Captured Tracks has since grown into a more expansive endeavor, making a name for itself as one of the more prolific American independent labels, with 166 releases since 2009. Their diverse roster now ranges from shoegaze and dream-pop to dark electronics and post-punk, from re-issued, underappreciated bands of the '80s and '90s to first albums by young bands such as Beach Fossils, Wild Nothing, DIIV, the Soft Moon, Widowspeak, and more.
"It's interesting," says Pitchfork founder Ryan Schreiber, when I call him at his Williamsburg apartment. "For as new of a label as it is, it feels like somehow it's been around much longer. It sort of already has a sense of feeling like an institution."
In a world where everyone is seemingly always trying to re-invent the idea of what an independent label needs to be, that records themselves aren't enough, Schreiber agreed that Captured Tracks is proving that with a careful enough roster and passionate enough staff, a traditional approach to releasing vinyl records can still work. "Mike has a really classic approach to what a label needs," says Schreiber. "I think Captured is one of the few current labels that has a compelling sense of mystique or mythology about it. I can imagine people being obsessed with Captured the way they were obsessed with 4AD in the early '90s. Looking at the catalog numbers and trying to get their hands on every format and edition."
Schreiber says that Captured's limited-edition releases are "especially well done" and "actually look like rare editions," often in runs of 50 or 100. "It's important to Captured that the records have real value that goes beyond the retail price," he says. "Mike is one of the most insane collectors I know. He has absolutely some of the rarest shit. Stuff I didn't even know existed by bands I've loved since junior high."
When Sniper set out to release CT-001 in 2008, starting a label was not too much of a challenge for him. With a friend, he'd already run the power-pop re-issues label Radio Heartbeat for years. Plus, as a musician himself, he'd released noisy recordings under the moniker Blank Dogs with a slew of tiny labels — Sacred Bones, Freedom School, Hozac, In the Red. "I felt like I could do one myself," he says. "I had become so sick of power pop that I took all of my rare power-pop 7-inches and put them on eBay. I got like 10 grand for them. I had some super rare ones. That's how I was able to fund the label from the get-go."
He was already in touch with Dee Dee from Dum Dum Girls, and after a quick correspondence, she'd agreed to make her debut 12-inch EP CT-001. Sniper simultaneously released his next Blank Dogs EP as CT-002. The releases were packaged in the basement of Academy Records as Sniper managed the store upstairs.
From the start, the label was marked by a minimal, mysterious aesthetic. This was influenced by Sniper's background in design. During his college years, Sniper, now 35, studied philosophy and fine art at Parsons and Eugene Lang in Manhattan, mostly making large-scale abstract drawings with big grids.