Launched into the atmosphere in 1997, Rocket Girl Records has enjoyed a decade orbiting the music industry on a distinctly heavenly axis. Founded by Vinita Joshi – a native of Rugby (the land of radio masts and Spacemen 3) and now London – the label has established itself as one of the premier UK independent labels; the glorious result of a music lover releasing music for music lovers. And what music it is, too: from the soft, sun-drenched psychedelia of Mazarin; to Fuxa’s marriage of electronics and mind-melting melodies; to the wistful acoustics of State River Widening, there is much here to fall in love with.
In today’s big bad world of ruthless record execs and suited-and-booted number-crunchers, Rocket Girl feels at once far-removed from other labels, and yet - at the same time - familiar and inviting; a record label you can believe in. Nestling under the wing of the influential Cheree Records (home to Bark Psychosis, Whipping Boy, the Pooh Sticks, the Telescopes, amongst others), Vinita’s musical adventure began on the 31st December 1988, selling Loop flexidiscs at the band’s show at the Fulham Greyhound. Cheree spawned an offshoot label in 1990, founded by Vinita and Nick Allport – Che – initially responsible for releasing the music of legendary Essex etherealists, Disco Inferno. Vinita became heavily involved in managing Che, nurturing a roster which included the Tindersticks, Backwater, Fuxa, and Slipstream, as well as giving birth to two Top 40 hit singles by Urusei Yatsura and Lilys.
In 1997, as a result of increasing frustration over artist signings and a wish to exercise more creative control, Vinita established her own record label: Rocket Girl.
Within weeks of the label’s inception, Rocket Girl released a 7” split single by Silver Apples / Windy & Carl, to coincide with the Silver Apples’ sold-out European tour booked by Vinita herself. The label continued to encourage cross-pollination between its artists, most notably the 1998 7” single collaboration between Low / Transient Waves / Piano Magic (‘Sleep at the Bottom’), and 2000’s EP ‘Add N to Fu(x)a’. Hot on the heels of the Silver Apples / Windy & Carl 7”, 1998 also saw the release of Rocket Girl’s first full-length album – ‘A Tribute to Spacemen 3’ – a celebration of the pioneers of drone, with offerings from (the then largely unknown) Mogwai, Arab Strap, Piano Magic, and Low, among others. Lovingly packaged in a limited box-set, ‘A Tribute to Spacemen 3’ is testament to Vinita’s care and attention to detail when it comes to releasing music. In today’s digital world of the disposable MP3 and IPod, Rocket Girl can be relied upon to produce records with a quality of artwork and packaging reflecting the precious music within. From the psychedelic Op Art sleeve of EAR’s ‘Vibrations’ 12”, to the dewy photography of Martin Andersen (featured on 2002 releases by Fuxa, July Skies, Coldharbour Stores, etc), each Rocket Girl record is a pleasure to behold.
Spring 2001 heralded the release of the double CD ‘A Rocket Girl Compilation’, showcasing the eclecticism of the label’s output. As Vinita herself says, “I'm into a lot of different music. I like a lot of '60s music and lots of melancholy stuff, slowcore, plinky plonky Krautrock, spacerock - I'd hate to say I only like one genre. I generally like everything I carry in the mail order catalogue.”
Along with the label, Vinita also oversees a vast catalogue of mail order music, extending the notion that good music should be shouted about from the rooftops, and shared. While the mail order helps subsidise the label, Vinita’s passion for the artists in the catalogue is exemplified by her enthusiastic comments found alongside each item for sale, like a friend sharing a precious secret.
Sharing seems to be at the heart of the Rocket Girl ethic. As well as handling Jeepster Records’ mail catalogue (home sweet home of Belle & Sebastian), Vinita also has a sub-publishing deal with Rykodisc, and has helped out with a number of record labels throughout her reign at Rocket Girl, including Bella Union, and One Little Indian.
Over its first decade, Rocket Girl Records has established a firm place at the forefront of the independent UK music industry. In 2001, the label won one of four Young Music Professional Awards, and enjoyed television exposure being the focus of an entire episode of the BBC series ‘Hit & Miss – An A-Z of the music industry’. The label has also been profiled in publications as far a field as Japan (Afterhours), USA (Magnet), Spain, France, to name but a few.
Attracting support from both regional and national radio (including John Kennedy and Keith Cameron at XFM, and John Peel at Radio 1), Vinita also presented a number of shows for Resonance 104.4FM’s Clear Spot, leading to her own weekly slot. In addition, Vinita can be found DJing regularly at nightspots throughout the UK, as well as intermittently spinning records at such sonic institutions as Benicassim festival in Spain.
More recently, Rocket Girl has established a number of off-shoot labels – Indus Sonica, which reissued Piano Magic’s seminal debut ‘Popular Mechanics’, catering for connoisseurs of everything electronic; and Mandita, home to Peelie favourites, M.A.S.S – both of which remain under the Rocket Girl banner.
Today, Rocket Girl remains a true labour of love for Vinita. While continuing to manage artists as well as labels (including ambient impresario Ulrich Schnauss, as well as PASK, the label responsible for releasing Kevin Shields and Patti Smith’s 2008 aural homage to Robert Mapplethorpe, ‘The Coral Sea’), Vinita looks set to soar higher and higher in the musical stratosphere.
Leaving the last word to Vinita herself: “Music is like a good book. Your favourite books and records never change. Their familiarity is soothing... and without those special songs and artists I wouldn’t be here.”
And Rocket Girl is special too.
Richard Milward, 2009