Label Intensive: Art Is Hard

Lucy Dearlove launches her new blog series, this time featuring Art Is Hard.

Label Intensive is my new fortnightly blog feature on DIY to tie in with Singles Out, in which I persuade independent labels releasing impeccably excellent singles to answer inane questions about what they do and what physically released singles mean to them. First up is Art is Hard records, who’ve put out tracks by the likes of Bos Angeles, Yrrs, Best Friends, and run an extra limited edition special fortnightly release known as the Bi-Weekly 5’ Pizza Club. This involves a CD copy of a single going on sale, sold in a pizza box, with the band in question invited to imagine their dream topping. Tasty!

Hey David. You co-run Art is Hard Records. You also told me you had a uni deadline this week which means you’re disgustingly young and accomplished. How did you come about starting the label and how long have you been doing it?
Wow thanks, I don’t feel disgustingly young, in fact I think I’m older than most of the bands we work with! I started up the label with my friend Rich back in the summer of 2010. Most of that summer we just sat in my back garden talking about how cool it would be to start up the label and then one day we bought the T-shirts for the first release. It was then that we realised we actually needed to get on and make a website and take it a bit more seriously. We had been putting on gigs together in Weymouth for a couple of years, so it came as a natural progression from putting on lots of great local bands.

You’ve got some cool stuff on your roster - I know you’re probably not meant to do this (like a parent of a large family picking a favourite kid) but what’s been your favourite thing that you’ve put out so far? You can do a top five to take the pressure off if you want!
Oh God, so hard, I hate to pick favourites but I have some sort of obsession with making lists so you’ve left me in a difficult position. I’m not sure about Rich, but for me I really love aih002- a split 7’ between New Years Evil and Black Tambourines. As well as informing pretty much everything we’ve done ever since, I think its also a dream of everyone who is interested in DIY music to put out a 7’ so that aspect was pretty fun too. Also at the risk of sounding like a PR man, I think our latest release is definitely up there. It’s the second EP from Sheffield’s Best Friends who make perfect music for hazy summer BBQ’s and stumbling home drunk before the sun has even set. We’ve released it as a CD encased in a book of photos taken by the band and I’m really happy with the way they’ve turned out.

Tell us about the Bi-Weekly 5’ Pizza Club. What gave you the idea for it?
It was a couple of days after New Year and I was reading about Jack from Alcopop Records New Year’s Resolution to try and appear as an extra in Jurassic Park Four. I was thinking of ways in which we could outdo that; one of the first things that came to mind was releasing a pizza themed single every other week for the whole year. We get sent so many demos from bands we love, but unfortunately it can be really timely trying to sort out a full release. Another thing that helped form the idea, was the fact traditional releases don’t really reflect the way bands record music, or the way journalists or bloggers write about it.

How long does it usually take for the single copy to sell? What’s been your fastest sell out?
It’s normally within 60 seconds, which is very flattering and not expected at all! I think the longest one has taken about 15 minutes to sell out. The two fastest ones to go were probably the great SPLASHH single a couple of weeks back and the very first one which featured Bos Angeles covering KEEL HER. Both times people have told me they were in the middle of entering their details when it sold out.

The reason why I do a radio show that’s all about physically released singles is that I believe a 7’/CDR with a lovely, well-designed sleeve is the perfect way to do good music justice, in an era of free download related instant gratification. A celebration of value and quality, if you will. As a label that releases singles, what do they mean to you?
For us, releasing something physically is all about presenting the music in a way that gives listeners something a bit more interesting than a CD in the standard packaging or just a digital download as well as giving them a bit more for their money and something to look at whilst listening. It just feels like such a waste, limiting something as creative as music to a small three page booklet and a round shiny disc or a series of ones and zeros. Despite this I do worry about how our discography must look when it’s lined up on a shelf…cigarette case cassette boxes, maps, T-shirts and pizza boxes and much more.

What’s the first single you ever owned? And the most recent one you bought?
I think my first ever one was Four Lions but I think the first 7’ I ever bought was Arctic Monkeys, I was such a fanboy I bought the 7’ even though I didn’t have a record player. The most recent 7’ I bought was from Fire Island Pines - a band we featured on one of our compilations. It’s their first physical release, so they decided they’d only charge as much as they would be happy to pay as fans hearing a band for the first time. They only charged £2 for a four song 7’ - a complete steal!

As well as the Pizza Club, you put out cassettes and vinyl. What do you like about these formats?
Cassettes are great as they’re so easy to quickly turnaround, they feel nice and chunky and like a bit more love has gone into them compared to a CDR. I guess the same goes for vinyl, I wish we could put out more but they’re so expensive and I don’t have a big enough bedroom to store all the ones that don’t sell…it’s almost worth it for how great the artwork looks though.

And finally, what can we expect from Art is Hard in 2012? Any exciting releases, Pizza Club or otherwise, in the pipeline?
We’ve got lots of exciting pizza club releases lined up including some from artists outside the UK and some that feel as though they’re probably a little too big to be putting out exclusive tracks on our label. We like to try and keep our releases quite secretive until we announce them, but I will just say we’re putting out a split 12’ with some of our favourite new bands all emerging in the similar scene at the moment. Hopefully we can announce that really soon, it’s going to have a real family portrait vibe.

You can find Art is Hard here and buy their records here. You’ll have to be quick if you fancy a slice of the pizza action though.