Dead Oceans

Dead Oceans is an American independent record label based on Bloomington, Indiana with offices in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Austin, London, Paris, Amsterdam, and Berlin.[1] Dead Oceans is a label included in Secretly Group, which also includes Secretly Canadian and Jagjaguwar. Secretly Group includes the three record labels as well as a music publisher known as Secretly Publishing, representing artists, writers, filmmakers, producers, and comedians[2].

Dead Oceans
Founded2007 (2007)
FounderChris Swanson
Ben Swanson
Darius Van Arman
Jonathan Cargill
Phil Waldorf
Distributor(s)Secretly Distribution
Country of originUnited States
LocationBloomington, Indiana


In 2007, Phil Waldorf left Misra Records after nearly a decade of managing the label to form Dead Oceans with Chris Swanson, Ben Swanson, Darius Van Arman, and Jonathan Cargill of Secretly Canadian and Jagjaguwar.[3][4]

Before becoming the head of Dead Oceans, Waldorf was a Virginia native with a teenage love of skateboarding and punk rock seven-inches. He left home to go to college in Athens, GA where he worked at the college radio station, WUOG, as their music director, and in the city’s underground music scene.[5] While there, Waldorf came to know future indie bands Neutral Milk Hotel and Olivia Tremor Control in their formative years, going to early house shows before both bands rose to underground fame.[6][7]

In 1998, Waldorf moved to New York City when he was hired by the iconic record store, Other Music.[8] While working at Other Music, Waldorf also managed an indie label, Misra Records.[9][10] After some time, Chris Swanson and Waldorf became friends and began talking about the possibility of working together.[11]

After deciding to partner on a new label, Chris Swanson suggested the name Dead Oceans. The name is lifted from the lyrics of Bob Dylan’s “A Hard Rain’s a-Gonna Fall” (1962):[12][13]

I’ve been out in front of a dozen dead oceans

I’ve been ten thousand miles in the mouth of a graveyard

And it’s a hard, and it’s a hard, it’s a hard, and it’s a hard

And it’s a hard rain’s a-gonna fall.” [14]

In 2007, Waldorf officially started Dead Oceans with the Swanson brothers, Van Arman, and Cargill. The addition of Dead Oceans to Secretly Canadian and Jagjaguwar’s partnership led to the formation of Secretly Group.

As the label began, some of their earliest releases include titles such as Phosphorescent’s Pride, Dirty Projectors’ Rise Above, and Akron/Family’s Set ‘Em Wild, Set ‘Em Free – ranging from folk to art punk to groove-y rock.[15] Since then, Dead Oceans has grown to include Julianna Barwick, Mitski, Phoebe Bridgers, Japanese Breakfast, Ryley Walker, The Tallest Man on Earth, Kevin Morby, Marlon Williams, and many others.[16]

In 2015, Secretly Group began a partnership with The Numero Group as well.

In 2017, the label released Nineties shoegaze band Slowdive’s return to the industry with their first album after a 22 year hiatus.[17][18][19]

In 2018, Dead Oceans was listed as #7 on Paste Magazine's top 10 record labels of 2018. Jagjaguwar was listed as #4 and Secretly Canadian was listed as #8.[20]


Awards and honors


See also


  1. "Secretly Group". Retrieved 2019-11-08.
  2. "Secretly Publishing". Retrieved 2019-11-08.
  3. Austin Powell, "Dead Oceans Making Waves" Austin Chronicle, October 19, 2007.
  4. Dave Maher, "Secretly Canadian/Jagjaguwar Birth Dead Oceans" Archived 2008-10-11 at the Wayback Machine Pitchfork Media, February 19, 2007.
  5. "Phil Waldorf". RNZ. 2015-09-12. Retrieved 2019-11-11.
  6. Lynch, David; Fri.; Nov. 14; 2003. "Sheiks of Industry". Retrieved 2019-11-11.
  7. Haupt, Melanie; Fri.; July 23; 2004. "Manifesto Destiny". Retrieved 2019-11-11.
  8. Schroeder, Audra; Fri.; Aug. 4; 2006. "The Cult of Pitchfork". Retrieved 2019-11-11.
  9., Seth Johnson Music Editor. "Dan Bejar's Way With Words". NUVO. Retrieved 2019-11-11.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)
  10. Powell, Austin; Fri.; Oct. 19; 2007. "Dead Oceans". Retrieved 2019-11-11.
  11. "LIVE FROM THE BEEHIVE". Indiana Daily Student. Retrieved 2019-11-11.
  12. "About". Retrieved 2019-11-11.
  13. Shepler, Jack. "Record roundup of early 2007's Secretly Canadian and Jagjaguwar CDs". NUVO. Retrieved 2019-11-11.
  14. "A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall | The Official Bob Dylan Site". Retrieved 2019-11-11.
  15. Media, Mood (2012-08-16). "Featured Label: Dead Oceans - DMX Music Blog". Mood Media Blog. Retrieved 2019-11-11.
  16. Fink, Matt. "Mitski - The Under the Radar Cover Story". Retrieved 2019-11-11.
  17. "Slowdive return with new song after 22 years (were savvy in naming themselves "slow" dive)". Tiny Mix Tapes. Retrieved 2019-11-11.
  18. "Slowdive on Reuniting for the Band's First Album in 22 Years". Observer. 2017-04-26. Retrieved 2019-11-11.
  19. "Slowdive on Their First Album in 22 Years and Why Shoegaze Came Back". Pitchfork. Retrieved 2019-11-11.
  20. "The 10 Best Record Labels of 2018". 2018-12-31. Retrieved 2019-11-11.
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