Art Is Hard Records is an independent record-label which started in 2010 by two friends and is based in their own hometown of Weymouth in the UK. The two friends Richard and David run this label and it’s strictly influenced by other labels which have had a “family”-kind of ethic to their name. So ethics is a big thing for this label, but also releasing interesting artists and bands from about every genre possible. They’ve up until now had a load of interesting releases and almost each one of those releases feature something beyond just the music and the album in its packaging. Like one of their latest releases, the The Biweekly 5¨ Pizza Club which was a compilation that featured a handmade pizza-box for one lucky customer. If you want to know more about this awesome label, check out the interview below which I conducted with Richard (one of the friends) from the label. I asked him all sorts of strange and interesting questions, and you’ll get to know this label a little bit more after reading it.
Hello Art Is Hard! In what way did the labels Factory, Wichita, Anticon and Dischord influence you? Also, when did Art Is Hard really start, how did it happen and why did you choose that name for your label?
– Hello! The idea for the label first came about when we were putting on shows in our hometown of Weymouth and were frustrated at what we felt was a lack of recognition for the thriving south coast music scene. The idea of being an outlet that dealt solely within that region hung about for a few years before we actually took action and became Art Is Hard. Wish we’d chosen a better name though; it was pretty embarrassing telling it to people when I was actually studying art at university!
Those labels listed attribute genuine passion and care when it comes to distributing their artists – a real family vibe – exactly what we feel we’re achieving thus far.
So, who are you two?
– Well, you’re talking to Richard but David runs it too. I first met Dave when he was in a rubbish local band (he won’t mind me saying that, actually he probably will).
What can you say about your first release, besides that it was a success and is long gone and sold out? How much was put into that release and what did you think about the end-result and how was the creative process in the making of it?
– Going from being a pipe-dream to releasing AIH001 was a process that took several years. Dave and I would spitball ideas and it was mainly hours upon hours of David scrawling through Myspace pages that brought the initial compilation together and set us moving forward. We were utterly overwhelmed with the response and speed in which it did sell out. If it’d flopped then I certainly doubt we’d be where we are today.
There was also a t-shirt, free download and zine included with the release – could you tell me anything about this? What was the zine all about and where’s the picture taken that’s on display of the front, how did it all weave together with the release?
– When ordering goods from small labels nothing gives me more of a kick than excess, so I know that when we do slip in zines or postcards or notes with our orders those receiving are going to appreciate these additions. Like several of the photographs featured in our early releases, the artwork comes straight from the West family album. It’s actually David’s mum sat at a local picnicking spot called Bincombe Bumps. I’ll quickly phone Dave to ask what year it was taken.
He says it was when his mum was pregnant back in 1989. So combine these facts plus add the dreamy ‘Brink Of The Clouds’ title and it all makes sense, sort of.
What kind of attention have you gotten since you once started out and when did you start to get some love from the press?
– We’re so lucky and grateful to have had huge support and positive feedback from a host of publications that we admire from the get go. We were Huw Stephens’ label of love on Radio 1 about 8 months in, our pal Jon Hillcock promotes almost every release we do either on his New Noise podcast or BBC6 shows. Jen Long has been a sweetheart too. These are the radio shows we listen to anyway so it’s a massive honour to be included!
As I read more and more about your label, you seem to be very creative with each release, including some extras with it. What do you think have been your most successful extras in that department, what releases have been most successful in that manner – both creatively, and appreciated by your fans?
– The ‘Dry Route To Devon ’QR code map compilation was possibly our most innovative. It was conceived just before QR codes blew up so it doesn’t seem like too much of a big deal now, but at the time we felt like cloaked magicians with the perfect formula.
We’ve gotten to a point where the majority of our releases are selling out during pre-order, hugely flattering. Undoubtedly the most popular have been Gorgeous Bully – “The Young Obese” EP (cassette housed inside a handmade cigarette packet) and Best Friends – “Throwing Up” EP (CD hidden inside a large art/picture book).
