The music scene in the south-west is still a long way off from being anywhere near as busy or thriving as most other parts of the country, but that's not to say that there isn't anything good going on down in these parts. Art Is Hard Records are slowly making me believe that.
Predominantly based in Plymouth, and sometimes based in Bournemouth and Portsmouth depending on university term dates, Art Is Hard is a DIY bedroom label in the truest sense of the word. Run by two friends, they are looking beneath each under-explored rock and in every nook and cranny in the area to find local bands doing something worth listening to, and they're doing a good job of it - having released a compilation album of south-west bands (available through purchasing a t-shirt) and more recently a split release between The Black Tambourines and New Years Evil, they're making sure that people like me are made aware that there are things worth listening to down here. I spoke to (emailed) David about his label.
Hello, Art Is Hard. Who am I speaking to, and tell us a little about the things that you do?
Hello! You're speaking to David. Art is Hard is a record label, but not in a traditional sense I guess. I think I view what we do as more of an outlet, or an aggregator or a cataloger? So far we've only worked with bands from the South West. Although this is more by accident than anything else, it seems to be working quite well for us at the moment.
It’s more and more common for bands to do things completely themselves, and it’s increasingly difficult to break even let alone make money in the music industry today. What motivates you to run a small record label?
I think putting out music by bands you love is something everybody who has more than a fleeting interest in music dreams of. I'm not sure how it really escalated from this pipedream to where we are now. I think one of the main motivations for doing it is drunkenly telling uninterested people in nightclubs that I run a record label.
The South-West of England isn’t best known for its rich collection of alternative music. Why there, and does it have more going on than people think it does?
I think wherever you look there's always something worth your time if you scratch beneath the surface of no-hoping open mic and pay-to-play pop punk bands. It just seems that in the South West you have to do a little more scratching than in other places. The whole 'only releasing bands from the South West' thing was only intended as a theme for the first release; but it feels like it's stuck and when you look back at the great labels (Factory, DTTR, Dischord) they've always had a very strong emphasis on location. Whether we can produce anything as seminal as those releases is yet to be seen.
You said in other interviews that you have some new and interesting ideas, such as your first release (the compilation) being available through purchasing a t-shirt. Without giving too much away, what other interesting ideas do you have as a label?
The great thing about t-shirts is that people always buy them, so you can almost trick people into being interested in the music. Other things young people would rather spend money on than music include pizza and beer, so maybe we'll work on this basis. In all seriousness though we do have a couple of weird release concepts but they'd only lose us more money if we tried them out now. Maybe sometime next year!
You, your most recent release (New Years Evil/The Black Tambourines), and the bands on it have all been getting some decent press coverage recently on blogs and websites, and in magazines. Have you been surprised by how well what you have been doing has gone down?
It's always nice to find somebody has even taken the time to listen, let alone write about us and the bands. Unfortunately we're already coming to realise that selling actual records is pretty hard, irrelevant of how many times you get on the hype machine. God I sound bitter and ungrateful, we're happy really!
Have you got many more releases lined up? What does 2011 hold?
We're undecided what order our next releases will go out in but we have some really great artists lined up. Hopefully an AIH tour within the first months of the year. We definitely have a lot to give in 2011.
Find Art Is Hard on Facebook, MySpace, Twitter or at their blog. Listen to the tracks from their latest release, a split with The Black Tambourines and New Years Evil, as well as some tracks from their first compilation release below.
The Black Tambourines - Tommy
Colours - Desert Dessert
New Years Evil - Shame