Label Profile: WOVEN RECORDS

by Darcy Penner

A city with world-class emerging musicians, a city lacking an organized grassroots music industry, and a city not receiving its fair recognition on the national scene; this is the Winnipeg that Jesse Dubé-Smith and Nico Wlock saw when they formed Woven Records in the beginning of 2011.

“You realize a lot of bands are not organized or are mismanaged,” explains Wlock over beers at Cousins. “They’ll put out a great album. They will release it, but then they will just fizzle out after one show and there is no follow up because there is nobody taking care of them in that way.”

Joined by Winnipeg’s party-producing king-pin, Mike B., Dubé-Smith and Wlock have put together an eclectic roster over the seven releases they have orchestrated in the last year and a half – from the pop-rock of J. Riley Hill, to Tim Hoover’s dense electronic instrumentals, to the self-coined “Seavibe” of FM Sea and JPEG.

“We want to bring people together – people that play good music. Bring them together and try to create a scene. That’s pretty much it,” says Dubé-Smith. “We are not genre based at all. You only live once, and you gotta listen to as much music as you can.”

A lot of the inspiration for Woven Records comes from the music industry in indie-strongholds such as Montreal and Toronto. With organized industry to support emerging artists, the cities attract their fair share of respect for their scenes, and Woven believes Winnipeg has as good of a talent pool. “I realized how the music industry and the business side of things in Winnipeg, on a small local scale, wasn’t really developed compared to places like Montreal where there are huge machines,” explains Dubé-Smith, “I mean, here there is so much talent, but there is so much talent that is not being pushed.”

However, a lack of respect for Winnipeg from these scenes may be working to hold back excellent Winnipeg artists, and the frustration caused by this drives Woven. “I went to Canadian Music Week last month, and I was there with one of the guys from The Lytics,” recalls Wlock, “A girl comes up and says, ‘Oh you guys are from Winnipeg, there is no good music in Winnipeg.’ I hate hearing that.” This is the perception they want to change.

By bringing together artists from various disciplines, from writers to graphic designers (and of course, musicians), Woven wants to provide the appropriate infrastructure for ensuring creative projects are properly seen through to the end – a central step to shedding the perception that Winnipeg artists can’t compete with the best. According to Wlock, the plan to do so is to “not make it based on artists, but a label in Winnipeg now putting out music from different artists that are all good.”

Of course, the guys give due credit to those attempting similar roles, noting Disintegration Records, Head in the Sand, and I’m Trying Records.

This year will see Woven release J.R. Hill’s new self-titled full length on June 12th, and a release from The Blisters in the fall. Although there will be fewer releases than last year, this should not be seen as a deliberate change in pace. Woven plans to spend the summer re-engaging their back catalogue to ensure every release has received its due exposure. “We have a pool of artists that have released things, and in my mind they are not fully out there as much as they should be,” says Wlock. “We have a busy summer, but it will be more on the promotion side.”

The label has also launched a new, collaborative content-generating website. “It will be a whole other project. We are getting collaborators to help us and it will be aggregating stuff that makes sense to the eyes and ears of people who like Woven music and to the eyes and ears of the artists,” explains Wlock.

The architects at Woven are purposely leaving their future open ended. “We have a loose plan, but things change so much. We encounter a lot of situations where [plans] have to be changed a bit and adapted,” says Wlock, “I think we’ve learned a lot.” An ambitious end goal is to bring the label and its artists to the level of national attention. Dubé-Smith lives in Montreal, and intends to “bring the scene to Montreal, Toronto, Halifax – all over the East coast.” Tim Hoover’s Woven-released full length, More Napkins, receiving a nomination for a Western Canadian Music award is certainly a good start for the label, and plans for starting to organize tours for their artists this fall will ensure their acts get the publicity they deserve.

Easily approachable and well spoken, Dubé-Smith and Wlock have the ideas to ensure Winnipeg artists get their due respect, and considering their main idea is organization, it is a promising mix of ambition and practicality. This can only be good for the city at large, for as Dubé-Smith says, “We want to change the perception of Winnipeg, that there is no good music here.  It could not be further from the truth.”

Check out Woven Record’s new website at

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