Justin Vernon’s Label Pays Homage to ‘Northern Exposure’

Justin Vernon / Photo by Ian Witlen

When Bon Iver captain Justin Vernon first announced Chigliak Records, his very own Jagjaguwar imprint, in September, he didn’t reveal too many details about the label, citing only the aim to “release extraordinary albums that were never commercially released… deeply special [records that] deserve to be in the homes of listeners who may not subscribe to the notion that life-changing music is both popular and current.” The first Chigliak artists he tapped were former Bon Iver tourmate Sarah Siskind, Ohio/Minnesota-native ’90s indie outfit 12 Rods, and Amateur Love, Vernon’s pre-Megafaun bandmates whose 2003 LP got a 1,000-pressing rerelease last month.

Now, speaking to the Hollywood Reporter, Vernon has laid out some more details about his new enterprise. First fantastic detail: Chigliak’s name is borrowed from a character on ’90s TV dramedy Northern Exposure.

“Honestly, before I settled on a name for the Bon Iver project in general, Chigliak was in the running for what I was going to name the band, just because I love him so much,” Vernon said of Ed Chigliak, the gentle Alaskan film buff played by Darren E. Burrows on the CBS show. “He’s my favorite in the pantheon of characters in the history of the world… he’s sort of a representation of what we’re trying to do at the label: like good music that may not be box office-smashing.”

He added that Amateur Love’s It’s All Aquatic rerelease sold a few hundred copies its first week, and that Chigliak, which is essentially run by Vernon and business partner Josh Sundquist (with distribution via Jagjaguwar), will concentrate on no more than three to four releases every year.

“Chigliak is meant to pay for itself, if we’re lucky,” he explained, stressing that literally all they’re doing is releasing the music — no licensing, no radio, no nothing — at least for now. “And honestly, I don’t care if it doesn’t. I want to do it that bad. I just want it to happen… [it’s] about just getting the music out there.”


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