking names, with some of the coolest bands making music right now emerging from the label with little prior background. Chances are if they sign a band or release a single, it’s going to be quality, so let’s examine today where this strange company came from and where it’s going.
Speedy Wunderground is the brainchild of producer Dan Carey, a London producer with a long history of work with artists ranging from popular acts like Sia to Tame Impala to more independent treasures like Kate Tempest. Carey founded the label in 2013 with engineer Alexis Smith and A&R Pierre Hall and has abided by a rigid ten-point plan for success with each of their recordings. The most unique part of this plan is their tight recording schedules; the label takes no lunch breaks, works from the morning til midnight, and will only record within that timespan. The next day is mixing and is the same procedure. Carey engineered this style to “prevent over-cooking and faff” and it seems to have paid off.
What is immediately noticeable about a Speedy Wunderground song is that it is always tight. The most prominent and mainstream example of this is black midi, a band that has seen a meteoric rise within the past year, becoming something of gothic post-punk gods almost as soon as their debut record Schlagenheim hit shelves this year. The charming, young musicians have received a great deal of attention for their unique sound and much of this seems to come from Carey’s production style. While this record was released by Rough Trade, Carey’s production and the group’s Speedy Wunderground roots are ever-present. Every note sounds meticulously crafted and practiced, yet it feels raw. All of this follows Carey’s philosophy. When a group has these recording pressures, it forces them to be extremely tight and well-practiced, and it allows for in-the-moment spontaneity of raw energy which oozes onto black midi’s ferocious, eerie sound like on ‘bmbmbm.’
While black midi may be the poster child of the record label, they were just one of the reasons that 2019 was an incredible year for them. Black Country, New Road, a Speedy Wunderground band with only 2 officially released singles to their name, have received enough buzz that last Sunday sold out The Mash House here in Edinburgh (and apparently were too cool to give me a press pass…). Their band Squid have suddenly become the forefathers of combining dance music and post-punk and released one of the best EPs of the past decade in Town Centre as well as an additional amazing single, ‘Houseplants.’ Smaller, but no less impactful are the releases of Sinead O Brien and PVA, the latter of which only has one single to their name, yet they sound like pros.
So what is it about Speedy that they have this consistent an output already? The impact of Pierre Hall’s scouting should not be overlooked considering the sheer talent of these bands he’s found, but Carey’s production and orchestration of these sessions seems to have the effect that only the most legendary of producers have. While I would not go so far to say the label has single-handedly revitalized modern post-punk, they’ve undoubtedly made it much more unique in its sounds and influences. They are leading a revival of truly innovative, interesting rock music, prioritising manic performances and diverse influences over giant pedalboards and bands doing their best Joy Division impression.
Suffice it to say, there’s something brewing in South London. From the small studios of Speedy Wunderground with their collection of 7” records all marked with that signature cartoon dog, a new wave of truly interesting post-punk is brewing and it seems inevitable they will be at the forefront. Their tenth and final point of their ten-point plan states clearly: “Speedy Wunderground will not be slow.” I certainly believe them.
Image: Speedy Wunderground via Discogs