The Numero Group is America’s best record label. It’s easier to only release great stuff when you’re not tied to things like tours and active bands. The archival record label puts out mostly overlooked and under-appreciated gems. Some hidden, some city specific, all songs worthy of rotation.
The label is in the midst of their Factory Outlet Tour. It’s in D.C. today (April 25 at Bossa) before moving on to Baltimore, Philadelphia, Brooklyn (April 28 and 29 at Duke’s Annex), Boston and Providence. This is your best chance to buy some fantastic records at equally fantastic prices.
We spoke with co-founder and label head Ken Shipley on how to approach the catalogue. It can be intimidating when you’re not sure of the artists and there are over 275 titles available. We asked Shipley what five releases people should consider purchasing at the pop-up.
1. For the novice: Essential Soul: The Capsoul Label
The label has been putting out records since 2003. So where should you start? With their first. “If you don’t know what the label is, this is probably the best place to start. It’s our first record and it’s soul. Whenever anybody asks me what should I get, I point them toward this. I don’t think anything tickles people’s fancy more than a soul record.”
Unlike some labels, Numero does not focus on limited runs, meaning their oldest records are still in production.
2. For an individual artist: Syl Johnson
In addition to compilations, the label reissue and compiles works of individual artists and bands. The majority of these are for soul singers. Sometimes it’s an outlier like White Zombie. But the performer that most represents Numero is Syl Johnson.
“Syl is really representative of what Numero is. We’ve done a lot of records with him. The bulk of his 60s catalogue is with us.”
3. For the Dischord fan: Hoover Lurid Traversal of Rte. 7
Numero is teaming up with some local labels on this tour. For the D.C. stop they’re sharing space with Dischord.
“I could obviously say Fugazi or Minor Threat but that Hoover record always resonated with me as a kid. I grew up buying those records, through their mail order in the back pages of Maximum Rocknroll so when I met Brian a few years ago, it was really cool because I felt like we came from the same place. He was figuring out how to make Dischord a 21st century record company. I think the Dischord ideals are very much in line with what we do, in terms of trying to pay people fairly and on time and honestly.”
“The roots of this label come more from the punk world than any other place. I worked for a fairly sizable record company for some time and I noticed the way they did it wasn’t really that great for the artist. So we always strove to emulate labels like Dischord.”
4. For the novelty: Warfaring Strangers: Darkscorch Canticles
Sometimes you want a record that’ll make you giggle. So we asked Shipley for an album with an interesting gimmick.
“The one that sticks out is a really amazing, fake Black Sabbath, fake Led Zeppelin record all about Tolkein and Dungeons and Dragons and that sort of thing.”
“The record impresses people that didn’t think they could find true underground stuff and that’s as underground as you can get for 1972. It’s a really special record that seems to resonate with everybody, especially if you’re younger and your frame of reference for classic rock is basically just the cannon. This sheds a lot of light into the dark.”
5. For a city’s sound: San Antonio
One of Numero’s specialty is highlighting cities around the globe. In addition to focusing on labels and individual artists, the label attempts to capture a sound of a city at a certain time. We asked Shipley the most surprising music city on the label.
“I don’t think we knew how big San Antonio was going to be for us. It’s become a real mainstay. We’ve done a ton of projects out of there and we have so much support from that city. It’s weird that the seventh largest city in Texas has produced some of our biggest records.”