Why Light in the Attic Is Probably The Only Record Label Using Private Investigators
“I grew up in Beverly Hills, but I moved out of there pretty quickly,” Stephanie Weiss, Light in the Attic Records‘s publicist told me over lunch at Little Doms, around the corner from the Los Feliz-based office. “I was just different. I wanted to work in the music industry, you know? Everybody else was basically just getting married and having kids.”
“How did you decide to get into the industry in the first place?” I asked, taking a bite out of my fontina panini.
“I went to USC,” she started, recounting the years to herself. “And while I was there, I did an internship at this talent agency called the Firm, which at the time, was the place to be. That was the heydey of that kind of agency as well. There were just banquets of food being served daily, and a lady making mixed blendeds, you know—that’s where all the money was at the time.”
She laughed. “So I figured the music industry was a good place to be.”
Light in the Attic, the record label founded by Matt Sullivan in Seattle, which Stephanie now works for, and cites as her dream job, functions differently from the fancy talent agency. However, both seem like products of their time in many ways—Light in the Attic, which was focuses primarily on releasing good music that, regardless of its time, has a story within it that means something because of when it was made, and then again, when it was released.
Their records have represented the work of artists such as Francoise Hardy, Willie Nelson, Grateful Dead, Built to Spill, Jane Birkin and Serge Gainsbourg, and notoriously introduced the work of Sixto Rodriguez, the Detroit-born singer who, the documentary Searching for Sugarman was about, which showcased the search for the singer who was completely unaware of his own fame in apartheid-era South Africa. In January, Lee Hazlewood’s MGM Trilogy will be released, along with Francoise Hardy’s Five Album Reissue series.
“There’s so much thought and care that goes into the packaging, and everything has to have it’s own unique story. We have Carole King’s lost psych folk band from the ’60s, you know, or Lewis—Pitchfork, all the hipsters, they love Lewis—he was a musician in the ’80s, but a while later, some record collector found his record for a dollar at a flea market, and then Light in the Attic heard it, and then went to find him! A private investigator was used in order to find him.”
She went on. “You know, he didn’t even want to be found! He didn’t even want the royalty checks. Some of the artists don’t even want to think about the music they made anymore. But it’s just always a very crazy story, and there’s so much work aside from just the music being put out. It’s just great to be a part of this place, since there’s so much substance, depth, and care that goes into every release.”
I said the stories sounded incredible. Light in the Attic builds their roster of work based on artists and projects that contain stories beyond the sounds. Once they discover a story that intrigues them, they build a package and presentation that not only matches the quality of their find, but elevates it, rendering any re-issue or never-before-heard musician both relevant, exciting, and fresh.
She went on. “Of course, some of the bands are really excited. So one for example, I just worked on some press for the Kitchen Cinq, a band that Lee Hazlewood signed in the ’60s. They’re from Amarillo, Texas, and I was thinking, okay, what can I do for them? Where can I get these guys covered? I got them a front page feature in the Amarillo Globe news, and one of the guys called me and said it was the greatest thing to see himself in his hometown paper. That felt really good. I was happy to do that for them.”