Labels We Love: Numero Group (Chicago)

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Join us for a dedicated listening session today 2-5pm at In Sheep’s Clothing NYC.

The Chicago-born, Los Angeles based label Numero Group recently celebrated it’s 20th anniversary. Founded in 2003 by Rob Sevier, Ken Shipley, and Tom Lunt (who left the label in 2013), Numero Group has been one of the most consistently integral archival labels of the past two decades. 24-Carat Black, Antena, Laraaji, Gary Davenport, Rupa, Pastor T.L. Barrett, Wee, Ned Doheny, Cheryl Glasgow; the list goes on and on and we’re constantly surprised at the multitude of genres and niche musical zones the label dives into.

“We’ve crossed the street to deliver hidden worlds of unsung power pop, New York disco and rap, cosmic country, kid group soul, hillbilly hellfire, Franco-Belgian electro-samba, phantom blaxploitation funk, tiki torch exotica, psychedelic heartland pop, orchestral UK folk, decaying art soul, the forebears of Minneapolis Sound, and Chicago’s funk-blues club life captured in glorious black & white. There’s no basement too dank, no box too dusty for our intrepid team of researchers, writers, producers and engineers.”

Today, from 2-5pm we’ll be hosting our dedicated listening hours program with full album side playbacks of eight classic releases from the Numero Group catalog including a few ambient favorites for the daytime hours into cosmic folk, ’90s indie rock, and private press soul.

In anticipation of the listening session, we caught up with co-founder Ken Shipley over email to learn more about the label’s beginnings, essential releases, and inspirations.


How did the label first get started?

Numero began as an artist development imprint inside noted reissue pioneer Rykodisc in 2002. After I lost my A&R gig there in 2003, I met fellow Chicagoan Rob Sevier and we recast the idea as direct to consumer CD company focused on rediscovering lost and forgotten music. 

Can you describe the ethos/approach behind the label?

It began as a fairly humble outfit aimed at a pretty extreme niche of the record collecting market, but has since evolved into a multi-national rights management firm that happens to have a world class record label.  

For those new to the label, what are 5 Essential Releases to start with?













“Turning a new generation of kids onto a timeless classic is exactly what I’d hoped Numero would achieve when we set out 20 years ago.”

Ken Shipley

Is there a particular record in the label’s discography that is of extra special importance to you? What’s the story behind that release?

I’ve known Clay Parton and Dove Amber since 1992, and have followed their shaky artistic orbits since. Stratosphere was the first major evolution of their career, and they did it while barely out of their teens, when very few were paying any attention. To reconnect with them 20 years later and go down this alternate universe path to acclaim has been enormously gratifying. Turning a new generation of kids onto a timeless classic is exactly what I’d hoped Numero would achieve when we set out 20 years ago. 

The label has come a long way since the days of finding unknown 7”s in basements and garages. How has the process of discovering what you want to reissue next changed?

The process has stayed the same, the appetite and curiosity has gotten much larger. We’re still in the basements, still meeting regular folks that briefly had a music career. We’re voracious listeners. But Numero is also across many more genres and decades than when we started out doing Eccentric Soul. I’m just as likely to talk to the grandkid of a bandleader born in 1936 as I am to a person who fronted a hardcore band in 1996. 

As a label owner, what are your personal favorite labels?

20s Black Swan, 30s Bluebird, 40s Capitol, 50s Folkways, 60s Island, 70s Asylum, 80s Creation, 90s Gravity, 00s Stones Throw, 10s Third Man 

What is coming up next for the label?

20s Numero Group

https://floodmagazine.com/126405/numero-group-at-20-feature/

FLOOD - New Vinyl Ideas: Numero Group on 20 Years of Giving Us the  Unexpected
Rob Sevier, Ken Shipley

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