What is K?
- How did K start?
- What was the first release on K?
- What is the International Pop Underground?
- Does K accept demos?
- K Discography (a list of every K release)
About Ordering Through the K Mail Order Dept.
- Ordering with check, money order, or cash
- T-Shirt Sizes
- Return and Exchanges
- Order Processing & Shipments (How long does it take to get my stuff?)
- Shipping Options
- Delayed and Lost Packages (I think my package got lost in the mail.)
- How much will this cost?
- Ordering Directly (I'm having problems with your website.)
- Digital Downloads
- Additional Information (I have a special request or concern.)
What is K?
: a conspiracy of gravediggers, spies, swim instructors and international pop stars. There are hangmen and there are saints. as a label has released cassettes, phonograph records and compact discs documenting the audio works of over 150 artists. The main focus of has been artists working in and around Olympia, Washington, where is based, but has included comrades from across the U.S.A. and as far away as Japan, Scotland, Australia, Canada, Germany and England. Yes, explodes the teenage underground into passionate revolt against the corporate ogre world-wide.
Colleagues in the International Pop Underground collide at the vanishing point. The sounds cross back and forth through a number of genres, some known and some less so: punk, hip hop, atom-powered folk-pop, haunted garage, restless singer songwright, epic soul shock, noise exp., blurred-eye visionary psychedelica, roadhouse mod and the silent film soundtracks composed by Timothy Brock, as performed by the Olympia Chamber Orchestra.
How Did K Start?
Calvin Johnson formed in Summer, 1982. The impetus to start such a label is complex. At the time he lived in the Capitol Theater Building in downtown, Olympia, next door to Stella Marrs' studio, the original Girl City. Together they played in a band, 003 Legion. The project of the summer was the Sub/Pop fanzine #8. Calvin had been working on the Sub/Pop fanzine with it's founder, Bruce Pavitt, since 1980; important tasks assigned to Calvin included "late-night peanut butter and jelly sandwiches". At this time, Bruce was on tour as Road Manager with Pell Mell, and Calvin was left to mind the front. The motto of Sub/Pop was "Decentralize Pop Culture". It drew a lot of inspiration from the Olympia music magazine Op (founded by John Foster), which focused on music available through independent and artist owned labels, and the Olympia community radio station KAOS-FM, which had a music policy that prioritized such independent and do-it-yourself music. Both Calvin and Bruce worked with Op magazine and hosted radio shows on KAOS. Two issues of Sub/Pop were released as cassettes compiling underground music, mainly originating from Sub/Pop's focus regions, the Northwestern and Midwestern United States. This concept of cassette fanzine was inspired by two radio DJs at 3RRR in Melbourne, Australia who founded a cassette fanzine Fast Forward in 1980. The cassette was just beginning to make sense as a format; up to this point, LPs dominated the music consumer landscape. The walkman and ghettoblaster were just emerging, as cassette technology made giant advances in audio fidelity. Building on these ideas, began as a cassette-only label, focusing on Olympia's embryonic downtown music scene. Prior to this, there had been one label in Olympia, Mr. Brown, which released four singles and two compilations. The releases were on a much more modest scale. Another advantage of the cassette format: you could manufacture titles at a reasonable cost per piece in much lower quantities. The usual run of a release was around 100 copies. soon took on a life outside of downtown Olympia. Calvin was once quoted on the subject thusly in a well respected journal of popular underground culture: Let's skip the well crafted puff piece and redirect the center of gravity because it bears repeating:
- I care about tummys
- I care about art
- Sonic Medusa, please break my heart
We are not in the entertainment biz. is a library card for the culturally deadpan... hometaping is a required course. Johnny Appleseed had the right idea: homegrown tastes best, decentralize the means and distribution of your sustenance, cultivate strains outside the petridish of corporate culture. Decentralize your tastebuds. The emperor has some new clothes but guess what? They fall apart after the third washing. Why wait? Turn the hoses on them and street party scenic. We've already got Lady Godiva on a Trojan Horse and nobody's looking. So check it out, the overdue fines have been paid.
What was the first release on K?
