Seattle’s eclectic indie label Suicide Squeeze, which has released recordings by Elliott Smith, Modest Mouse and Minus the Bear, celebrates its 20th birthday with concerts on Thursday and Friday, Aug. 25-26.
On the Wikipedia page for Suicide Squeeze Records, Bay Area rap eccentric Lil B is curiously listed as one of the Seattle label’s artists — alongside Northwest indie titans Elliott Smith and Modest Mouse.
Asked about this, founder David Dickenson laughs.
“Nah, dude,” he says. “I don’t know what’s up with that … It’s pretty funny, though. Probably would’ve made us seem cooler.”
Suicide Squeeze Records 20th Anniversary
The Coathangers, VHS, Childbirth, others at 8 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 25, at Neumos, 925 E. Pike St., Seattle; $13 (206-709-9442 or neumos.com)
Minus The Bear, This Will Destroy You, Six Parts Seven, others at 8 p.m. Friday, Aug. 26, at the Neptune Theatre, 1303 N.E. 45th St., Seattle; $28 (206-682-1414 or stgpresents.org).
Dickenson’s label celebrates its 20th birthday next week with shows at Neumos (Thursday, Aug. 25) and the Neptune Theatre (Friday, Aug. 26). Its roster is so eclectic that it’s not all that far-fetched to imagine a rapper on the list. Both bills are microcosms of a staggering discography — 130 releases and counting — that includes plenty of local indie rock, but also acoustic folk, stoner metal, riot grrrl, and even comedy.
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The son of professional baseball hitting coach Ralph Dickenson (currently with the Houston Astros), David Dickenson, 43, traveled a lot as a kid, landing in Seattle in 1993 to attend a Dinosaur Jr. show at the Paramount Theatre. He never left town.
Suicide Squeeze, named for a baseball play that’s very risky but pays off if executed correctly — kind of like starting a record label — came to be in ’96, debuting with a 7-inch single by hometown indie rockers 764-HERO, whose drummer, Polly Johnson, was married to Dickenson.
Most of the label’s first releases were 7-inch singles, more out of necessity than by choice.
“The amount of money we could afford to offer bands to go into the studio and record wasn’t near a full-length’s time,” Dickenson explains. “Even an EP was a stretch.”
But in time, 7-inch records became Suicide Squeeze’s specialty. The late Smith’s “Division Day,” from 1997, was one of the earliest; it remains a catalog favorite, forever in print.
Dickenson’s 2001 signing of Minus the Bear, which headlined Friday, was another coup.
After a decadelong run as the label’s flagship act, the Seattle math-popsters graduated in 2010 to a larger indie group, Dangerbird, but not before its second Suicide Squeeze LP, 2005’s “Menos El Oso,” moved nearly 100,000 units.
Minus’ breakthrough cleared the way for a new class of bands to lead Suicide Squeeze forward, headed up by Atlanta garage-punks and Thursday headliners The Coathangers, whose latest record, “Nosebleed Weekend,” cracked the Billboard 200 chart.
One of Dickenson’s newest Seattle signees, Childbirth, plays Thursday.
Though Suicide Squeeze continues to churn out singles at an impressive rate, the label has been careful to make every LP release count.
“We fill the gaps with nine or 10 7-inches, but we still don’t release more than four or five LPs a year,” says Dickenson. “We focus on pushing the band, not having it just be a three, six-month [album] cycle. We want to promote record-to-record, as opposed to just releasing a ton of albums, throwing them against the wall and seeing what sticks.”