Bella Union’s North Texas Five

by | Feb 23, 2007

Jude Rogers from The Guardian crossed the pond and made her way to one of the more musical cities in middle America, Denton, TX. She writes, “Denton, like Nashville, Memphis, Seattle or Portland before it, is fast becoming an American musical heartland where something is happening.”

The reason for her assessment is largely credited to Midlake, a group comprised of former jazz students from the University of North Texas. Midlake first gained popularity in England, thanks to Simon Raymonde–former Cocteau Twin and boss of British label, Bella Union. Raymonde has signed five Denton bands since 2000.

“Denton is a very curious place. It’s a place where music, for some reason, is the lifeblood of these people, their main form of expression.” He should know. The cult band Lift to Experience were his first signing, their only album, The Texas-Jerusalem Crossroads, being a concept LP about the end of the world with Texas as the promised land. Punky blues band Jetscreamer and the experimental Mandarin followed, before Midlake inked their initials in 2005. New signing Robert Gomez, a soft, wistful singer-songwriter and a friend of the Midlake boys, joined the label’s ranks late last year.

“Denton’s a little like how Brighton used to be,” Raymonde says. “Everyone knows everyone’s business, but not in an intrusive way. Perhaps because Texas is so huge, there’s a real sense of small-town togetherness within this huge expanse of land. And, for some reason, everyone I keep getting recommendations about from there is talented, gracious and good company.”

I would be remiss here if I failed to mention that Grammy Award-winning musician, Norah Jones, attended the University of North Texas, where she majored in jazz piano before moving to New York City.