K Records

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K Records
K Records logo.gif
Founded 1982
Founder Calvin Johnson
Candice Pedersen
Genre Twee pop, indie rock, punk rock
Country of origin United States
Location Olympia, Washington
Official website http://krecs.com

K Records is an independent record label in Olympia, Washington, co-founded, owned, and operated by Calvin Johnson, formerly of the bands Cool Rays, Beat Happening, The Go Team, The Halo Benders and presently in the bands Dub Narcotic Sound System and The Hive Dwellers. The label launched in 1982 with the great bulk of its early releases on the cassette tape format, making the label one of the longest lasting reflections of the cassette culture of the 1970s and early 1980s.

Although itself releasing primarily offbeat pop music and indie rock, the DIY label is regarded as one of the pioneers of the 1990s second wave of American punk and the riot grrrl movement.



Inspired by Sun, SST, Rough Trade, Flying Nun Records, CJ Records, Bomp!, Dischord, and many others, Calvin Johnson started K Records originally with the simple intention of making his friends' music available to the world, but over time its reputation grew.[1] The great bulk of the label's early releases were made on the medium of cassette tapes, with "about 20" cassette releases noted in a 1986 Flipside interview, in addition to "4 more in the works."[2]

Calvin Johnson noted:

"A cassette is great for a local scene like Olympia because a band can release a cassette and not have to spend their would-be savings. If they were to press 500 records, there goes their savings. But if you do a cassette you make up as many as you need, they're cheap, and if you don't sell them you just use them."[2]

This passel of local cassette-only releases was built into a mail order distribution business, which eventually become a full-time job for Johnson.[2] A newsletter was put out in support of the mailorder operation, which in 1986 had a circulation of about 2,000.[2]

Label name[edit]

According to author Gina Arnold, the name "K" originally stood for "knowledge" — as in knowledge of regional underground music scenes and of music in general.[3]

The K motto is "exploding the teenage underground into passionate revolt against the corporate ogre since 1982." The label has been so influential in anti-corporate independent music and underground DIY punk culture, particularly in the Olympia music scene, that it was the subject of a documentary directed by Heather Rose Dominic entitled The Shield Around the K, with a tagline of "Do It Yourself".[4] Mariella Luz, a long standing employee is currently the general manager.

Artists who have worked with K Records[edit]

The following artists have released albums through K Records.


  • Los Campesinos! cite a 'K Records t-shirt' in the song "Knee Deep At ATP", while early single "The International Tweexcore Underground" directly alludes to the label's International Pop Underground.
  • Nothing Painted Blue released a song "K for Karnival" which is partially a tribute to K Records; it repeats "Who put the shield around the K?" several times, referring to the interstate-style shield around the letter K in the K Records logo.
  • Kurt Cobain had the K Records logo tattooed on his forearm, saying it was to "try and remind me to stay a child."[5][6] The song "Lounge Act" on Nevermind references the logo.
  • In 2005, Springfield, Illinois indie band Resident Genius recorded a tribute song called "Calvin J", which contains the line "International Pop Underground/unknowingly broke fresh new ground"
  • The Hole song "Olympia" (credited as "Rock Star" on Live Through This) is a reference to the influence of Calvin Johnson and K Records on the Olympia music scene.
  • The Norwich Pop Underground Convention (2003-2007) was based on the attitudes and ethics of K's International Pop Underground Convention.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Delusions of Adequacy
  2. ^ a b c d Hudley Flipside, "Beat Happening," Flipside, whole no. 51 (Winter 1986), pp. 12-13.
  3. ^ Gina Arnold, "Route 666: On the Road to Nirvana." New York: St. Martins Press, 1993; pg. ???.
  4. ^ The Shield Around the K (2000) (V)
  5. ^ Sandford, Christopher (2004). Kurt Cobain. New York: Carroll & Graf. p. 63. ISBN 9780786713691. 
  6. ^ True, Everett (2009). Nirvana: The Biography. Cambridge, MA: Da Capo Press. p. 43. ISBN 9780786733903. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Baumgarten, Mark; Stella Marrs (foreword) (2012). Love rock revolution : K Records and the rise of independent music. Seattle: Sasquatch Books. ISBN 1570618224. 

External links[edit]