The cassette-only release by the Olympia trio the Supreme Cool Beings was the first release on . Entitled Survival of the Coolest, it debuted in 1982. Comprised of Heather Lewis, Gary Allen May and Doug Monaghan, the Supreme Cool Beings played around Olympia and Tacoma for about six months before Survival of the Coolest was recorded during a live broadcast the band performed on Calvin Johnson’s Boy Meets Girl radio show on KAOS-FM, Olympia’s community radio station. The Supreme Cool Beings were seminally Olympian in a number of ways: they often did not use a bass guitar, had both male and female vocals, a female drummer, and played in multiple bands at the same time. Though now commonplace, these features were quite unusual in 1982. The cover of Survival of the Coolest was designed by Heather and each was hand-painted by the band.
The following year, Heather Lewis began playing with Laura Carter and Calvin Johnson in Laura, Heather and Calvin, which became Beat Happening when Bret Lunsford joined in August, 1983.
During the year 1983, released it’s first compilation. Danger Is Their Business, an a cappella collection collated by Calvin Johnson and Rich Jensen that featured Olympia area artists such as John Foster, Heidi Drucker, Twin Diet, Robin James, Lorraine Tong; Calvin and Rich also each contributed a song. The cover was a white spray-painted cassette box hand stamped with a carved linoleum block design.
In 1984 released several more cassettes: Rich Jensen The Animal Box (a cappella songs and found sounds with hand spray-painted covers); two five song collections by Beat Happening, Beat Happening (produced by Greg Sage of the Wipers) and Three Tea Breakfast (recorded on their trip to Japan that year); Let’s Together, a compilation collated by Bret Lunsford and Calvin Johnson, which documented the emerging Olympia underground (Beat Happening, Young Pioneers, Wimps, Wild, Wild, Wild Spoons, John Fosters Pop Philosophers), artists from around Washington state such as Melvins (Montesano) and the Public Service (Anacortes), all-female hardcore band the Wrecks from Reno, Nv., two pop rockin’ combos from Tucson, Az. (Rotte Kapelle, Seldoms) and two punk bands from Tokyo, Japan’s Rebel Beat Factory label, the Loods (featuring Nissie) and Kyah (an all-female band that Beat Happening met while living in Tokyo). Also released that year was a sixty-minute cassette by John Foster’s Pop Philosophers, which featured an electronic epic “The Kennedy Saga”, a thirty minute exploration of the Kennedy family, adapted from a paperback biography. “The Kennedy Saga” was also the debut by frequent artist and producer Steve Fisk.
1984 was capped by the release of the first record on , the Beat Happening 45 “Our Secret” b/w “What’s Important”, two Greg Sage produced songs which had been included on the Beat Happening cassette release earlier in the year. The cover was a Bongo and Maraca design by Heather, hand coloured by the band.
What is the International Pop Underground?
In 1987, launched a series of 7″ singles called the International Pop Underground. This series features artists emanating from pop rockin’ catacombs around the globe. To date there are over 130 volumes in the series. Some of the artists included in the International Pop Underground are closely allied with who have toured with other artists and are making a guest appearance on the label, such as Gigi, Chromatics, the Vibrarians, Generifus, Unrest, Versus, Shadowy Men on a Shadowy Planet, the Gossip, Pork, the Pastels, Melody Dog, Bonfire Madigan, Teenage Fanclub, Seaweed. Others are artists who have released albums on : LAKE, Pine Hill Haints, Mecca Normal, Chain & the Gang, Angelo Spencer, Lois, Some Velvet Sidewalk, Mirah, Microphones, Make-Up, Beat Happening, Thee Headcoats, Heavenly, Karp, the Crabs, Built to Spill, Jeremy Jay. Releases in the International Pop Underground series are denoted with a catalogue number that begins with “IPU”.
Does K Accept Demos?
Every day we receive in the mail copies of cassettes and compact discs containing unreleased recordings, as well as several electronic mail messages asking if we “accept demos”. The easy answer is “no”. That’s the easy answer because without going into the details, the reality is that “demos” just sit in a pile unlistened to; it’s easier to say “no” than to go into long involved explanations about how no one here has the time, energy or inclination to respond to the mountains of unanswered mail. To begin the process of explaining this to a total stranger is to invite an unwanted dialogue that includes going into the same details about why/who/what all over again, with the two parties ending up unhappy and frustrated, maybe more so than before it began.
