Once upon a time, cassette tapes ruled. Every car had a tape deck and every young person carried a portable Sony Walkman. While those days are mostly behind us, one Lethbridge record label is proudly keeping that torch burning.
Norwegian Blue Records is a local record label that puts out music digitally, but also specializes in the medium of cassette recording. Local musician Tyson Wiebe and his mates Mick Hayward and Quint Viskup manage the label.
“Norwegian Blue Records initially started as an idea back in 2009,” Wiebe said, “but the only thing that really lasted from that collaboration was the name itself. As it exists today, Norwegian Blue was really started in earnest in 2014 with our first release: The Farm Sessions by Mormon Girls.”
According to Wiebe, a small indie label like Norwegian Blue makes putting out albums easier for local bands by splitting duplication costs. In this way, the artists can have a finished project easily without having to worry about going broke, while the label gets a product they can sell or use to promote the band.
Wiebe has been a fixture in local bands for years. When asked why he decided to start his own label, Wiebe chuckled at the question. “The simplest reason is that there was no one else rushing to sign us! A perk of owning my own label is that I can release stuff from my own bands, which are Planet Telex, Cope, Mormon Girls, and Atomicos, and nobody can tell me no!”
“But traditionally,” he explained, “Southern Alberta gets overlooked in favour of our big brothers to the north, yet I’ve always felt that we are a thriving music community. I came to realize that if no one else was representing us, then I would.”
This decision led to the creation of the Windy Rock compilation series that highlights artists from our region. A third entry in the series will be released next year.
Some of these artists include Ryland Moranz, betterhalf, and Sparkle Blood, but the latest Norwegian Blue release was a “long-lost album” from now-defunct post-hardcore crew Atrophy Manuscript.
Internationally, Norwegian Blue Records has been able to work bands from Ottawa, Philadelphia, and even one act from Essex in the U.K.
Anybody interested in hearing more from the local acts affiliated with Norwegian Blue are encouraged to visit their Bandcamp page to listen/shop digitally, or to purchase physical copies of the label’s releases at Blueprint Entertainment, The Owl Acoustic Lounge, and Sunrise Records.
All of the label’s cassette tape releases come with a digital download card, so people can still enjoy the music even if their tape deck is broken, or worse, non-existent.
On the night of Friday, December 1, three of Norwegian Blue’s local bands will be having a blast with the Bands On Bands show taking place at The Owl Acoustic Lounge. Cope with Ryland Moranz will be performing as Blink 182, Sparkle Blood will be The White Stripes, and MTBC will be The Pixies. The event is free and all adults are welcome to attend.
Tyson Wiebe is simply a passionate man who really wants local acts to succeed. He believes the talented musicians from our portion of the province deserve recognition from Canadians, and he is doing his best to make that happen.
“We have a great amount of talent in Lethbridge that you really don’t see in other cities this size,” Wiebe said. “There always seems to be a new project on the horizon with bands forming, breaking up, changing, reforming, etc. The one problem with the success of the label and playing in my many bands is that I don’t have enough time to simply go out and see as much live music as I used to!”