Passion. Integrity. Creativity. And humility. All four of these words combine to form the foundation of the fast-growing label that is Theoria Records. Named after the Greek word theoria, which roughly translates to “contemplation” or “looking into,” the label was founded and is managed by the combined force that is Chris Wethington and Cody Frain. Armed to the teeth with savvy and experience, these are two men who have assumed almost every role you can in the music industry over the last two decades. In that time, they have toured as artists and acted as managers, booking agents, marketing professionals, label directors, and A&R reps. Their mission as label owners is to find like-minded artists who share the same values, and to grow together with them.
As longtime veterans of the industry, Wethington and Frain possess a special comprehension of the struggles of artists and indie labels alike. They’ve tried to address some of these concerns by working out a unique partnership with The Orchard, and a worldwide distribution deal with We Are Triumphant. The label has started off with an impressive schedule of releases, including singles from Colony Collapse, Polterguise, Dead Days, RVNT, and A Scent Like Wolves released this past summer.
As a very special edition of our Stereo Six series, Frain has joined us to outline six record labels that played a crucial role in inspiring the work and existence of Theoria.
Be sure to check out the label’s latest release, the single (and video) for “The Love That Remains” by Colony Collapse.
1. Victory Records
“Victory Records was probably the main label that got me into the music that I listen to today and was a huge catalyst that sparked my curiosity of the business behind the music. I give this label credit in starting my path as a performer and concert promoter as well. I used to remember seeing Victory TV as a teenager and thinking about how awesome this subculture was. I became obsessed with it. It wasn’t too long after hearing bands like Taking Back Sunday, Silverstein, A Day To Remember, and Bury Your Dead before I started my own metal band myself, and began playing shows.
“I give Victory Records a lot of credit in helping to really push and grow the emo, post-hardcore, and metalcore genres in the early 2000s. I remember when I was 16, my high school band opened up for the Victory Records band Beneath the Sky, and we were told that there was a label rep who was there to watch our set. Unfortunately for me, my band played one of the worst sets we ever played, and my entire drum set fell off the stage. It was an absolute catastrophe and I was devastated, but I never gave up. That experience fueled me to keep pushing. We never quite got signed to Victory Records, but I really needed that humbling crash and burn experience at that stage of my life to give me the motivation to develop into the musician that I am today.”
Notable artist and track: Silverstein – “Smile in Your Sleep”
2. Sumerian Records
“Sumerian Records changed the game for the progressive metal genres in my opinion, and I credit them with paving the way for bringing to light genres such as djent, technical metal, and deathcore. I was absolutely blown away when I heard bands like Born of Osiris, Periphery, Veil of Maya, Animals as Leaders, and After Burial for the first time. These incredible bands totally changed the way I looked at playing the drums. It is inspiring how a label can influence the emergence of an entire genre of music, and how big of a hand they can play in taking more niche music to the mainstream listener.
“I am also very inspired by this label by how well they have been able to pivot in other areas of media such as film scores, television, and even making movies. Sumerian Records is a massive player in the heavy music scene, and they have always been a label that I highly look up to. Recently they have continued to inspire me by signing the Smashing Pumpkins. What a wild and absolutely massive signing for a label like them. It just shows that they are continuing to diversify themselves and grow.”
Notable artist and track: Animals As Leaders – “CAFO”
3. Rise Records
“Rise Records played a massive role in influencing the music that I listen to, and heavily influenced the music that I write. They even basically have a whole subgenre of post-hardcore called ‘Risecore’ and honestly, that sound means so much to me. Every time I hear bands with a similar sound it invokes nostalgic feelings in me from when I was in high school working at Hot Topic and playing in a metalcore band. Incredible times.
“Rise Records was also a huge innovator in the development of modern day post-hardcore bands in my opinion with bands like Dance Gavin Dance, Circa Survive, Attack Attack, and Emarosa, to name a few. Similar to my thoughts with Sumerian Records, I find it so inspiring that a record label can have such an influence in bringing to light certain niche genres of music like post-hardcore to such a broad audience.”
Notable artist and track: Of Machines – “Things Too Visible to See”
4. We Are Triumphant
“We Are Triumphant is a very special label to me for many reasons. This label has believed in me personally and given both myself and my band, A Scent Like Wolves, a huge chance to grow in the music industry. I first met Greg Long and We Are Triumphant in 2015 when my band first signed to the label. We have released all our music via the label at this point, and in 2019 Greg gave me the incredible opportunity to work as an A&R for the label. Prior to this, I was the label director for the Lancaster, Pennsylvania-based record label CI Records so I was already getting my feet in the music industry. This experience was the next step in my pursuit to have my own record label like so many other labels have inspired me to do since I was a teenager.
“In 2021, Chris Wethington, and I pitched a business plan to Greg, and in June Theoria Records was born as an imprint label of We Are Triumphant/The Orchard. Something that has always inspired me about We Are Triumphant is that it gives smaller emerging artists a chance to prove themselves and grow. There are so many incredible bands out there who aren’t even looked at by labels solely because they simply just don’t have a big enough following established yet. We Are Triumphant is one of the only labels that will take a chance on a smaller artist just because the label believes in the band’s music.
“A great example of this is with the band Coletta. We Are Triumphant signed them with less than 500 monthly listeners on Spotify, and now after two releases they are sitting at over 110,000 with no editorial playlist support and are one of the major players in the swancore/progressive post-hardcore genres.”
Notable artist and track: A Scent Like Wolves – “Haunted”
5. Sharptone Records
“Similar to my write-up for Sumerian Records and Rise Records, what really inspires me about Sharptone Records is how big of an impact they have had on the metalcore revival movement. Metalcore is making a huge resurgence since 2018, and I give Sharptone a lot of credit in making this happen. Their slogan, ‘metalcore is not dead’ is so inspiring to me, and their mammoth roster of bands only solidifies the slogan’s statement. Every time Sharptone announces a new band, I immediately know that they are going to be incredible and genre-defining. It is this kind of credibility that Sharptone has that really inspires me to instill those same kinds of values and credibility into Theoria Records.
“Theoria works mainly with smaller emerging artists who we believe to have an insane amount of potential and a fresh sound. My goal is to be like Sharptone in the sense where when we post about a new band, people will know immediately that they are going to be amazing and will check them out just due to the association with Theoria Records. Some of my favourite active Sharptone bands currently are Sentinels, Holding Absence, and Loathe. I highly encourage anyone reading this to check any of those bands out. I promise that you will be blown away.”
Notable artist and track: Kingdom of Giants – “Nightshift”
6. Famined Records
“What inspires me about Famined records is a bit of a mix between what inspires me about We Are Triumphant and Sharptone. I love that this label gives emerging metalcore, djent, and progressive metal bands a chance, and such a strong platform to release their music. I have learned about so many incredible metalcore bands such as Stargazer, Galleons, and Windrunner from this label. I have also seen firsthand how the label puts efforts into growing/developing these artists and giving them the tools that they need for success. This is something that I value heavily in a label because I am also an artist myself, and have seen a lot of bands die on labels just because they don’t have the support that they need to grow.
“It is one thing for a label just to distribute your music, but it is rare to see a label put in the amount of specialized focus that Famined Records does. I have a huge respect for Chelsea and the entire Famined Records/Kontrolla Music Group team. I am excited to continue watching their growth and success in the industry.”
Notable artist and track: Stargazer – “Temple of Solace”