David West of Art is Hard records, Exeter’s most exciting label (named label of the week in the relaunched NME!), kindly agreed to talk with Razz about how things are going, where they’re heading and the south-west alternative scene. Check out what went on below, and listen to the label’s releases here.
-Hello, Art is Hard! First thing’s first – what’s behind the name? Does it say anything about the label?
Hey, it’s actually the name of a song by a band called Cursive (although neither of us are huge fans). We originally liked the sound of it as an ironic phrase, i.e. art isn’t really hard at all. I think it sort of reflects the D.I.Y mentality that we try to celebrate which is that anyone can start a band, record an EP, or start a label. When you name something, it’s easy to forget how long you might be stuck with it and how many bad puns you might have to hear over time (fart is hard).
-Who are your influences, and what’s your ethos?
We’ve always drawn influence from labels such as Factory, Wichita, Dischord and K Records. We like to try and emulate a little aspect from each one, whether that’s creating really eye-catching releases, supporting music in our local area or building up a really close knit family of bands, artists and fans.
-Exeter isn’t known for having a buzzing scene comparable to London, for example. What’s your experience of this, and how do you think Art Is Hard contributes to the scene?
Well we’re originally from Weymouth and have both spent a couple of years in Plymouth and Portsmouth so we’ve always looked all across the Southwest for bands to work with. I think the key to any scene is having a good venue where local bands are able to play and support larger touring bands, and although Exeter has The Cavern and it’s a great venue, I think if there were more suitable venues we’d see a lot more bands forming and a stronger music community forming.
-You’re known or releasing music in novel formats, and almost always have some kind of physical aspect to each release. What are the reasons behind this approach?
Right from the start we’ve been of the opinion that you should be able to hold something and own a physical thing when you pay for music. Even if we’ve just provided a download code for mp3’s we always like to make sure there’s a physical aspect, even if that’s just a handmade zine.
-The first 7″ you ever released was The Black Tambourines, and you’ve recently put out their first 12″. You must like them!
We do! An album is a huge commitment as a tiny independent label but it’s been a long time coming. I stumbled across their homemade demo CD in a tiny shop in Falmouth completely by accident and they were the first band we released. It feels like as we’ve grown, they’ve grown too, which is what you really want to achieve as a label I guess.
-What’s your vision for Art Is Hard? Is there anything you’d like to see happen in the next five or so years, or is it a secret….?
In the immediate future we’ve got lots more interesting release formats up our sleeves including scarves and badges that play music. In the longer term, we’d love to be able to make it our full time job and hire all our friends who drive us around, help us take stuff to the post office and tell us when our new ideas are really bad
-Do you have any plans for the next singles club? The last two have been pretty impressive!
I think we may have something planned, but we’re keeping it secret for now. Although the Postcard Club has been really fun and it’s nice that so many people subscribed, it’s been really hard work handwriting 70 postcards every three weeks. I think we’ll try something a bit simpler in 2014.
-Thanks for taking the time to talk to Razz! Any last comments? Convince us to check out Art is Hard!
Two weeks ago we were label of the week in the relaunched NME and to celebrate we got all self indulgent and decided to give away a 36 track ‘best of’ for free. You can download it here.
P.S. thanks for interviewing us!
by Joe Stewart, Razz Music Correspondent