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Drag City: Pioneering Rock Decadence

"Did we really love the music that much? Did we want to get closer to the stars? Were we young and impressionable? Were we hoping to make money? Or were we just sick of our jobs? It was a bit of all of these things–and it happened in 1989."

So says Drag City's veteran sales manager Rian Murphy, tongue no doubt screwed securely into his cheek. Truth is, the leftfield Chicago independent has been aiding musical evolution ever since two dudes named Dan (Osborn and Koretzky, to be exact) dumped their promoter gigs and rode the burgeoning DIY boom for all it was worth, along the way propelling alt-rock pioneers like Pavement, Stereolab, Royal Trux, Jim O'Rourke and more into popular consciousness. Since then, Drag City has gone global with bands like Ghost (Japan), Alasdair Roberts (Europe) and more, as well as back in time with reissues of long-lost collections from psych-rock weirdos like Mayo Thompson and Gary Higgins. Which is to say that, if the Drag City faithful didn't do it because they love music, they have nevertheless helped carve out its multicultural, cross-genre future.

Murphy is no doubt thinking about the, um, future when he sagely says, "rock 'n' roll is for the young...or those who lustfully and semi-legally prey on the young." But seriously, both young and old alike are raising glasses to the label's longevity, fortified as it is by able-bodied newcomers like avant-folkie Joanna Newsom and freakout maestro Ben Chasny (Six Organs of Admittance, August Born). Not that Drag City's heady roster of old-school virtuosos like O'Rourke and David Pajo (Slint, Papa M, Tortoise and into the stratosphere) is anything to sneeze at either.

And finally, how does Drag City feel about the place it calls home? "If cities were women, we wouldn't call Chicago a whore or anything, but we have our ups and downs with her," sighs Murphy. "And love her just the same."

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