The independent record label and store Black Noise Records was founded by Nico Sanchez in 2016 when he was still attending Western Washington University.
Sanchez’s goal with this company was to create a community he felt didn’t exist before. Being a Filipino-American, he said the Bellingham music scene did not seem very eclectic and wanted his label to encompass diversity and inclusivity.
One of the biggest highlights has been “being able to connect with other people in the scene and being able to provide a space and a sense of community for people like myself,” he said.
Sanchez also creates and produces his own music under the name OG Neeks.
He described his music as influenced by jazz, funk, soul and underground hip hop, which he felt there was little representation of in Bellingham when creating the label.
Shortly before making the label official, he and his friends Matt Doval, or Estimate, Troy Bowman, who goes by Nodalus, and Daniil Gatalyak, also known as Ideism, were making beats individually.
They would frequently throw house shows together. When Sanchez decided to put a name to what they were doing, Black Noise Records was born.
“I think the coolest and most fulfilling part for me is being able to be a part of that subculture in town,” he said.
From the start, Black Noise Records has been diverse and transparent. The artists who have signed under it feel they get to maintain their artistic independence.
Andrew Valdez and Jordan Moss are signed under Black Noise Records and both started working with the label near its start.
Valdez, whose stage name is Slap Serif, said none of the artists on the label put forth any sort of false perceptions.
“Anything that comes across in our videos or music is just who we are,” they said.
They’ll spend lots of time in the record store hunting for music someone might not think could be turned into beats or hip hop. In their music, they like to incorporate records that would typically go overlooked.
Moss, also known as The Rhetorician, said Bellingham is a great place to start something like Black Noise Records.
“If you can do something that people want to be a part of, that’s the route to go here,” he said.
The style of his music takes influence from artists like Q-Tip, Craig Mack, Rapsody and Mos Def. Imagery-wise, he tries to tap into the realm of George Clinton and Blankman, aiming to bring in dimensions of story-telling.
The Black Noise Records store came to life after the label started and will celebrate its two-year anniversary this June. It has become a home base for these musicians.
Sanchez describes it as a “right-place, right-time” situation.
“Nico opening the shop was a huge highlight. That felt like a win for everybody,” said Doval, who has been with Black Noise Records since the beginning. “It just feels really cool to have headquarters.”
Mike Pitts is the current owner of the long-standing Sonic Boom Records in Seattle, Washington. He believes record stores have a way of bringing people together like no other, especially living in a world that’s now heavily technology-based.
“I feel like the resurgence in vinyl in the last 10 years has been a result of people just wanting community,” he said. “One of my favorite things is to hang out in the store and talk to customers and see them hanging out together. I think it’s kind of the antithesis of all the screentime we all have to deal with each day.”
Chris Evans, or CHRVNS, another artist signed under the label, said that the musicians there care for one another and will help each other get shows booked.
“It has a family aspect to it for sure, when you're working with everybody at Black Noise; everybody's always gonna look out for everybody,” he said.
Evans joined the label more recently than some of the other artists. Although he has collaborated with artists from the label since 2017-18, he officially joined in 2021.
The artists currently signed under Black Noise Records include those mentioned above along with Ca$h McClane and Nice Nate. The latest release from the label is the Bright Ideas album by OG Neeks and Estimate.
Tristyn (she/they) is a city life reporter for The Front. They are planning on majoring in visual journalism. This is her second-year at Western. In Tristyn’s free time, they enjoy thrift shopping, being outside, going to music festivals and hanging out with her roommate’s cats.
You can reach them at Tristyn.email@example.com