Scottish sextet Broken Records stumbles into success 

Jamie Sutherland was attending Scotland’s esteemed University of St. Andrews a few years ago, thinking his future was set. But he hadn’t counted on the ennui his courses would inspire.

“It really didn’t feel like it was going anywhere,” says the singer, who was playing in campus combos at the time. “If you’ve ever studied philosophy, you’ll realize that it’s possibly the most pointless thing you could ever do with your life, apart from becoming a lawyer. So that was when I hatched my devious plan.”

The scheme was a good one. Sutherland used a small inheritance sum to purchase microphones and a 16-track recorder, then quit school, returned to his home in Glasgow and set up his own studio and label called Broken Records.

“The idea was to record a bunch of other people — sort of the Saddle Creek model — and then try to get them to play in my band, as well, or at least help me record my own songs,” he says.

The imprint didn’t fly, but a band — also dubbed Broken Records — did. With a sound that some have compared to Arcade Fire, the group appears in San Francisco on Saturday, backing its chiming sophomore recording, “Let Me Come Home.”

What went wrong with the company? Mistake No. 1, says Sutherland: “I hadn’t realized there was actually a dodgy Christian-rock label called Broken Records in the early ’90s — I maybe should’ve Googled it first.”

But then more musicians began buttressing his solo shows, such as his violinist-accordionist brother Rory and guitarist-keyboardist ­college chum Ian Turnbull.

“After a wee bit of time, we had drums, bass, piano, cello and the kitchen sink, as well. So my plan never came to fruition because we’d inadvertently stumbled across a band. The name just stuck after that,” he says.

After a 2009 debut, “Until the Earth Begins to Part,” the group was snapped up by the chic label 4AD for “Let Me.” But the album wasn’t easy to write.

Unemployed for several months, Sutherland vegetated on his roommate’s couch, watching the same cable-TV movies over and over again.

“It was ‘Rumblefish’ and ‘Badlands’ that kept coming on,” he says. “I’d wanted our second record to stay as cinematic as possible, so for some reason, those two films kind of correlated with that idea.”

Soon, he was penning sweeping anthems such as “You Know You’re Not Dead,” cheering himself up in the process.

Did the mogul’s ephemeral label ever release any recordings? Just one, he admits — his own early 10-song demo. “I think about five A&R men possibly heard that first record,” he says. “And hopefully nobody else ever will!”

IF YOU GO

Broken Records


Where:
The Rickshaw Stop, 155 Fell St., San Francisco

When: 8:30 p.m. Saturday

Tickets: $10 to $12

Contact: www.rickshawstop.com

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Tom Lanham

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