Which one of the releases are your own personal favorites? If you had to choose one or two, that is. Iknow that it’s a hard question, but in what way does those releases that you’d choose tickle your fancy more than the other ones?
– We’re proud of everything that we put our name to, we wouldn’t otherwise! I could happily listen to the Gorgeous Bully EP during any season though. And I wish New Years Evil would regroup to make new music!
What kind of genres get the most attention from you? I’ve heard a lot of different things on your bandcamp, the most frequent would be lo-fi indie stuff. But what would you say is the general theme of genres you’d like to show up? Or do you work in other ways?
– It was never really a conscious decision to be this “must be lo-fi and guitars” label – we got into a pattern of discovering one great artist, getting a bit excited and exploring their aesthetic only to find out that all of their friends are in these equally brilliant bands making music just as good. A couple of our upcoming releases are a world away though – one is a heavy slice of electronica/ambience and one I can only really describe as ethnic pop!
One particular release that I loved myself was “The Biweekly 5¨ Pizza Club” which was really creative.How did you go by when thinking this one out and could you tell me something about the featuredbands and artists on it? How fast did it sell and who was the lucky one that got the pizza-shaped CD-rpackage?
– This too is my favourite project and we’re both pretty upset that it’s nearly over! It was conceived because we get sent so many demos that we enjoy but frustratingly don’t have the funds to put them all out. Giving these tracks away for free once a fortnight is not only a boost of exposure for these small bedroom artists that are just trying to get people to hear what they’re doing, but it’s a great social interaction with our followers.
The one physical copy that we put up often sells out in seconds, it’s a rush to click ‘on sale’ then see the option disappear right away.
The time must differ on the different releases, but how much time do you generally spend on one release? Also, how much time goes into the label and what do you do when you’re not working with thelabel?
– One or two things we’ve done have been fairly spontaneous but we tend to put a couple of months planning into each release. Though the beauty of Pizza Club is that it’s so flexibly come and go! I wish that we could do that forever but I reckon people would get bored if we didn’t have a cut-off point.
Unfortunately we both work real jobs in the real world so the label is sorted on the down time from those. It can consume our entire weekends and evenings without even noticing. It can be stressful but it’s never a chore, we both enjoy the heck out of doing this.
So, do you guys have any studio of any sort or do you just make the packaging and release the good stuff?
– Wish we had the budget to open a studio! Everything we’ve done thus far has been funded on the jobs we do outside of the label, so we’re pretty skint most of the time. We’re nearing a point where the label comfortably funds itself – the money made from one release will recycle and become the next release etc.
Could you tell me how you’ve evolved since you once started doing this? In what way, shape or form have you grown this large for an independent label? Where are you heading next?
– I believe our ethic has and will stay the same as our following continues to grow. I wouldn’t say we’re a large independent label by any means though – look at monsters like Wichita reigning in top 10 albums and touring in Japan!
Have you ever collaborated with any other label on any release or do you plan to do it in the future?
– As a matter of fact one of our most recent releases (Best Friends/Grazes split) was the first release we’ve done with another label. Enjoyment Records got in touch asking if we wanted to do it and we thought why not! It’s good fun to try out new things. It was successful too so who knows what the future holds.
Do you have any heads up when it comes to future releases? What are you planning for the rest of theyear and the beginning of the next year?
– We’ve always got several projects to work towards – we’re carefully putting together our first two album releases at the moment. Baby steps! News of those will appear fairly soon!
What kind of era would you guys like to travel back to the most if you had gotten the chance?
– Oh god. I think I’d rather see the future.. just to be certain that this unprofitable wasteland of tuneless ear rape synths and boring fucking non-stars that dominate the music industry phase will pass. What if it doesn’t? Suicide? Ok, I change my answer: I wish to be born in 1977 so I could be a bratty 90’s teen.
Listen to some of their releases below:
You can also find them over here: