Jeepster, the Scottish record label best known for Belle and Sebastian, is more or less closing down. David Kitchen has been sent in 'to dismantle their network, clean computers and prepare the office for a sale of equipment.' The label, it seems, could not sustain itself on the money they made from Belle and Sebastian, let alone their other signings; whatever money they made, and more, went into paying for the bands and the costs of running their offices1.
Belle and Sebastian's Storytelling, consisting of songs written for the film of the same name, is released on June 3, 2002. Salako's next album will also be released, but these are expected to be the last records to come out on the Jeepster label. Kay Heath will look after the back catalogue from her home office, but the label will go into a largely dormant state and those involved will go on to other things.
The bands will be looking for new record labels once their contracts expire, or setting up on their own, or going their separate ways. Jeepster's signings included Isobel Campbell's The Gentle Waves - Isobel's next album was to be released under her own name - Salako; Snow Patrol, and Ian McCulloch (formerly of Echo & The Bunnymen). The Jeepster web site, www.jeepster.co.uk, still features discographies for all their signings, histories and lyrics to most of their songs. At the time of writing it doesn't carry any official acknowledgement of its demise; I read of it in the discussion forum which used to be the Jeepster forum, but which went its own way as Bowlie some time ago (URL below1).
Jeepster were formed in the Summer of 1996, and signed Belle and Sebastian in the August. In the November Belle and Sebastian's first album to receive a full release, If You’re Feeling Sinister, came out; it never charted, selling slowly at first, but as the word spread it started to sell steadily, and has continued to do so ever since; it has now gone silver.
In 1997 Belle and Sebastian released three EPs in the Summer, each selling better than the last: Dog on Wheels, Lazy Line Painter Jane and 3..6..9 Seconds of Light, the last of which managed to hit the UK Charts at number 41. In December of the year Snow Patrol signed to Jeepster.
In February of 1998 Salako followed them, and in August of that year both bands released albums: Salako's Re-inventing Punctuation and Snow Patrol's Songs for Polar Bears. Next month Belle and Sebastian's most commercially successful album, The Boy with the Arab Strap, is released to much rejoicing. Then, in December, Stuart David - B&S's bassist at this point - signs a record deal with Jeepster in his own right as Looper, his spoken-word/loopy-electronic-music project (think Space Boy Dream, if you know it, although hip-hop influence has been creeping in since then).
In January of 1999 Isobel Campbell (B&S's versatile female vocalist, instrumentalist and songwriter) also signed her own contract with Jeepster as The Gentle Waves - a 'band' consisting mainly of members of Belle and Sebastian, playing Isobel's own songs. In February B&S won Best Newcomer at the Brit Awards, to the amusement of many and the bemusement of others. In March Looper's excellent first album, Up A Tree, was released, accompanied by the Ballad of Ray Suzuki as a single; in April it was followed by The Gentle Waves' debut, Green Fields of Foreverland, while Belle and Sebastian headlined at (and various band members helped organise) the Bowlie Weekender - a festival at a holiday camp, with chalets and all, which seems to have been loved by all who attended. Salako and Snow Patrol also played, as well as various non-Jeepster acts like Mercury Rev. In June Salako won the Viaje A Los Suenos Palares Award; in July Belle and Sebastian's debut album, Tigermilk (which had originally had a run of only 1000) was re-released, and Salako's Musicality.
At this point the official history on the site2 breaks off, and I do not have the time today to fill in the gaps. The main things that happened after this point were that most of the bands released more records, none of which made a lot of cash for the record company, including Belle and Sebastian's last album before Storytelling, Fold Your Hands Child, You Walk Like A Peasant, which many found a little disappointing musically and which sold only a fraction as many copies as the album before, allowing Jeepster to lose lots of money. I'll write up the rest when I get time.