matt sullivan 2

Photo (c) Hilary Staff

LITA (Light In The Attic) is one of the strongest label of the moment, building his reputation with great new releases and essential reissues (Sixto Rodriguez, Wendy Rene…)! Very happy to let Matt Sullivan, co-owner and founder, talk about their work!


When did you start digging records?
Around 1993/94. At the time I was the Music Director at my small 10-watt High School radio station – where my eyes and ears discovered another world – much of which was independent, off-the-radar sounds.

What Lps did you buy at first?
American indie rock and classic rock.

Do you still listen to them?
All the time.

Do you have a particular style or favourite period?
It’s all over the map and always changing and evolving and devolving. I guess it depends on my current mood.

Are you still digging, buying vinyl, visiting record shops?
Yes. In life, few things still get me as high as visiting a record store. However, with two little kids and running a business, looking for records doesn’t happen as often as I’d like.

What was your first release on Light In The Attic ?
The first two albums by The Last Poets. The project was a co-release with our friends at Vampi Soul and came out in October 2002.

Why did you choose this name : Light In The Attic?
It gives hope that something positive remains in an old dusty attic.


TL Barrett, Bill Russell, Isaac Hayes and Jesse Jackson in sixties


Pastor T.L. Barrett & The Youth For Christ Choir
Nobody Knows


What could be the label’s leitmotif?
Quality over quantity.

How do you decide on the choice of reissues?
There’s no straight rhyme or reason to it. Our roots in the archival/reissue world started in 1997 when I interned at a label called Munster Records in Spain. The music played on the office turntable – bands like Suicide, Eden Ahbez, Spacemen 3, the Monks – immediately altered my musical landscape, along with my earlier plan on starting a label (which was to focus on contemporary music). When I got back to Seattle I was fully focused on a label that mixed reissues and archival music as well as contemporary artists/bands, but with a wide array of sounds, genres, eras. Around the same time, I started going to a record store called Bedazzled Discs. The owner, Al Milman (vocalist of killer 70s punk band the Al Milman Sect) became one of those magical record store gurus, sharing an unknown world of records, bands and sounds. Munster, Milman, and hours sitting on the floor at Tower Records in Bellevue, Washington, reading Melody Maker interviews with Kurt Cobain and The Verve babbling on about bands like Can, the Raincoats, the Electric Prunes, and David Axelrod would shape my world and plant the roots for Light In The Attic. It was the pre-internet age, so you had to work to discover anything outside of the confines of commercial radio.

What was the most important of your releases?
“Native North America (Vol. 1): Aboriginal Folk, Rock, and Country 1966–1985.” Over a ten year period, Kevin «Sipreano» Howes put together the collection, which showcases First Nations and Native Americans performing folk, rock and country music. The music is immensely powerful. Sadly much of the hardship and stories being told in those songs still rings true today. It’s made an impact on the musicians featured within as well as people like myself. I have a hard time thinking we’ll ever top it.

More generally, LITA is very good at reissuing obscure LP’s with strong commercial potential (Karen Dalton, Jim Sullivan, Lee Moses, Wendy Renee and of course Rodriguez). Is it a label’s philosophy?
We’ve been fortunate to have chosen a number of releases that have crossed-over, but much of it has been the luck of the draw.



Rodriguez LP’s are now considered as one of the best reissues of all times, in the sense of making successfull to a large audience a previously relatively unknown album ! Are you proud of that?
Incredibly. It’s been a surreal journey.

What was your biggest disappointment, I mean the reissue you thought was a sureshot but did not go as expected?
Two projects that we’re extremely proud to have been involved with, but we remain bummed on the world’s quiet response would be:
Johnnie Frierson – “Have You Been Good To Yourself”
National Wake – “Walk in Africa 1979-1981”
I’m still very hopeful that the world will come around though. Some things take time.

You reissued 2 amazing gospel soul LP’s, any plans for more of that style in the future?
Thank you! There’s a bunch. The one I’m most excited about has taken about 6 years to – almost – bring to frution. It’s a never-ending licensing nightmare but I’m hopeful it’ll become a reality by 2020.

You recently decided to open a physical store. What does it fit in your strategy of development?
We love brick and mortar record stores and always wanted to have our own.