Please note: Our office is open Monday-Thursday 11 AM - 5 PM, Pacific Time. If you email us (or place an order) after Thursday evening, we will reply to you Monday afternoon. Please include your order number if inquiring about the status of your package, and please review the information below before sending an email.
Ordering with a check, money order, or cash
If you would like to order by check, money order or cash please send your money along with a letter stating what you would like to purchase to: K, Attn: Mail Order PO Box 7154, Olympia WA 98507, U.S.A.
Don't forget to include the cost of shipping in your total. If you live outside the US and would like to pay by money order or check please include an additional $5.00 - that is how much it costs us to deposit the funds so we have to pass that along to you. Sorry!
Almost all of our shirts are Unisex (Men's) American Apparel, 100% cotton, made-in-the-U.S.A. shirts. Women's sizes, when available, will be clearly noted.
Size Chart Men/Unisex Shirts
If you receive a damaged or defective product, you can exchange it for new merchandise and we will reimburse you for the cost of shipping, with many apologies, and send the correct item to you promptly.
If you received the correct product, but would simply like it in a different size/style, OR if you changed your mind and would like to return it, and the item is unopened, unwashed, or unworn, you can send it back to us (at your own cost) for a full refund.
Order Processing & Shipments
Most orders are processed and shipped within 2-4 days. Orders placed after Thursday evening will be sent out on the following Monday. Please allow extra time for your package to arrive during/near holidays. All packages are mailed via USPS. If you would like a tracking number for your order, please make a note in the order comments section, while you are checking out.
Most orders are processed and shipped within 2-4 days. Orders placed after Thursday evening will be sent out on the following Monday. Our offices are closed Friday, Saturday, Sunday and on U.S. Postal Holidays. Please allow extra time for your package to arrive during holidays. All orders sent via USPS.
USPS Priority Mail: 2-3 days, anywhere in the US. Please note: If you place an order after Thursday evening and select Priority Mail Shipping, it will not be sent out until the following Monday, so you might want to consider a cheaper shipping option or plan ahead.
USPS First Class: up to 13oz only. This option is almost as fast as Priority Mail and a lot cheaper. Great for CDs, 45s, cassette tapes and shirts. Not available for LPs.
USPS First Class International (up to 4lbs only): the most affordable option. Do not expect your package to arrive sooner than 2-3 weeks from the date you receive shipping notification. Heavy items such as CD Grab Bags can not be sent this way, due to excessive weight. Approximate shipping costs for First Class International (excluding the price of the item) are as follows: 1 CD $13; 1 shirt $13; 1 LP $22.
USPS Priority Mail International: 6-10 business days. All packages weighing over 4lbs must be sent this way.
USPS Priority Mail Express International: 3-5 business days. The fastest form of international delivery.
If your package is taking a long time please wait 3 weeks before sending an email.
Delayed and Lost Packages
If your package is taking a long time, please wait 3 weeks to report any "lost" items. We often get emails from folks who think their package has gone missing, but it almost always arrives. According to the USPS service less than 2% of all mail gets lost - so just hang tight, it will get there soon enough. If your package is in fact lost, we will send it again.
If you place an international order, your package can take 1-2 months to arrive, depending on your country and the length of time it takes for packages to get through customs. Most international orders cannot be accompanied by a tracking number.
If you are buying an item as a gift, please place your order well in advance, to allow enough time for it to arrive. If you still have a question that has not been answered here please email mailorder [at] krecs.com
How much will this cost?
If you would like to inquire about how much something will cost to ship, please include your address and a list of the items you would like to purchase. Shipping is calculated by weight. Postage costs are generated by the United States Postal Service, not by K. We do not charge a handling fee.
If you have a PayPal account and would like to pay us directly instead of using our website please email mailorder [at] krecs.com, with your address and a list of items you would like to purchase.
Please do not send a payment through PayPal without emailing mailorder [at] krecs.com first.
You can download digital music from our artists through the K Bandcamp page.
Unless otherwise stated, digital downloads are not included with LP purchases.
If you are purchasing a gift or have any special instructions for your order, please leave us a message in the "Order Notes" section while you are checking out.
If you receive the wrong item or it is in some way damaged or defective we are happy to exchange it or give you a refund.
Need it faster? Have other questions? Please send an email to mailorder [at] krecs.com