Frontier Records, the independent Los Angeles-based record label founded in 1980, celebrates its 30th anniversary this year with their 100th release, YES L.A., scheduled for later this year. Owned and operated by Lisa Fancher, Frontier is instrumental in releasing classic punk, alternative country, paisley underground, goth and pop records that are considered classic ‘must-haves’ to critics and serious music collectors alike.
Among the first to tap into the Los Angeles punk scene, Frontier Records’ initial success was releasing the classic Circle Jerks record Group Sex. This was later followed by Orange County’s Adolescents’ debut known as the Blue Album TSOL’s Dance with Me and Christian Death’s Only Theatre of Pain. However, it was the eponymous debut LP from Suicidal Tendencies that spawned the unexpected MTV smash "Institutionalized" that put Frontier on the map. If you caught the Don Johnson vehicle Miami Vice episode featuring Suicidal, you’d know the mainstream finally caught up with the underground.
In light of these early successes in punk rock, it is easy to overlook the fact that Frontier has also released well-known records from bands from a variety of genres: The Long Ryders, Thin White Rope, The Three O’Clock, Young Fresh Fellows, American Music Club and Heatmiser, Elliott Smith’s first band. All of these groups and more released full-length-albums on Frontier Records that were as important to the labels evolution as any punk rock angst the label is best known for.
Perhaps most importantly, a woman starting her own independent record label in an overwhelmingly male dominated music industry in 1980 was key in shattering the notion that ‘chicks can’t rock’. Simply put, women didn’t start their own record labels then, especially in the testosterone-drenched L.A. punk rock scene. For founder Lisa Fancher to have survived as an indie label for thirty solid years on, having seen her fair share of record distributors go belly up and put her label in financial jeopardy, makes its survival almost as impressive as its inception.
"When I founded Frontier Records in 1980, I had no idea what running a record label entailed, I just wanted to turn other people onto the local bands I loved," said Frontier Records founder Lisa Fancher. "It’s pretty cool to have outlasted so many independent – and major – labels thirty years later but what really still makes me want to continue is to continue to release great music that still needs to be heard. Especially now!"
Having begun her music career as a teenage clerk at the Bomp Records store on Magnolia Blvd in North Hollywood- concurrently fan club president for L.A.’s The Dickies and publisher of Biff!Bang!Pow! fanzine- Lisa learned the ropes on how to jumpstart an indie label from the best possible mentors a person could have, Greg and Suzy Shaw at Bomp Records. While her first success came from releasing soon-to-be classic punk titles by new bands, Fancher gradually delved into the world of reissuing out-of-print catalog as well, including Born Innocent from Redd Kross, two legendary slabs of punk vinyl from The Weirdos: Weird World Vol. 1 & 2, Dangerhouse Vols 1 & 2 featuring crucial 45s by X, The Avengers, Weirdos, Black Randy, et al.), the Adolescents’ Complete Demos 1980 – 1996 and The Middle Class’ compilation Out of Vogue.
In late 2010, Frontier will re-release the digitally remastered Christian Death classic Only Theater of Pain with Rozz Williams’ original artwork as well as Dangerhouse’s Yes L.A. compilation and other nuggets soon to be announced. Additionally, Frontier has always been a vinyl-oriented label, which considers the limited edition colored vinyl LP their calling card – so expect more colored wax reissues in the coming months. Visit frontierrecords.com.