In your team, does everyone have a specialty, a privileged domain? Do you also call on external partners? A world network ?
Yes. There are 16 of us at Light In The Attic. While everyone has a primary focus, we are an independent business so we’re all wearing many hats. Half of the company is based at our office in the Los Feliz area of Los Angeles, overseeing the production of the releases, licensing for film/tv/adverts/sampling, publicity/marketing, etc. The other half is based in Seattle, which is the home for all things sales, accounting and our distribution hub. We distribute over 75 labels and sell direct to hundreds of stores, so that’s a large part of the company. Along with distributing some amazing labels like Music From Memory, Tidal Waves Music, Mondo/Death Waltz, Lion Productions and Mississippi Records, we’ve been incredibly fortunate to work with some immensely knowledgeable reissue producers – Hunter Lea, DJ Supreme La Rock, Sipreano, Zach Cowie, and Alec Palao, amongst so many others ; genius audio engineers like John Baldwin and Dave Cooley, exceptionally talented writers like Sam Sweet, Andria Lisle, Sarah Sweeney, and Jessica Hundley, amongst dozens of others. Without thèse folks, we’d be stuck at home eating twinkies and watching Planes, Trains and Automobiles.


So Natural


You cover many styles of music. Not being specialized, is it a strength or a weakness?
Maybe I’m biased, but it’s always felt like a strength. Personally, it’s made things more interesting, as we love so many different styles, so we have the freedom to keep searching regardless of era, genre, or country. I’d be too restless if we only did one thing.

Do you believe there are still countries, genres, periods, not covered by this phenomenal and global movement of reissues?
No question. It is infinite. We’re currently in Japan, working on over two dozen reissue/archival projects, all of which have never been released outside Japan. The world is an endless well of discovery. Anyone who thinks otherwise is stuck in a cardboard box with blinders on.

And how do we succeed in entering the current scene, signing artists, when we are very identified for reissues – more than 200 – from the past?
There’s always a bit of the past in the present.

Have you received many negative answers on some of the LPs, artists, unreleased tapes, you were trying to reissue?
Not a lot, but it does happen from time to time. You can’t win ’em all.

Nowadays, there are many LP labels who follow this model, I mean more quality even if it’s more expensive… but in same time, there are also another « new » LP market, with majors’ come-back and other labels, who prefer to sell cheaper. Is it the (re)creation of two camps for the LP?
Yes, at the moment. Two extremely different ways of doing things. I’d guess that the cheaper market won’t last in the long run.

There are more and more reissues of old LPs, and more and more record labels (major or indie) now release their new artists on LP, or EP. Do you think that the LP reissue market could ever reach saturation point?
Sadly, the point of over-saturation is already here, but thankfully the joys of discovery will never end if one cares to look deeper.

Wendy Rene
After Laughter


What are your next releases?
“Acetone – 1992-2001”
– Anthology of criminally over-looked Los Angeles band. The anthology is a companion release to a new book called Hadley-Lee-Lightcap by Sam Sweet. Beautiful, beautiful music. One of my favorite releases in our entire catalog.
V/A – “Even A Tree Can Shed Tears Even A Tree Can Shed Tears: Japanese Folk & Rock 1969-1973”
– A few years back, musician and collector Jake Orrall gave us a CD-R of his favorite Japanese folk and rock. For months, that CD-R didn’t leave our stéréo. After two trips to Japan and much licensing shenanigans, the release has finally come to fruition and marks the first in our Japan Archival Series. Next up is “Kankyō Ongaku: Japanese Ambient, Environmental & New Age Music 1980-1990 and Pacific Breeze: Japanese City Pop, AOR & Boogie 1975-1985”. There will be nearly two dozen more releases in the series.
Lee Hazlewood – “Forty, Requiem For An Almost Lady, and The Cowboy And The Lady”
– For the past decade or so, we’ve been working with reissue producer Hunter Lea on re-releasing much of Lee’s vast catalog. These will be the next three titles in the series. The album Requiem For An Almost Lady may be my favorite all time Lee record.
Betty Davis – “Nasty Gal”
– Originally released on Island in 1975, Nasty Gal was Betty’s third album. It’s been out before as a shitty, semi-bootleg-looking reissue. This is the opposite – nicely remastered with lyrics and new notes by John Ballon interviewing Betty.
Digable Planets – “Reachin’ (A New Refutation Of Time & Place)”
– February 2018 marks the 25th anniversary of the band’s debut LP. This edition is expanded to two LPs (the original release never should’ve been a single LP, as it’s way too long to fit on a single LP) and includes some killer notes by Larry Mizell Jr and the lyrics for the first time.

What is the LP you dream of reissuing?
We’re working on ’em, so I can’t spill the beans quite yet.



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